Life is about learning, and growing. It’s about making mistakes, recognising that we fcuked up really bad, and knowing we shouldn’t be repeating the same dumb actions anytime soon. Not only do we learn at work, I believe it’s essential, even critical that we learn from every aspect of our lives.
Knowledge is the key to being a better person, and only by keeping an open mind and retaining that willingness –perhaps even an active hunger– to learn, can we get better.
Enough of the life philosophy, we’ll shelf that for a bit. I’m writing tonight because things have come a long way for this latest project in the past months, back when it was just an idea being tossed around on Facebook and emails, to the brand it is fast becoming.
What the hell am I talking about? Namely, the birth of an NBA opinion site known as The Pick and Roll. From a personal perspective, this is becoming an ideal marriage between my two passions, writing and basketball. Add the years of experience from messing around with WordPress, general knowhow with PHP/HTML/CSS, and a stint of writing for other sites since last year, and everything just seems to click into place. Nothing you learn is ever wasted, and this is fast becoming reality.
Granted the site isn’t even launched at this point, but I have high hopes for the site, and am deeply thankful to everyone who has been involved in it so far. The level of enthusiasm and belief in the vision has been mindblowing so far, and should it do well in the days ahead, a great deal of credit will go to everyone at #TeamPnR.
The people factor
What is my role in it though? I sum it up in three words: getting shit done. Uncouth as it sounds, that’s more or less my forte.
Half my time is spent vetting writer applications, proofreading drafts and to stay accessible to writers who need their concerns addressed. As it is with everything else, open communication is the key.
One is limited by one’s resources at hand however, and so the plan is to train up dedicated editors who will be able to form a synergistic relationship with their writers and produce quality work together. As a writer, it is often all too easy to get caught up in pride and believe one’s work is perfect, but sadly reality is often otherwise. Rather than being grammar Nazis, I firmly believe editors are there to offer guidance, support and improve the level of writing.
To quote what I tweeted the other time:
Editors are here to nurture a productive relationship with their writers, and to help bring out the best in them. Respect & grow together!
— Kein Chua (@kein) September 7, 2013
I also spend time talking to potential partners/merchants who would be keen to work together with us in promoting their products. While not a major focus right now, it is something that needs to be done gradually in terms of building relationships. No better time to start than now!
Of course, credit also goes to the social media guys for building up such a strong presence. The Facebook page has been steadily growing since last year, and the Twitter account has gained a decent following of nearing 4,500 at the time of this writing.
Much credit goes to:
- The unsung efforts of Terry’s analysis in building Twitter up, and also in scouting talented writers who would be keen to join up.
- The ceaseless work done by our Mr X on tweeting solid content, day in, day out.
- Steve’s work on the Facebook page, and also on slowly expanding our focus on the NBL, along with Dean.
- And of course, not forgetting everyone else who are actively contributing to site launch.
The techie bit
The other half is used in research on the site, tinkering with ways to make the backend easier for the writers and editors. WordPress in its vanilla form is functional as a writing platform, but is hardly intuitive for a multi-author site, especially one that requires constant communication and collaborative discussion.
With the use of appropriate plugins, the backend is extensively enhanced when it comes to ease of use. Providing a clean and uncluttered interface is very important for the writers, and showing them a thousand options and menus after logging in just isn’t the way to go.
How about making life easier for the editors as well? It probably doesn’t mean much to the big picture, but I managed to find a plugin that would display a dropdown list of authors as a filter. Trust me when I say it makes a huge difference in the ease of navigation, because an editor would be able to view the posts of his assigned author, rather than having to wade through a chronological sea of posts by everyone else.
Work was also done on setting up an internal mailing list for the writers, just so that important updates reach the ones who are not on the Facebook group. CC and BCC works, but it gets unwieldy after a certain number of people get onto the recipient list.
-start of rant-
Not forgetting the gritty, hands on stuff like domain registration, web hosting, updating patches, creating user accounts, resetting passwords and all that. And talk about teething issues! For a while, there was a real problem with displaying accented characters on the site, which nearly drove me nuts because the hosting provider declared it wasn’t their problem. That brought on countless hours of fruitless Googling. It wasn’t until I did a clean WP install with the same setup (sans data) and proved conclusively it wasn’t the software, that finally got them going for a deeper look. (It turned out to be a PHP setting on the Apache web server in the end.) These are the kinds of issues no one would be interested in knowing about, other than asking if it has been fixed yet. Annoying, but someone has to do it.
More than the technology however, comes the need for a system. There has to be a recognised process in getting things done, along with training/communication in getting everyone to adhere to a common mode of operation.
With this in mind, self-help guides were written and placed within the backend for reference. A simple flow chart was drawn up to clearly illustrate how articles would be handled from inception to publication. Granted advice and guidance is still necessary for everyone to come on board with the system, but I’m a firm believer in documentation being the foundation for structured processes.
As with everything else that requires juggling multiple balls in the air, a tracking system is required. Nothing complex, but something as simple as a spreadsheet would allow tasks to be kept on track, along with writer profiles and other equally important information. The key here is discipline of course.
Referencing existing policies out there, to understanding what we needed and reworking the terms to our requirements. Even with the assistance of a law professional, all of these took the better part of a week
A lot of work, a lot of energy invested, and along with it comes a lot of hope and pride. It’s no joke juggling a day job while getting this on track, and I have to be thankful to my family for being supportive on this, for allowing me the space and time to get work done.
It’s been an exhausting journey so far, but there’s a lot to be said for things you are passionate about. Things are gonna be LEGEN–WAITFORITEFFING–DARY.