Redesigning in the Open
Update Posted: 1,072 words
Into the Book is getting a redesign.
If you’re new here, Into the Book was a book reviews website that I started when I was a teenager. We published almost a thousand book reviews from dozens of different people. We gave away several books, we interviewed authors, and we even reviewed debut novels.
It was a great example of what the web can be: distinct people from different backgrounds and locations coming together around a common interest.
Into the Book hasn’t been used much in several years, and when it has been used, I’ve dropped varying-appropriate blog posts on top of the old book reviews structure. The site is a bit of a listing hulk, still designed for one purpose but now housing things it was never intended to hold. What’s more, my computer is full of writing that I’d like to share, but lack a place to do so.
An online home
We’ve lost something of the open web today. Facebook cares about Facebook, not the people who create content on their platform. For that matter, the word ‘platform’ is just another way to pump out ‘content.’ It’s not worth doing if we’re not monetizing our articles, or developing professionally, or building a brand. Web content has become the online equivalent of a cocktail meet and greet: flashy, shallow, and pointless.
Do you remember the awesome stuff that we collectively madem before we cared about our brands, or our careers, or if we were perceived as influencers? Do you get sick of the vapid 200-word summaries that pass for blog posts, on corporate-owned sites, and just wish for regular people who tell stories about their interests, hobbies, and jobs? I sure do.
Telling stories still matters. It’s why I became a web designer, and it’s ultimately what gets me up each morning at Mere (See? I can’t even resist the opportunity to ping my own employer, because maybe we could sell a website out of this. Old habits die hard).
What I’m looking for out of this redesign process is a virtual home. A place to throw out a welcome mat and say, “Hello world. This is me. Come on in.”
Maybe 100 people come. Maybe 10. I do not care. The promise of the web is that anyone, no matter how stupid the message, can do just that: invite people to read.
Write crap for people to read.
I miss blogs. There are a few good ones still out there, but by and large the age of the blog has diminished, a bit (I’d argue that a better place for personal expression these days is the podcasting world, but I’ve already tried that. Written words come to me more naturally. Sheesh, even when this guy is trying to do something new he’s doing the wrong new thing!)
It’s not about platform-building: I just want to write crap for people to read. There’s no single place on the internet that can house the various interests I have: writing, reading, web design, board gaming — where is the Facebook for board-gaming, author web designers who enjoy Jane Austen? This is why we invented personal blogs in the first place. They’re interesting and delightful, and they submit to the whims of their creator. They reflect the personality of the person or people who write them. An interesting post is an interesting post, and a collection of interesting posts is a blog.
Why call it Into the Book?
tl;dr Mostly, because I have the domain name?
I’m making a space. I’ve run plenty of blogs before — by my count this is either my sixth or seventh, depending on if you count this as a continuation or relaunch of ItB — and I’ve closed down all the previous ones. Into the Book is still here, and I’ve renewed the domain name for years without doing much to it.
So why not use the name, at least, to make something new? I liked the name ‘Into the Book’ when I renamed it from ‘Books a Trillion’ in February 2009, and I still like it today. It conjures up images of curling up next to a fire with a mug of cocoa, reading a book and losing yourself amidst its pages. I have been a bookworm for all of my life, and now that there are more interests to fit in under the same title, well, I don’t think the name will mind too much. There’s room in this book for web design and bad PHP code right alongside board games and my quest to find a board game that can tell a truly great story, which dovetails really nicely with my continuing failure to ever finish a novel, and now you’re back at books, which I like to read.
‘Into the Book’ it is, then.
There’s a bunch of different things that make me, me, and I think other people might like to read them. Maybe you’re a web designer who wants to read more from other web designers, or an aspiring author who wants to read another aspiring author. With luck, maybe I can introduce you to some pretty cool corners of the world you haven’t considered before. I doubt there are too many other web designers who taught themselves how to code and are also working on a personal writing project about time travel, have lived in Uzbekistan, like eating kimchee and galactiburico best of all, sometimes wishes to visit the canyons of Brazil again, and thinks human travel to the moon will be commonplace in his lifetime (If that’s you, let’s talk because I think we’re twins).
There’s stories to be told. Time to whip this old bucket of bolts — my first and last remaining blog — into shape again, and get to writing.
P.S. – This theme may look like a radical departure for Into the Book, but it’s just the new WordPress default theme. Think of it as a neutral coat of paint while I gameplan what’s next.
P.P.S. – Next, I want to take a look at blogs I’ve had in the past — what they did well, what they did poorly, and maybe what I’d like to do now that I haven’t done before.
P.P.P.S – If you want to get posts as they come out, here’s the RSS feed. Cool cats still use RSS feeds, right? I can’t be the only one.