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Lessons from #SNDmakes: Building a more collaborative design community

Rebekah Monson

This past weekend, the Society for News Design held an event called "SND Prototypes: The story experience" at the Ball State University Indianapolis Center. A sizable group of talented designers, developers and product thinkers arrived in Indy with great ambition: designing solutions for real-life problems that exist in online journalism and defining new story forms.

If you're interested in reading about the cool prototypes that came from this past weekend, check out Rebekah Monson's great write-up of Sluice.js or Mike Swartz' breakdown of Backstory. Additionally, the concepts have been well-documented on HackDash, the tool we used to collaborate with our teams. There's plenty of great information out there about #SNDmakes, and I'm not here to rehash that.

Instead, I want to talk about the benefits of building a collaborative design community.

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Shut up and ship it: The story of the new-look Vox Product blog

Welcome to the new home of the Vox Product blog. In mid-February, we uprooted our Tumblr and relocated to Chorus, Vox Media's modern media stack.

You may be asking, "What took so long? Why didn't Vox Product use its own platform to write blog posts?" If so, you've got a bright future as an investigative journalist. The truth is, we just needed to shut up and ship it.

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Web design as troll: how The Verge Fanboys piece taunted the internet

How do you speak to a group of extremely passionate people? What kind of design would speak to them? When Joshua Topolsky approached us about creating three different layouts in the style of three mobile UI’s we were initially torn. Something about mimicking the UI of phones didn’t feel original. But more importantly, it presented a problem of presentation. There was an inherent a UX problem to solve: do you offer presentation options or do you trick the user? We decided to troll.

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Driving for Distraction: How Do We Survive The Premium Media Onslaught?

One great thing about working at a company built on Lifestyle Brands With Passionate Audiences is that many of us enjoy a huge overlap between our job and our hobbies. We get our work done, but there’s a (largely unspoken) understanding that when Apple events or World Series games or E3 announcements come around, we can and should take time to enjoy them. No doubt World Cup draw coverage has been up on the projector in the DC office common area today, folks plunked down on the couch.

We love this stuff, and it’s always a great chance to see our editorial & video teams in action, and to watch closely as tools like SBN Live and Syllabus get real-world use.

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Polygon feature design: SVG animations for fun and profit

The Polygon PlayStation 4 Review and Xbox One Review involved an unprecedented level of coordination between the editorial and product teams at Vox Media. The goal was to create a pair of extremely high touch features to highlight the talents of our writers and video team, while pushing the envelope on longform design.

There were a lot of lessons learned, but the final results speak for themselves.

PS4 Animation

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Using Backbone.js for sanity and stability

Once upon a time, I spent a week investigating why comments were failing to update live on SB Nation articles. I spent hours tracing through a 2000-line javascript file, trying to reproduce the problem. When finally the root cause had been identified, and the one-line fix applied, I flipped tables. I decided to rewrite the JavaScript layer of Chorus’s commenting system from scratch, using Backbone.js.

cfbot get tableflip
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

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Vax 2.0 Wrap-up

We’ve been busy cranking, but wanted to share notes on the output of our Product Team hack week last month.

Vax 2.0 was a huge success. A total of 22 projects came out of the 4 days we were all in DC! On Sunday, the last day of Vax, various members from other parts of Vox Media joined the product team for a fine show and tell.

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Vax 2.0 Day 3:


Day 3: hack hack hack! Developers, developers, developers! Scott and Brian get down to business.


Sticker time for new Polygon support manager Jon!

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Vax 2.0 Day 2: Vox <3 NPR

Friday, October 4th marked the first official hack day of Vax 2.0. Huzzah! Last month people began pitching their projects in a shared Google Doc, writing a few sentences about what they hope to accomplish and what kind of resources the project might need — designers, developers, etc. As Vax approached, we fleshed out project descriptions, and various Hired Guns joined projects they found compelling. Even once hacking began, people have hopped between groups.
NPR’s Tech Team Drops By

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Product Team All-hands 2013/ Return of Vax

It has been 7 months since all members of the product team descended upon Austin, Texas for our first hackathon. We are happy to report that many of the tools that were developed during our first Vax is still in use — like Beacon, Binder and Moxie. In fact, Moxie is being developed into a tool that’s going to take Ad Products at Vox to the next level, and Beacon is a core part of Product Team planning.

Our team leaders decided to attach Vax 2.0 to our 2013 Product Team All-hands gathering at our DC office.

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