Every day contains a certain number of productive hours. There is always more to do in a day than there is time.
Every productive hour offers me a choice: "spend time making Erfworld" or "spend time doing something that isn't making Erfworld." Those are the only two categories that matter. We have gas in our tanks, roofs over our heads, and food in the greasy brown bags next to our keyboards because of per-update pledges. But lots of crucial things fall into the second category, especially lately.
Writing this news post is Category 2. It isn't writing Erfworld. But from some bits of feedback we're hearing, I think I need to. So here's the important stuff:
1. In late October, something very bad happened to a member of my immediate family. What has unfolded since then is the most emotionally destructive crisis we've ever gone through. This situation is ongoing, it's deteriorating, it is made all the more painful for happening around the holidays, and it's tearing my family apart. I didn't want to have to say even this much about it. You should be aware that when something like this happens to a member of Team Erfworld who isn't me (as it did in the past to Xin), I probably won't say a word.
2. Lillian and Xin continue to be brilliant. No part in the skips is on them. This is all me, and they're being booping patient with it, considering that it affects them financially too.
3. Despite point 1, I am spending more actual time creating updates than ever. Like, ever. Linda and I have been tracking my dedicated writing hours on a daily/weekly basis for years now. The third week in November was an all-time record, and last week shattered that record by four hours. I'm also spending more time lately working with Xin and Lillian on the art. I've thrown a lot of important category 2 stuff under the bus to free up those hours in the midst of the family crisis. Site things are suffering, business things are suffering, deadlines are being missed, and I owe a lot of people an email (shout out to John Murphy in particular). But these extra hours are not helping us from the standpoint of productivity, because of point 4.
4. Erfworld has become a lot harder to write and draw than before. Updates are forever. Our first draft is our final draft (barring occasional Retconjuration). There's a quality mark to hit, and I won't put up a page and collect pledge money for an update that falls short of the mark. We're frequently revising a page all day on the update day, and I don't know if it's "post" or "punt" until the final hour. I don't see this as perfectionism, so much as integrity. Financial pressure shouldn't make us post a weak update. We've set some high standards, and your pledges were made on the expectation that we won't half-ass it.
So what "standards" am I talking about? I could write a book. :P But I'll pick one recent example and break it all the way down.
Some vague, minor spoilers below.
We have a protagonist. You can be sure he's the protagonist because his name is an anagram of the word "protagonist." Throughout Book 3 and what has become Book 4, we've had Parson in a weak, disempowered position. This is breaking one of those cardinal rules of good storytelling. Other characters' choices have been driving the plot for a long time. Characters like Lilith and Bunny and Jack and Wanda and Ansom and Marie and Janis and Maggie have carried the "protagonist ball" as the person we root for, the one whose personal values and choices overcome the obstacles and move the plot forward. They've each had a chance to shine, and that's great. We've also had a lot of screen time for a varied group to carry the "antagonist ball," some of whom (Tondelayo, Caesar, Isaac, Bonnie, Benjamin, Albert, Tramennis) get way more than a "villain's share" of the reader's heart and sympathy.
Parson has been on the sidelines so much that the reader can forget who he is, what he's about. Late in Book 4, it's understandable if you've been thinking of him as kind of an ineffectual derp-wad. That's not great for the enjoyment of the story, but it'll be okay, because I know what Parson is thinking and that it'll come across in time.
As I was thinking about Roger's arc, with his (and Jojo's, and Vanna's) ploy to trick Parson into casting the GTFO scroll, I was suddenly realizing that the time to communicate some of that stuff is right-the-hell now, or everyone is really going to think Parson is a moron. The plot outline did not originally call for the text that became page 285. Without it, though, I knew the story would suffer. If the next time we rejoin the Transylvito arc, we see Parson standing in the portal room ready to hurr-de-durr his way into Roger's trap, then it tips the scales over into "I can't even root for this idiot anymore. Rob has really lost control of his story." It would be a disservice to the character, the story, and the ultimate bosses: the readers.
So I squeeze in page 285. And to write it, I had to touch on a lot of stuff I didn't originally intend to talk about at this point in the book: the Signamancy of the cereal boxes in Book 1, Parson's current opinion on Fate, how Parson questioned the bracer's lies and the falling beam after Spacerock, what Parson's actual gambit was when he told Benjamin "ask it," and why the fact that it worked just confirms the bracer is unreliable. I didn't invent these as "idiot ball excuses" for the update. I knew Parson had thought and done these things in the past, but they hadn't been told yet. Parson's a genius (whether he likes to think of himself as one or not), but the readers needed a reminder at this point in the story, or the story stops being enjoyable. When Parson presents some strong, smart, convincing reasons to disbelieve the bracer but to walk into the trap anyway, then that potentially major problem is avoided.
But that's not all there is writing the update. To stand on its own, a page or a text needs to be a complete arc. We can't end a comic in the middle of a conversation. A text has to do everything a short story does (conflict, complications, resolution), plus fit into the story arc, the book, and ultimately the series. It has to advance pieces of the plot, segue to the next piece of the story, tease future problems, and be consistent with all canon.
So. I start 285. I outline a page I didn't intend to write. I consider the characters in the room: Parson, Caesar, Roger, Benjamin, Maggie, the Makaleka, potentially even...others. I live in each one's head for a while. I remember what they can do. If I run into something that one of them could and would do, it might blow away the whole idea. Eventually, I get to Roger's Foolamancy and the little stinger at the end of the update. Now I can see that the whole update lays out Parson's high degree of awareness that the bracer may not be reliable. We feel it's a conscious and smart decision to go ahead with the crazy scheme anyway, instead of derpitude. Then Roger subverts that feeling by Fooling the reader. Parson doesn't seem dumb, because the reader also bit on the Fate-makes-the-bracer-lie misdirect. And now the reader feels smarter, because they have information Parson does not. Both the protagonist and the antagonist get a boost from this scene. I worked it out at the time I wrote the text, even though I already knew Parson's thinking going in.
But hold on. To write even one sentence about something like Parson's view of the falling beam, I need to revisit and reread (with note-checking and note-taking) the end of Book 2, and make sure I understand what I wrote, so I can riff on it (or at least avoid contradicting it). What does the reader know about this detail, I have to ask? When would Parson have had the time to digest these events? How did it play out? Notes, notes, outlines, dialog snippet, more notes. If I don't do this stuff, then I'm not respecting my own canon. Sharp-eyed readers will call me out on it. I'll call me out on it, the next time I reread Book 2.
Anyway, those are the standards I mean.
And I am not saying we won't post until it's perfect. Not at all. We had planned an illustration for page 285, where there was a new look at the Stupid Meal from Book 1, with new "facts" on it, which the reader would know were a little squirrely. We got this far, and ditched it for the sake of an on-time update:
even putting it on a bookshelf required a canonical decision about whether or not the box depopped with the rest of the trash
It was important. It would have added a lot. Probably 5 hours of my time was spent on a 3D approach. It started with looking for an existing 3D model to buy on Turbosquid etc., then modeling a Stupid Meal myself in Maya, before just abandoning that tack and going with a perspective tilt in a 2D graphics program. The model I set out to create could have been used for future Stupid Meals in future updates (which is not to confirm it's canon that Parson still receives Stupid Meals), or even in the unit collection system when we finally deploy that (it's coming). But when we were out of time to post the update, the question was "does this update hit the target without that illustration?" and the answer was "yes, it's still pretty damn good." We posted.
That's how it goes. It's tough. I often can't write a single line of dialog without stopping to consider, for example, how one character would address another. That can be five minutes of querying the archives for the last time they spoke, or (in extreme cases like Jed's Hawaiian or Jojo's Carny lingo) an hour or two of tangential bouncing through Google, Onelook, Visual Thesaurus, Wikipedia, etc. trying to find a term or word that's as natural for the character's mouth as the reader's ear (and which doesn't accidentally mean something horrible that I didn't intend).
And there are usually details with the art that are just as fiddly, that require lots of extra time, roughing, reference hunting, and revisions. How long do we spend on a Stupid Meal before it's too stupid? I have to make calls like that a lot more than you might think.
Bottom line here is that there's no slack in the process. On this side of the screen, nobody is doing anything less than the best they can. I'm back to working every waking hour unless the family stuff is happening, and I also have health issues that can steal up to two hours of my time each day. I'm not stuck. I'm not lost. I'm not bored. I'm not depressed. I'm not slacking. My attention is not being consumed by anything that isn't Erfworld or my family.
Creating this story is just a whole lot harder than you might imagine. Especially under the circumstances.
Yep, it's a bummer when we don't update. Yep, it's a lot of money to give up. Nobody feels worse about it than we do, and nobody on the team feels worse about it than me. Lashing out in comments won't help there be fewer skips. Also, derailing Reactions with discussion about skips is a One Rule violation. We haven't banned anybody, but I reserve that right. Saying "Rob needs a manager" or saying that I need to take my job more seriously is missing the mark by a whole lot, and I hope this post will help explain why.
Erfworld's fans are loving, generous, and more supportive on an ongoing basis than literally any other readers in webcomics. When the Worst Thanksgiving happened, I remembered to be thankful for all of you. (It's a daily habit, so it was easy.)
That said, announcing every skip is still not going to happen. This is not coming from a lack of respect for the readers. I respect the hell out of you guys. Not posting a subpar update just to take your pledge money is how you know that. My writing news posts 20 times a year to say we're skipping will not say "I care about your feelings" any better than just giving this story everything I've got. But it would take up a substantial amount of my Category 2 time, and leave us with a front page full of repetitive bad news instead of comics and community things.
Seriously, I care a lot about your feelings. It's why I had to add page 285 in my one (pretty typical) example. The only value Erfworld has is in the heads and hearts of the people who enjoy it. But remember I also then posted 285 without the Stupid Meal, because I care about making the on-time update too. That's the balance. That's our challenge.
I really hope this post was worth spending more than half my productive time today, and not getting to the bank to do an important business thing, and missing my old barber who only cuts hair on Wednesday ("old barber" is also an interesting anagram). After thinking it over, I'm going to leave the comments open. Please remember the One Rule. Sock puppets will have their strings cut.
I'm sorry to hear that you have some personal stuff going on with a family member. I also understand you want it to stay private, but you're essentially a minor celeb at this point and your private life isn't so private anymore, especially when it involves people paying you for your work. Something this big in your life, we don't need details, but a quick update that something is impacting your ability to work on your primary job. You would tell a boss in a job about needing personal time for something this big.
I still agree with everyone else that you need to just release all updates if they're going to update at 11:59. No more "early" uploads when its done. It just creates a false sense of expectation from there on out. What you need is regularity. If you can't do 6 updates a month, just agree to do only 4. And only post at one time of the day no matter what.
Sorry to hear about family issues. Of course you need to take care of yourself and your family first, but still - you made Erfworld your job. It gives you money so that you can put food on the table.
I'm totally behind you on this "quality" thing. I like that an Erfworld is such a good comic. If you can handle it financially, better skip than retconjure. However, uncertainty of whether there will be a comic today is killing me (and I think I can talk for most of your readers). We don't need explanation as of to why there is no comic today. Just a quick heads up "nothing to see here today, move along with your life".
Let me go back to "having a buffer" issue. It's not just about being able to post regularly. I don't think you work on Erfworld one page at a time. It's a story - you have a bigger picture in mind that each comic must fit in with. By having multiple comics waiting to be posted you can go back and revisit them, because we didn't see them yet.
Here in Poland we have a saying that you should "sleep with your problems". It has been scientifically proven that during the night you don't just rest, but also your brain is organizing itself and a problem that was very hard in the evening will be much simpler in the morning. (Sort of like Maggie did so I think you know about it but I'm just reminding). Because of that another thing is that you should produce each comic over the course of several days. And no I don't mean that you should triple the amount of work you put in. I mean that if lets say a page took you 12 hours of a single day to make you should instead divide it up into 4 hours over the course of three days. The more the better.
Another thing about quality - we love analysing your work and don't mind quick retconjuration. We know that you are only a human. You probably know about the last mile problem. It takes certain amount of energy to get your job to 90% quality. Then it takes an equal amount of energy to get it to 99% quality. It than takes third time the same energy to get it to 99.9% And you can never get to 100%. And we are eager to help you with continuity. So please, post your comics earlier and than, if something big is spotted by the forums you can post a quick errata and later retconjure at your convenience.
I haven't commented here in the few years I have been following, but feel like at very least i should put my 5 schmuckers up for review.
You guys have no need to apologise for delays, though explanations are appreciated. The people who support you do so because they want you to succeed, because they enjoy the story you guys have created here.
Those who are upset by delays will get over it. Hope your family stuff gets resolved in the good way, but in the meantime feel reassured that most if not all of us are in support of, not against you guys.
I'll add my vote for 1) not needing any more details of your personal life than "family stuff" (not that you shouldn't share if you want to, but that you don't have to elaborate) and 2) some sort of basic indicator on the homepage (whatever is easiest to maintain) to indicate a skip would be nice if possible.
But then I also read "The Last Halloween" where Abby puts up an (admittedly skilfully drawn) update once every couple of months so I can't complain too much if the odd update date goes by.
This is probably buried to deep to see, but oh well.
I'm not a supporter currently (trying to rework the finances to change that), so maybe I shouldn't be suggesting this but:
Maybe it's time to make a change to how pledging works, one for the better.
See currently you are making a promise that I do agree is very important. You won't update if the update doesn't have the right quality. You promise that every update will hit a certain standard, and if it needs to be held until that standard is met, then sobeit.
But your pledge system is treated as though the promise is different. It's 'per on time update.' But that's not what you want, and I'd argue that it's not what your supporters want. They want to high quality update you are promising.
So I'm suggesting you change the toolshed to match the actual promise you are making. Make it a pledge per update, no matter when that happens.
You're never going to increase the amount of updates to something unexpected. For all the reasons you have listed today and previously, updates are hard and take time. So it's not as though some week people in the toolshed are going to shocked and taken about by an unexpected four times in a week update. Everyone is already expecting two updates a week, and is expecting to pay twice a week. Why should it matter which day that is?
I know the 'per update promise' is partly to hold you to a schedule so it doesn't slip away forever. And for the sake of that, just relax the promise. "Well definitely update twice a week, we'll aim for Tuesdays and Fridays, but it may be later." Quite frankly, your financial motivation will still be there. You'll want to update twice a week to get those pledges in. And if you don't manage in twice a week, you'll lose some money.
But this new method would be less stressful. You wouldn't find yourself making a hard call between two promises. A promise of quality, and a promise of time. The second one which is less important overall... except that it is the one that is tied to being paid.
And think about it Rob. If we can all agree that being on time is less than important than being up to standard, then why should pledging be tied to the less important aspect?
If you want to quell any fears of surprise updates, promise not to make them. "No more than two updates a week."
And then you can move forward with the assurance that you can make the call to wait until Wednesday or Saturday and it won't hurt your artists (or yourself).
I think it's something to think about. Treat the toolshed like you want to treat your pages. You're making a promise of quality, I think we'll back that.
I appreciate the post, and also appreciate the amount of effort that goes into Erfworld. Between the artwork and writing this is easily one of the best webcomics I've ever read.
The issue that I have had with skips has revolved around some wording in the Toolshed regarding "on time" posts. I think the wording just needs to be changed to per post and take the "late" out of the equation. You never post a late page. You either post on a Tuesday or a Friday, or you don't. Basically it seems that the "skip day" is making a rule to make yourself and readers feel better about not putting up a post when you can't meet the deadline.
I get it, nobody wants to work for free. You don't put all of this effort and work into Erfworld to just give it away. Which is why there hasn't been a "late post" (read free) to my knowledge since you started this new Toolshed. I think that if you want to help us manage our expectations, then I see 2 reasonable options.
Option 1: You remove the "on time" caveat for payments on posts. If we just pay you per page, then you aren't as beholden to an arbitrary deadline. If you remove that caveat, then if a post isn't ready until 12:05am on Wednesday we don't have to wait until Friday to get that post. You get paid, we still get a comic, everybody is happy.
I've seen people argue that it opens up the possibility of multiple posts in a week to generate revenue. First of all, we all know that isn't happening. Rob and crew aren't that shady, and honestly, when was the last time you guys saw a streak of pages get laid down? If that happened Rob would immediately lose a lot of backers and would torpedo his project, along with the fact that we would still have some recourse with Paypal and be able to unsubscribe before those payments would go through.
We trust Rob and we trust that he isn't going to just put up a junk page to get paid. He's already proven that, so why have the "on time" caveat? I feel like it only causes the pace to slow because they (rightfully) want to be paid for each page they post.
Option 2: Set all posts for 11:59pm on Tuesday and Friday. If you don't post, then we know it's a skip and we can move on with our day. This is honestly the easier option.
I prefer option 1 as I feel that we will still get the same quality product that Rob has been putting out, but then we may actually get one or two more posts per month because Rob and Co are still getting paid. Option 2 just helps to manage expectations.
Regardless, I'll stick around, but I think that one of these two options would really help us all to feel better about the situation.
I read all you wrote and it explains a lot and the inside look is appreciated, however I feel it doesn't address a fear many of us have that this webcomic will never reach its conclusion, certainly not a satisfying one. The updates are just too few and far inbetween. In this sense the great nuance you have woven into your work is a downside, it is hard to keep track of the intricacies of side characters when, for example, you need to remember what Roger is all about and the last update about him was eight complex updates ago, and the one before that another eight... it is hard to remember every detail when relevant updates are a month apart.
There is not really an answer to this in your post but it can be inferred from your commitment to quality and how tight your timetable is that a solution is not possible besides you persevering and bringing this comic to comfortable stop many years down the road. I sure hope this is the case but you can understand how fans might be worried, especially ones financially supporting this project.
Hang in there Rob. You do great work, and it's crazy to me that I get to sample it for as little as I actually pay. I also think this update was worth my time to read because it grew my respect for your process quite a bit. I hope you find the strength to manage your family crisis as well as humanly possible. It sucks to have to face that kind of thing, and I'm sure we all wish you didn't have to. Powerless as we are to spare your family that pain, we instead wish you the strength to carry on in your time of hardship.
In lighter news, I've been following this since day one. I like to think of myself as a pretty sharp and perceptive guy. I did not get that Parson Gotti was an anagram for Protagonist until you spelled it out for me. And I thought about it too! What his name might mean in terms of signamancy and who he actually is and if there's a payoff to that particular name. It was right under my nose. Hah. Good stuff.
Just wanted to post to voice my continuing support for you and the rest of the Erfworld team. Your internal consistency, attention to detail, and fantastic storytelling set Erfworld well ahead of every other webcomic I've ever read, and there's a reason you're the only one I've ever financially supported.
Take whatever time you need to do whatever you need to get done - I will be with Erfworld to the end of the story.
I also realize that this is your source of income and you can't afford to take too much time away from it even if you need it, so I've increased my pledge per on-time update. Not to the next tier - I can't quite afford that - but above the minimum for my current tier. I realize that's just a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps, and I'll do what I can to make sure you and the team can continue producing this wonderful webcomic.
I hope you read this Rob.
The thing is (as I've mentioned to you in the past) - there's some systemic issues in the way you've set up your empire that emerge during moments like these - and they mostly come down to the fact that you use the expectations of the audience to apply pressure to yourself.
The "on-time update" payment arrangement Erfworld uses creates expectations in the audience, and you use those expectations for creative drive. But when the crap golems hit the fan (and I've very sorry to hear about your family situation), and when fans begin to voice their dissatisfaction with missed expectations, the stress must be overwhelming. It's a double edged sword.
I'm not sure why you're resistant to notifying fans when a skip day is in effect. Maybe its because you want to "feel out" the launch day, and if it's ready at the 11th hour you clear it to go. But therein lies the fulcrum of the whole problem.
You cannot create an "on-time" payment arrangement, use it to create expectations in the audience (promising them entertainment at specific times), run counter to that expectation without communicating, and THEN - also take the fallout personally by internalizing the dissatisfaction of the audience.
As we say in the game industry - complaints show care. They should point to where improvements can be made, because people who don't like a product normally just leave quietly. Complaints are free R&D. Try to review them dispassionately, with an eye on maintaining your own personal sense of well being.
So something has to give. And for the sake of your sanity, and the enjoyment of the audience, I have some suggestions:
- Move Erfworld into an "update anytime" model. Accept payment from the Toolbox for whenever an update goes live.
- Put up an "ETA" widget. Just something that says when the next update might come. Consider making it at a precise time, and if that time is missed, just push it to the next day. No sweat.
- Consider making a special group for hard core Continuity-driven fans. Give them a sneak peek at pages in raw form, and invite Continuity checks (no creative feedback). Maybe make it a tier in the Toolbox, or by invitation-only (I know of a few guys in the forums who are godly at this). Consider this your Beta group.
- And, perhaps most ridiculously of all, create yourself a normal work week. Set up 40 hours on the comic, with a 20 hour overtime buffer. Any additional time you want to work should be used on business objectives ancillary or external to the comic.
Because the truth is this: I would hazard that most people who contribute to the Toolbox do so more according to their monthly budget than a desire to pressure the author to produce more. What most fans want is to know when something is coming, be notified when it's not, and feel good for contributing to the success of something they love.
I think that's why you have a lot of fans voicing support for a "monthly" or "no-strings-attached" subscription model. Most of us hate the idea that our contributions and expectations are creating stress for you. And we hate complaining about refreshing our browsers for hours on Update Day, because it makes us feel like entitled boops.
What we want is just to know simply if we should come back tomorrow, that our contributions are making as much Erfworld that can be made as possible, and that the author feels supported and empowered to throttle forward and back without concern.
Because we're with you Rob. We're hooked. You're our Gardening Channel. Don't think of us as the masses that will be disappointed if that deadline is missed - think of us as the fireworks that happen at the end of the creative process.
(As for the whole Parson being weak through most of this book - I respectfully request you not to pull back the curtain. I remember in the Old Times when a certain gambit involving Dwagons hiding in trees, and a battling over a lake, created a LOT of fallout. But the more dire the odds, the more interesting Parson is. I cannot wait to see what he does next.)
Book 1 - Annihilates an army out numbering his own 25 to 1.
Book 2 - Conquers an Enemy Capital Off-turn.
Book 3 - Conducts warfare in a kingdom where warfare is impossible to conduct - brings the most powerful (and cheating) player in the game to the brink of defeat.
Book 4 - ??????
(Who the heck is going to oppose Parson next? Take a step back, and you can see Erfworld breaking underneath his genius. What a story!)
- Move Erfworld into an "update anytime" model. Accept payment from the Toolbox for whenever an update goes live.
The primary effect of the pay-per-update model is that no contributor has any right to complain about pace. Rob doesn't update, we don't pay. Everyone else is getting something for free, and while there is nothing wrong with that, those readers have no right to complain about the pace at which they receive their free thing.
The rest is, literally and metaphorically, nobody's business but Rob's.
I don't know if anyone is still reading at this point, but seriously, that's it.
If i read between the lines of your post i suppose you're in a situation i know all to well: You're spending more and more time on an increasingly complex project and instead of harvesting due praise for diligence (Or even just silent acknowledgement of your efforts) the result is complaints related to not meeting deadlines. Oh, the joy of those!
If my above interpretation is correct your response is amusingly similar to my own in these cases though: Providing an in-depth explanation detailing the situation, the rationale why the project is "overdue" while pointing to effort expended and increased complexity to hopefully get the point across to those idiots without the slightest iota how complex the entire thing is... Pardon me: To generate a more complete situational understanding among those who seem to be unaware is exactly what i tend to do.
Best advice i can give you here would be:
Don't burn out due to negativity and don't give a damn about the complaints. Hell, you might just want to consider the complaints an odd expression of love. After all, who would complain about a lack of updates if they didn't like the updates? (I suppose its not the most ideal form to express ones love but still..). And for what it's worth: Erfworld is by far the most story-wise complex webcomic i read and managing to write it with so little retconjuration is an achievement, considering it is pretty much "Rob against a forum of findamancers pouring over every detail".
Beyond that consider removing that bloody "On-Time" clause from the updates and switch to an "It's posted and charged for when it's done" model. The sheer fact that the three of you managed to keep up the "two times a week on set days" model like clockwork for so long is half the reason part of the populace has come to expect it whereas there is really no need for it. Loosen the deadline a bit and the complaints - and hopefully a measure of stress as well - should disappear.
And to end this on the worst possible platitude "Just keep up the good work, and best of luck with your personal difficulties.". Horrible stock phrase, but the thought is genuine.
1. Lost my father this year. Was a rough bit of ups and downs. Best of luck to you.
2. Want to chime in as someone against skip posts. When I first heard about skips as a thing I was on board the announced skips bandwagon, but the more I thought about it the more I understood the decision. Posting a skip announcement requires preparation and thought that leads to more skips than not. Skip announcements won't happen until late in the last hour anyway so nobody really avoids the waiting game, and requiring a skip update means the deadline is pushed earlier in the day and more brain cycles are wasted on making that happen. If you are a person that is really struggling with checking every 5 minutes for updates, start reading the comic as a Wednesday/Saturday thing or get someone to RSS set up.
3. I appreciate this particular update, as I have been concerned about the number of skips as of late, which feels like it is blowing way past the two per month plan.
I'm sorry to hear about your troubles, and hope you are able to weather them.
I would suggest that the "peek behind the curtain" quasi-update was an awesome courtesy to your readers, and seems perhaps worth the delay in the barber's visit, but probably not worth the delay in the trip to the bank (presuming the trip to the bank was not contingent on this haircut). Your banker might care about your hair being long, and it's a minor nuisance; however, unless you're losing significant work time to pushing it out of your eyes (find a hairband for stashing in your workspace), it otherwise seems likely to have little practical impact on your world. Banking, especially involving "an important business thing" tends depressingly likely to have practical impact. The mutinous grumbling does not seem to be growing so rapidly that this courtesy could not have waited another four hours before posting, which might have allowed you to go to the bank first.
4) Ditch the concept of "skip days" and instead say "One comic a week, on Friday, with a possible BONUS comic on Tuesday" (and still charge for each comic posted, of course). In other words, flip it from being a negative to a positive. Nothing changes from a production standpoint, but something like this can have a huge impact on how skips are received.
This. So much, this. People hate to lose things, and people hate to miss deadlines. The current setup makes people feel disappointed when something doesn't appear, and it sounds like it naturally makes people on the inside discouraged if a skip day happens.
On the other hand, people love to get extra stuff, and people love performing above and beyond. By changing nothing but the framing of the timing, people can get excited if they get an extra strip in the week, and you all can feel a sense accomplishment for delivering a little more from time-to-time. It's a win-win for everyone.
Finally, my condolences for your family troubles. I really hope you all end up in a good place in the end.
I cannot speak for the entire community, but I personally have zero issue with 'Skip days'. Obviously, I am always disappointed when there isn't a new page, but if that is the price to maintain the near perfect quality of the comic, it's a price I'll gladly pay, every time. My only complaint is with the 'no communication' rule. All I need is a one-sentence "No comic today" so that I don't keep checking every hour to see if the comic is up yet.
Hours-per-comic has gone up? That's fine, the quality certainly reflects it. It also means comics-per-week has to go down, time and tide tarry for no man, no use complaining about the math of that.
I just think you should adjust the schedule commitment to one page per week, and spend the extra time on bringing in more support staff, building up a real buffer of finished, ready-to-post pages, and propagating implications of the schedule change through the whole system.
By implications I mean, for example, the idea that half as many posts per month would require those Toolshed milestones to be recalibrated, in accordance with whatever projected operating costs they were originally derived from, while anyone who's been bucking for a monthly rate could simply double their pledge.
Hearing you talk about your writing process really helps explain why Erfworld is as great as it is (and is pretty much what I imagined it would require); the Erfworld story stands right up there with A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and The Order of the Stick as a fictional world in which each and every character actually acts like a real person, with their own independent thoughts, beliefs, ideologies, preferences, and goals, and acting rationally to the best of their knowledge and ability to advance those goals. No one ever holds an idiot ball or drastically changes personality to move the plot along, and that makes the world so much deeper and more engrossing than most works of fiction. Of course, doing this while also trying to guide the plot in a particular direction must be nightmarish to write, even with the guiding force and plot device of Fate in the world of Erfworld; so I'm patient for the updates, whenever they come, and I don't want you or any of the rest of the Erfworld teams to either sacrifice quality or hurt yourselves in the production process. I just wish I could afford to pledge at a higher level to offer more of my own support; but I think I will up my pledge at least a little bit right now, I can do that much.
I understand all the people asking for notification when there will be a skip, but it just doesn't make sense. If the team is trying right up until the deadline to make a post, then they don't know until the deadline that there won't be one. By then, we all already know that the deadline has been missed so it must be a skip. Posting at that point isn't going to save anyone any refreshes. It's just wasting time. Yes, it's sad when there is no update. Yes, it's annoying to refresh the page every five minutes for 24 hours hoping there will be one, and never getting one. The solution is at the reader's end, though - subscribe to the RSS feed. That way you get notified when there is an update.