The Making of GiggleTrigger

GiggleTrigger has been a hoot in its first year and I have big plans for improving the site in the near future. But first, how did it become what it is now? 

Who did you steal the idea for this site from?

There were 2 inspirations for the site. The first was the brilliant “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Joel Hodgson’s show featured 3 funny characters who were forced to watch crappy movies. That was it. They would add commentary to crappy movies. It was genius. It was hilarious. 

Mystery Science Theater 3000

The second influence for GiggleTrigger was the New Yorker Caption Contest. The New Yorker has the greatest cartoonists in the world. On a regular basis the magazine will have a “Caption Contest” on the last page for readers to submit captions. The entries to this contest are, usually, really funny and always clever. From early on, when I first discovered the caption contest, I thought it was something that should be offered every day. 

So that was it. I decided I wanted a daily caption contest site that would allow users to submit punchlines to a new picture every day. Some of those pictures would be cartoons, some would be old movie stills.  I came up with the title “GiggleTrigger” during a free-writing session (I do free-writing sessions regularly, and you should too; see: 420Fables). 

Why can't users make punchlines for old triggers?

I decided to restrict punchline submissions to "Today's Trigger" only so that all users would be sharing their experience of the site.  That is, there is an inherent sense of community if everybody is contributing to the same Trigger.  The site already has several "regulars," and I always look forward to what they are going to say on Today's Trigger (Miss Susie, Dawnling, Blue Horizon, Big Carl, Dudley Manlove, and Marigold to name a few).  As the GiggleTrigger community grows this sense of shared experience will increase.  Adding comments will help, too.

Why is the layout the way it is? And why is it so colorless?

Here was an early mockup of what I thought GiggleTrigger should look like: 

Homepage Mockup

The problem with the early layouts is that I wanted users to be able to see each Punchline with the Trigger. The early mockups required users to scroll down the page to read Punchlines. This meant that, if there were more than several punchlines, users would have to read the punchline and remember the picture. This sucked. So I modified it to the current layout: 

ALTEXT

I also dampened the colors on the site to draw attention from the site layout to the daily Trigger.  The original mockup was way too loud.  I am not a great "web design mind," but I still think this was the right move.  

What programming language is it written in?

Easily the biggest hurdle to creating GiggleTrigger was that I did not know anything about coding. Nothing. Also, I have a pathological tendency to underestimate the difficulty of a task. I thought I could focus for a few weeks and “figure out this whole programming thing.” Pffft! Fortunately I’m as stubborn as I am naive. 

Originally, I thought building the site in php would be a good idea. I was wrong. I would rather translate the Bible into Konkani than learn php. Yech! A friend of a friend of a friend recommended Ruby on Rails. RoR is deceptive. At first glance it looks like anybody can do it. There are massive tasks that can be coded with short, intuitive code, so it seems really easy. The problem is that 85% of it is easy and intuitive, but the most crucial 15% still requires traditional programming expertise. But RoR is such a tease. It makes you think you are SO close, and it keeps you seduced. It keeps you coding. 

In a little over a year I had GiggleTrigger done and launched. Soon after the launch I built a dynamic t-shirt store where visitors could buy a t-shirt with any Punchline and Trigger. The store was a coding marvel (by my standards), showing a real-time t-shirt mockup of each and every Punchline. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to buy the t-shirts. Pffft!  So, the site still makes zero money. But what it lacks in revenue it makes up for in “pull my finger” jokes, which you can’t really put a value on. 

Any disappointments with the site so far?

My biggest disappointment so far, other than nobody buying t-shirts, is the difficulty in finding good cartoon Triggers.  I hope to solve this supply problem in the coming year.  

Future modifications will include a comments section, better Facebook integration, Pinterest integration, and a badge and trophy system. Stay tuned!

  • CATEGORY: creativity and related futility

  • 11-28-2012

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