Apps, snippets, Sass and a fancy Japanese commode.
A collection of Eater edit folks and designers and developers from across the Vox product team kicked off the first day of Eater's inaugural edit/product Hack Week today at our bizarre triangular offsite in the Meatpacking District — critic Robert Sietsema contends it was once a gay leather club — with Champion coffee, Bien Cuit pastries, and some sweet, sweet lessons in design best practices (Kelsey Scherer) and editorial tools (Casey Miller). We moved on in the afternoon to Taim's harissa falafel and walnut baklava, some quality time with our very upscale Japanese toilet, and very serious #hacktime.
We're putting on this first ever Eater Hack Week for a few reasons. 1. To give members of the edit and product teams an opportunity to meet and hang out with one another. 2. To get us out of our normal workday routines to build and create some really cool and innovative stories. 3. To learn about the tools that are available to everyone. 4. To inspire and create new tools and functionality. 5. To learn about what other members of our teams do. Ideally we'll come away from this week with some great editorial content, but really it's a time to experiment and push ourselves.
Here, now, a summary of what we all did today, all within reach of some bandsaws, instead of our normal jobs:
Dept. of Health Data App
Critics Ryan and Robert got together with product genies Chao and Casey to build an app that mines the data offered by the NYC Dept. of Health in useful ways. They spent a lot of time brainstorming what product would help us achieve editorial goals, while providing a service to both readers and reporters. Says, Ryan, "We debated whether we should create a widget that would appear in the end of articles to let readers know to find out health grade of restaurants, and though it was technically feasible, we decided against it. It could unnecessarily harm some restaurants. As a critic, you want to tell our story, not the story of the Department of Health."
So after some debate, says Chao, "We decided we're going to start off simple and make an app where people can type in the name of a restaurant and get the health code data. The one thing we wanted to add was the data from their grade over the last five years so people can see their improvement (or decline) over the years."
Right now Casey is coding it and Chao will get her a list of other things that could be on the same page like share buttons or potentially a blurb from Ryan. Ideally users will be able to bookmark this to the homepage of their phones so it's an actual app.
Eater eds Kat and Amanda, Verge moonlighter Ross, ad products designer Jody, and DZ teamed up to build a cocktail generator. After looking at what's out there and what tools we have at our disposal, we aimed to build a drinks flowchart on steroids. We're hoping to build something where you can select the spirit, flavor profile, glass type, and occasion, and end up with the perfect drink plus (maybe?) an illustration, recipe, and video. Kat wants to integrate great recipes from serious bartenders, Jody is working on illustrating the glasses and the cocktails, Ross got us going on a spreadsheet to populate the app, and DZ is going to make it all come together.
Why this thing is cool: "I think it's a really cool, new interactive tool we can add to the site and it's a great way for people to interact instead of reading text or looking at photos," says Kat. "And hopefully people can submit new drinks. It's also a good opportunity to partner with bartenders so they can contribute cocktails and spread awareness of the site. Also it's a great first step in building a tool, so if we want to do it with wine or another drink like juice we already know what to do."
Helen, Miriam, and Sonia spent some time today talking about sweet, wonderful Sass. Miriam explains, "I sat down with Helen and we talked about different complications with the current layout with features and changes and possible improvements and prioritized which ones would be most easily doable. We worked with her editorial insight and my knowledge of what's feasible. Right away we put up some changes to a feature that was on the front page."
Stay tuned for more after Miriam's Sass workshop on Tuesday.
Brackets work now for us, thanks to DZ. Sonia and Helen worked today on a carb-loaded Starch Madness bracket. Yes it would have been timelier two months ago, but it's never really the wrong time for bread brackets.
Kelsey and Helen put together a best practices doc for illustrators on Eater features.
Kelsey, Erin, and Rachel discussed tweaking the design of the list tool. Here's the latest:
Erin, Rachel, Kelsey and DZ worked on a update/corrections snippet. It looks a little something like this:
Meanwhile, DZ also added snippets to article posts (they're currently now only in features).
What we're all excited about:
"I think Helen’s food photography talk is going to be pretty cool. The quizzes are pretty cool, in general, and I like making new editorial tools." - DZ
"I’m excited to keep working on Dept. of Health stuff, better ways of visualizing restaurant price data, and finding a way to do it differently than I have over the last year. I’m stoked to collaborate with different people with different ways and extend the level of design beyond Bro-Man." - Ryan
"I am really excited about data day. Speaking as a manager, I'm excited for lessons on how our editors can use tools to better tell stories from day to day with snippets and charts and graphs. I'm excited for Jason’s talk on punctuation." - Sonia
"I’m excited to sit in on more of the social projects, like a .psd template for social stuff, and restaurant generator. I want to learn more about social tools and brand-building off platform." - Kelsey
"I’m really excited to work on Sass. I like being able to control the stories I’m producing, with the awesome insight on brilliant people on the product side." - Helen
"Talking to Ryan about the possibilities with the state by state minimum wage idea and taking that concept and thinking of ways it could be applied to other stories and sites would be really neat." - Casey
"I would really like to talk more about the family tree stuff but I think it would make more sense for people pages to be a thing first. We talked briefly about what those would look like. One thing would be cool is if you could pin things so the most important stories are at the top of the page." - Rachel
Some feel-good quotes about #workingtogether and what we learned today:
"I loved seeing the app tool that was built for Vox Best Posts for 2014. I think it’ll be great for cookbook previews. It definitely has me thinking about fun gift guide." - Helen
"This is a great opportunity to work with product and talk to them directly and tell this person directly versus something in an email. Nice to be able to collaborate so fully with our lovely product team." - Sonia
"It's different because today was more about experience with editorial on feedback on things that I’m making that they’ll use. They usually go through a product manager, formal request, sometimes problems can be solved before they get to me, whereas I can see the problems editors are having. Communication is easier when you’re sitting next to someone." - Kelsey
"Designers and developers have a more logical way to think about projects, so it's good to hear methodologies and to see them draw on windows with magic markets for brainstorming." - Ryan
"I learned today that there's no such thing as eating too much baklava." - Miriam
"It was interesting to come to realize how differently within the organization some of the opinions can be. Despite having similar roles, viewpoints on what to present and how to present can vary person to person. It's a good thing because it helps you decide if what you are doing is going to be valuable enough to spend time on — if there will be enough people who will value this thing or if instead it will be a small subset." - Casey
"I learned that there are like 500 different drinks that I didn't know existed. I learned what a James Beard Award is today." - Jody
— Reporting on Day 1 by Elite and Amanda