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Brastop Blog interview with Bratabase creator ‘JJ’

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Some time ago, I happened upon a small website called Bratabase – which seemed like an interesting concept where users could enter measurements and details about bras they had purchased (or owned) in a bid to establish which type of bras might suit their size.

I forgot all about it until I paid another visit recently, and was amazed at how much the website had grown in a short space of time. It now includes comparison features, reviews, recommendations and a section for selling your old bras without having to go through the pain of eBay.

So, I decided to catch up with the website’s owner, JJ, a programmer from Lima in Peru who dedicates every waking hour to providing the world’s best and most complete online bra comparison database.

Brastop: So, how did Bratabase get started?

JJ: Many, many years ago I started reading a blog back in 1999 from an UK girl qho wanted to model and would complain about her boobs on her blog. Then her guestbook started getting comments from other busty girls that shared their problems, and she created a forum. She was  complaining about not being able to find bras, boob bounce, discomfort, comments – bras were a big chunk of what she was discussing.

When forum got created I joined, mostly as a reader first, but then I just started asking lots and lots of questions, looking for information to be able to also provide information to other members. I got a bunch of books about bras and breast health – everything I could find on Amazon and eBay, and in 2003 I even got some bras from eBay. It that was very interesting to be able to put bras different size side by side and see how they differed. Back in 2003 there was not much information out there about D+ cups.

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How Bratabase used to look

I cant quite remember what brands or where they’d get their bras, but it was one of the forum members that mentioned that there should be a website to compare and gather bra information  The girl who owned the forum even made a static html file with her own bras and shared it with the forum – it was a table with four or five bras, size, color, brand, model and some comments – amd there’s where the Bratabase idea was born I didn’t really do much really after that… I loved the idea, but we let the idea rest for some years and the forum eventually died in 2005.

Most of the users had already said everything they could say about boobs and bras and decided to move on. In 2005 I knew some PHP and tried to make Bratabase. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I just sketched some pages, forms and ways to upload data. But that attepmt didnt get very far as I was not sure how to do it. Then I figured that storing bra measurements would be a good idea – and that’s  where the bras I had were handy.

So I put them all on the floor and looked at them and gave a lot of thought on what are the differences about them and came up with the set of measurements Bratabase now asks you for: cup depth, width, wire, band, etc.

Brastop: So when/how did the current Bratabase site come about?

JJ: It was in late 2006/early 2007. I was learning this new framework (Django) so I started working on the current bratabase codebase, but it probably didnt go live until midst 2007 and from then on the site went almost silent for very months as I could not find anyone to enter bras. The site was not attractive to anyone as it was an empty database. I had a big chicken and egg problem

Brastop: How did you get around that?

JJ: I talked with some friends, and probably managed to get about 20 or 30 bras. I had to really nag them to bother and take the time – then I had a young friend who liked the idea but was very lazy, so I’d pay her $2 for each bra she could grab and add to the site – that helped for about 20 more bras. But then she ran out of bras to reach from family and friends and the data was not very good. I was (and still am) very insecure about whether or not the site was useful, interesting, understood. So I’d go around the internet looking for people who were talking bras and send them a message telling them about the site and ask for opinions.

Brastop: And how did that go?

JJ: Some people replied, but almost nobody added their bras, so it was almost dead until late 2009 I went to the thirty_twod livejournal community and sent a message to the mod to tell them about it. My email was oasted there and some girls started using the site – but still it was rarely. In January 2010 Julia from Balkonetka found the site and wrote on her blog about Bratabase – that day the site got 600 visits in one day, which have only beeen surpased recently –  that certainly helped. From then on the site has grown with a very slow acceleration rate.

Brastop: you seem to have quite a lot of bras on there now though?

JJ: 3362 bras as of right now. Mainly because it’s now a decent sized database and lots of girls are posting pics of them wearing their bras, which is really just starting to take off. The phenomenon there was that the first pictures I added were only of the bras alone, so other girls would also put pics of their bras alone – because thats how they thought it worked – but it’s taken about 18 months to flip that, and now the girls are more comfortable with it.

I always took a lot of care about making sure that the users could not be traced back on the internet. So, unless you wanted to, if someone found one of the girls on Bratabase there would not be much they could do with the information. And I always suggest that users sign up with a username they don’t use elsewhere. Most of them are not linked to the user explicitly, unless the user wants to.

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Another glimpse at the old Bratabase

Adding information to user profiles on Bratabase is also helping a lot, as it helps to gain trust among users – they see your participation and trust that they know what they’re doing.

Brastop: I’ve noticed that you’re regularly adding more and more features to the website like the “bras for sale” section and “favourite bras”.

JJ: Lately ive been working a lot on the site – just not as many visible features as recently. I do all the coding, “design” (if you can call it that), and most importantly decision making.

I also opened a board last month and invited some power users to join and share their thoughts up on features I have planned. Bratabase is not my job sadly, I do have a regular job as a programmer, but most of my spare time goes on Bratabase. Seeing that girls are  interested in the site is my drive.

I feel in debt to them for taking the time to go and measure their bras, take pictures and all that. I am totally aware that taking your top off is not part of regular internet browsing. But I’ve just loved seeing the community grow.

Brastop: so what are your long-term aims for bratabase?

JJ: I would like it to be a de facto reference for women on the internet to find out about bras and be able to use it to make a shopping decision. In future, I would like to have a system where you could just take a picture of a bra’s tag and the site tell you if that bra will fit you, and if not, what other bra to get, and where nearby to get it.

Brastop: Have you any plans to make an iPhone app?

JJ: No, not an iPhone app but ive been working on making the site mobile friendly – about 13% visits are mobile now and I ve been sketching lots of ideas on how to make the website work in a cellphone and enhance nicely on a desktop. I dont think a native phone app is needed just yet, for what the site provides, a web experience can do just fine.

If any, i’d make a phone app that just opens the site’s webpage, but just because people is more familiar with the app paradigm than bookmarking a website in their phones – but going mobile is high on my list. I am also finding new ways of doing things as I see people using it. I do a lot of monitoring on the site – so I can see if some page is getting lots of links or if there are more visits some day, check sources and such also see how many bras and users get signed daily. I also do a lot of data sanitization also to make sure people have entered have the correct information, that the models have the proper codes, if a soft cup bra does not have an “underwire” tag on it and such. It has many parts that the public dont just see and some others that get enabled only to users with a certain reputation.

I also do some bra calculator analisis every now and then – such as go check a bra calculator online, check their algorithm and make a blog post about it to explain how it works behind scenes.
I also care a lot about the image that bratabase reflects – I dont want to be seen as a data greedy information site or make users feel that they’re giving their data to me. I want it to be more of a hub. So I’m also thinking on new ways to play better with bloggers and see what can bratabse provide to improve their blogs.

Recently I added a widget that allows them to get some traffic from bratabase and also have “voting” on their blogs whenever they make a bra review.

For bloggers, the way to assocaite is to link your blog review from your bra in Bratabase.

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