Pottermore: A First Look Around

As I think everybody knows by now, I received my Pottermore Welcome Email on Friday morning. So I’ve been inside, “exploring the site” (as the Pottermore team likes to put it), for the past three days.

Since this post is mainly about my impressions and first-hand experience of Pottermore, I’m putting pretty much everything between spoiler GIFs for the sake of those who wish to experience everything on Pottermore fresh. :)

A few things you might want to know first, though…

In the Great Hall, there are currently 99,841 104,326 112,423 117,288 126,669 131,622 139,639 142,235 students.

I don’t think students start showing up in the statistics for the Great Hall until they arrive at Hogwarts and go through the Sorting Ceremony (PS/SS Chapter 7). So this means that at least significantly more than 100,000 welcome emails have already gone out and that about 14% of the early entry pool is now inside Pottermore.

According to the Pottermore Insider from several days ago, Pottermore is going to be sending out more and more letters this week… and then take a pause. This means that we could see a large increase over the next few days. And that’s good news for anyone who is still waiting.

Now… on to those first impressions…

Pottermore is being branded as an interactive reading experience, but I think it’s really more of a combination of a lot of different types of experiences.

Moments

Currently, the site has “moments” from PS/SS. We see drawings of various memorable scenes from the book, and in many of these “moments” we are able to “collect” items or “unlock” reading material. To collect or unlock, we just need to move the mouse around until something highlights and then we click on the thing that highlights. Items I’ve “collected” include a number of potions ingredients, Chocolate Frog Cards, and even a few Galleons. It’s amazing how much junk students just leave lying around the castle!

Occasionally, you have to accomplish a task in order to advance. For example, you can’t visit the shops in Diagon Alley to buy your school items (and get your wand!) until you find and collect your shopping list. You can’t move past Fluffy if you never cast the Alohomora spell to open the door to get to Fluffy. You can’t get past Quidditch until you catch the Golden Snitch. You can’t move into the final chamber until you’ve solved Snape’s Logic Puzzle.

This is all a lot of fun. In fact, it’s a bit like JKR’s own website but with a bit more narrative structure… and without the sound. At the moment, Pottermore is dead silent.

BTW, the artwork is often drop-dead gorgeous. :)

The Reading Experience

The reading experience is Pottermore is at its best – and at its worst. The worst is the repetitive canned content. Basically, every moment comes attached with a list of Characters and Places (and possibly Objects, Spells, and Creatures) that you can read about. Unfortunately, most of these are brief, uninformative, and repetitive. You really only need to read about the secondary characters one time because their information never expands. (I’m looking at you Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe, Quidditch Team Members, and Argus Filch!).

For major characters like the Trio, Dumbledore, Snape, McGonnagall, Draco, Hagrid, and Quirrell, you never really know until you click if you are going to get new content. Sometimes you do. Most of the time you don’t. I eventually got so tired of clicking on the exact same content that I finally ended up making all of the major characters “Favorites.” That way, I am, in effect, “collecting” their information for later reading.

In order to avoid reader frustration, I personally think Pottermore needs to create some sort of icon to indicate new information that hasn’t appeared before. That way, the reader won’t have to click unless that icon appears. Right now, Pottermore does have a feather icon to indicate new JKR-exclusive content. But an additional icon for previously unread info about one of the characters could only help the experience.

Hmmm. I think I’ll mention that on the feedback form. ;)

The New JKR Content

That said, the new and exclusive JKR content is AMAZING! For McGonnagall and Quirrell, you get a lot of new and exciting – and often heartbreaking – information.

You unlock new JKR content about McGonnagall for the first time in Chapter 7 and for Quirrell in (I believe) Chapter 8. Much later, JKR provides even more information for each character.

Pottermore doesn’t just offer new JKR info on characters, though. We get a lot of wandlore, straight from Ollivander himself (and I know how interested everybody is in getting, and learning about, their wand). And of course, we do get those House Histories.

But to tell you the truth, some of the funniest new content comes in the most mundane packages. Do you think you want to unlock content with names like “Measurements” and “Clothing”?

No?

Well, trust me, you do. :)

Wand Selection and Sorting

You probably already know that you get quizzed in order to select your wand and your House. Your wand selects you in Chapter 5, and the Sorting Hat places you into your Hogwarts House in Chapter 7.

After reading about wand woods and cores, most people I know have concluded that they were chosen by the correct wand. Sorting is another matter entirely. I have some friends who identified heavily with Slytherin but were sorted into Ravenclaw. Others of us identified more with Ravenclaw but were sorted into Slytherin.

I don’t think this is really a problem with the Sorting Hat. I think it’s more a problem with what the fandom thinks Ravenclaw and Slytherin are. The popular views of Ravenclaw and Slytherin are not exactly what we see in the actual House Histories. But more on that in another post.

Regardless of what you think you are, the Sorting Hat will never admit a mistake, so this is your one chance to be sorted. And JKR stands behind her pool of questions.

As far as I can tell, you will get the same wand questionnaire I got. You will not get the same Sorting questions. From what I have gathered, Pottermore has a database full of Sorting questions, and each question will be triggered by the previous answer. This is aimed at making each Sorting experience unique.

Earning House Points

You earn points for your House by brewing potions and engaging in Wizard Duels. Even though Duels are down right now, Potions are brewing all across Pottermore!

Casting spells and brewing Potions are both very fun. But man! Potions really requires precision. If you’re not precise, you will quickly find yourself doing a Neville Longbottom… and melting or exploding your cauldron!

I think I’ve melted about 7 cauldrons so far – most of them just during practice, so no worries. But the last cauldron I melted lost my House points… and it was a relatively expensive Copper cauldron. So the lesson? Stick to the pewter. ;)

Well, anyway, I think you can tell that I’m having fun. The site is not nearly as buggy as I expected. And now that I’ve gone through all the moments, there’s still competition for the House Cup to keep me busy. Plus, I have 6 5 4 3 2 Chocolate Frog Cards to find!

(I have now completed the Chocolate Card set… and the last card I found was Merlin’s!)

With that, I’ll just say that if you have questions about Pottermore, I’ll take them in the Comments thread. :)

Pottermore: I Just Solved Snape’s Logic Puzzle

Sorry I’ve disappeared into Pottermore for the past couple of days. I will be back tomorrow, I think – or possibly Monday – to write up my general thoughts.

In the meantime, I just wanted to let everybody know that on Pottermore, you will have an opportunity to solve Snape’s Logic Puzzle. And when you get to that point in the story, you will find that one of my two final solutions is correct. :)

If you have visited Solving Snape’s Logic Puzzle, then you will know that figuring out the single final solution is impossible without actually seeing the layout of the bottles. You can only narrow it down to two potential positions for the “Forward” potion. (No such problem exists for the “Backward” potion).

I’m not going to reveal right now which one of my two solutions is the correct one. I’d like to give you an opportunity to solve the puzzle for yourself when you get to Pottermore.  But I will say this: while it was a solution I anticipated, it was not the solution I expected… though I think it was kind of the solution I was hoping for.

Feel free to use my Logic Puzzle notes when you get to Pottermore. Goodness knows I did!

Pottermore: Do You Want to Friend Me?

I’ll have more to say about Pottermore a little bit later, but for now, I just thought I’d talk briefly about the Friends system.

We can have Friends on Pottermore. We can duel each other. We can send each other gifts. But we can’t actually write to each other within Pottermore. This is supposed to be to keep children safe.

This makes it a little difficult to tell who is friending you. I have a list of Friend requests, and at the moment, I have no idea who many of them are from.

So I’m setting up a little system here that will make it easy for people to Friend me  – and do it privately.

I have set up a series of keystrokes that will take your Comment straight into the spam filter:

ASDFJKL;QWERTYUIOP

If you are a commenter on this blog and you type in that series of keystrokes

ASDFJKL;QWERTYUIOP

I will be sure to see your message because I always check the spam filter. Just let me know that you want to friend me and let me know your Pottermore username. I’ll send you a friend request. You don’t need to be inside Pottermore already for me to send you a friend request. When you do get inside, the request will be from someone named AsphodelPhoenix. I don’t post the actual numbers publicly because someone tried to reset my password a few weeks ago. :(

Anyway, you can copy and paste the keystrokes: ASDFJKL;QWERTYUIOP

In the meantime, I will provide updates from inside Pottermore, and will continue to provide content for those who are still waiting outside. :(

The really good news is that the floodgates do seem to be opening. A lot of my friends have gained access in the past couple of days. Some people are gaining access before they receive an email.

Current numbers in the Great Hall at Pottermore are: 86,731 students. At this rate, we may get in 10% of Beta testers by the start of next week. And Pottermore says it will continue to increase the numbers over the next week.

Hope to see everyone inside Pottermore soon!

ETA: The spam filter thing is working. :) I have already friended one commenter. If you want me to post down below that I have friended you (by username on the blog, not on Pottermore), then you can just add that to your message. I will add those usernames to the bottom of this message under a second ETA. :)

ETA2: I have sent out friend requests to everybody who gave me a complete username. If you just gave me the words and not the numbers, I was unable to send a request.

Merlin’s Pants! I’m a Slytherin!

So…… I’ve been playing on Pottermore since this morning. I have collected all sorts of stuff, read JKR’s additional content (all of it delightful), acquired a wand (Maple wood, unicorn tail hair, 10 3/4 inches, slightly springy), and finally gotten sorted.

When I read up on my wand components, my wand seemed to be a prestigious wand belonging to a high achiever who is exceedingly unlikely to go into the Dark Arts. This made me think: “Prestigious high achiever. Maybe I’m not so Ravenclaw after all. I think I could be moving in the direction of Slytherin.”

Anyway, I did my best to give the Hat my honest answers. And trust me, it’s fairly impossible to tell exactly which questions are going to put you into which House. My first response (an honest one) was clearly moving in the direction of Ravenclaw. But after that, the questions became increasingly murky.

All I can say is that – after reading the House History – the outcome was rather a pleasant surprise! Even though I’m not particularly cut-throat, I am a fairly ambitious high-achiever. And now it looks like I am destined for greatness!

Because……
(skip to the bottom now if you don’t want to read the spoiler)


The title of this post is not a fluke. Merlin was a Slytherin.

So… where are you hoping to get sorted on Pottermore?

Pottermore Finally Communicates!

In the Comments to yesterday’s post, one topic of conversation has been Pottermore’s communication issues.

Today, though, Pottermore demonstrated that it has finally heard the rumblings from the fandom and offered answers to a few of them. Here are a few salient points from Pottermore’s communication:

In answer to complaints about not yet receiving the Welcome email…

We know that waiting can be frustrating but the good news is that, as the Beta progresses, we’ll be increasing the number of emails we send out at any one time.

_______

In response to a question about whether Pottermore can post a schedule of when emails are sent…

Beta phases are fluid and it’s important to watch and see how a site reacts to increasing amounts of users and activity.

Every time more people are added to Pottermore, we take a pause and look at how the site is responding to see if everything is working as we expect it to and whether we need to make changes before we let more people into Pottermore.

We are planning on giving more people early access over the next week or so and then we will pause sending Welcome emails for a while so that we can see how things are going.

Unfortunately, we can’t create a schedule to share, as we need to respond to what we learn with each group of new users. That’s also why there are gaps between the batches of Welcome emails; it all depends on what we’re learning from those who are currently on the site.

_______

In response to a question about whether Pottermore ever sends out emails without first announcing them…

We always announce on the Insider and @Pottermore when Welcome emails are sent out, but sometimes these can take a while to arrive in your inbox, so you might get yours after the announced time. It’s always best to wait for your email to arrive before you try to log in.

_______

In response to a question about whether everybody who registered will actually gain early access…

The Magical Quill campaign identified who would have access to the Beta. Everyone who found the Magical Quill will get the chance to give us their feedback on Pottermore.

_______

So there it is… They will always announce when emails are going out. Everybody who signed up will gain early access. And the big news… they will be increasing testers as the test progresses, and they will, in fact, be significantly increasing testers over the next week or so. Essentially (as I predicted), Pottermore is scaling the test. :)

It appears that Pottermore has already started increasing numbers in the Beta. According to MerryLore (a credible source who comments on this blog), Pottermore enrollment has increased to nearly 47,000 students. Just one or two days ago, the number was about 32,000. I think the latest increase means that we can now expect email batches of at least 15,000 rather than the earlier 5,000.

Pottermore’s latest communication does clarify matters a bit. What I find curious, though, is that the Pottermore communications team waited until they had a burgeoning PR crisis on their hands before playing a bit of defense and trying to deflect criticisms and rumors (criticisms and rumors, I might add, that would never have spread so widely and rapidly if Pottermore had simply been communicating clearly and proactively all along with both the Beta testers inside Pottermore and those outside waiting to gain entry).

When I edited a business magazine, one thing I learned is that companies need to be proactive rather than reactive in their communication. Pottermore has finally reacted. That reaction is not ever going to be set side-by-side with Tylenol in the annals of outstanding crisis management response strategies. But at least it’s something.

Pottermore: A Seventh Batch of Owls

According to the Pottermore Insider, a seventh batch of owls is going out:

UPDATE: More Welcome emails are being sent out today (Thursday 25 August), from approximately 2:45pm (BST).

This is great news because it is starting to look as if Pottermore is confident in yesterday’s fixes to the site. Also, if you notice, the 15-second countdown has not made a reappearance on Pottermore.com.

My working assumption is that if the good news continues – i.e., if the new batch of testers doesn’t crash the site – then Pottermore will start letting in larger numbers soon. In fact, it’s possible that this new batch is the beginning of the larger numbers.

Here’s hoping!