Introducing ColorWars

You’ve probably heard of Ze Frank (if not, shame on you!). If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably heard of ColorWars, a sort of Twitter-based prank-experiment created by Ze Frank. You probably found out about ColorWars the same way I did: logging into Twitter one afternoon and going “Holy crap! What the hell is all this… this… COLOR shit hijacking my Twitter stream?!”

Which is exactly what I was saying when I got roped into doing some of the design work.


It’s been really interesting, working with Ze, Chad, Erik, Patrick and Alex. Frustrating and also awesome. Awestrating, perhaps.

The process has gone something like this: somebody has an idea, I whip something up, or somebody coded it or mocked it up and then I’ve wanted to go in and tidy things up, design-wise. If the timing’s right, we’re all on Skype chat and we give and get feedback, rinse and repeat. The designs and ideas are sometimes half-cocked because it’s, you know, VOLUNTEER work and everything also needs to happen super-fast because anything Ze does builds incredible momentum and it’s just like whoa, we have 1,000 picture submissions for an online rock-paper-scissors game in less than 3 days.[1]

That’s crazy.

Color Wars 2008

Once I’ve done my “design thing,” one or more of the guys implements it—partially. The speed and changing nature of the game means that what I design is not necessarily what’s implemented because it’s not necessarily what’s needed by the time people can get to turning it into HTML and CSS and sliced images, for whatever reason, or is too time-consuming to finish. Which means the teeth-gritting reality of stuff being changed when I’m not around to smooth the transition, as it were, which is, as I said, a teeth-grinding event.

Teeth-grinding. Well. As a consultant-4-life, I’m a practical beast. I know that I can’t always design the most awesomest thing ever, because it has to be functional and practical… and honestly, I take great pride in functionality and practicality. And all clients always have changes. But it’s a totally different experience for me to watch these changes go up live overnight, while I’m sleeping, or doing work, and come back and find the whole app landscape has changed both graphically and functionally.

color wars: smacktalk

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining. This has been one of the most interesting and awesome experiences I’ve had in a long time, professionally speaking. The team is great. The response from the Twitter / Ze Frank fanboy/girl community is amazing. It’s unbelievably rewarding to watch designs go live, and see people instantly pounce on what we’re building, play with it, make it theirs, and see how it affects them. It’s really a thrill to get to work with all the awesome people on this project; I’ve worked with most of them professionally, but it’s extra fun when even the “work” feels like a vacation, as Erik recently told me.

It’s so beyond cool.

And it’s an interesting social phenomenon.


And perhaps more interestingly than anything else I’ve worked on… I have no idea where it’s going. None. Nada. Zilch. But I know it’ll be interesting when we get there (and along the way, too). It’s fun to not have everything planned and sewn up and understood in advance, just for once.

OK, lady, where’s the point?

This post has basically been an introduction and a braindump. As time wears on and the project matures, I plan to write up “things I learned” or some other value-added crap about the project and the process and the response to all of the above. It’s interesting what it’s doing to Twitter, and it’s neat to use Twitter to power something so huge, for instance. The very notion of color wars harkens back to summer camp (the original inspiration, so sayeth Ze) and apparently touches something very fundamental deep in the human animal, much like lolcats.

So maybe those future posts will actually be interesting, after all. Stay tuned!

[1] Ze also opened up some phone numbers for people to call in and sing their “team song” in 15 seconds or less. The response in the first 30 minutes was so overwhelming that it crashed the service that provides the numbers and MP3 conversion. Yowzers.

No Comments

  1. Truly, your efame knows no bounds, Amy.

    sniff I’m so proud of you…

  2. Liz says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this site. I saw it a while back and thought the design was great. Cool finding out you were the one behind it 🙂

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