Day 16 – Engineering Report


The Engineering Dept., got captions on images working today which is good. But it ended up being time-consuming, fiddly, and not strictly necessary for this stage in the project. We could certainly have launched without them.

And that’s the goal here – every page, every feature, every line of code has to get us closer to the smallest list of things we can possibly launch with. And when you’re a small, underfunded department like Engineering, it’s especially pertinent.

So, tomorrow morning the department will be making a sweep of the entire site, jotting some back-of-the-envelope estimates and prioritising what needs doing. And then doing it in that order. Onwards.

Posted by Tom | Comments Off on Day 16 – Engineering Report

Filed under: engineering, startup

End of Week 3 – Engineering Report

Honestly, the engineering bit of this project slightly terrified me before we started.

Most of the time when I’ve worked on web projects they’ve been comfortable. The tech is well known, if not by me, then by others I can draw upon. There’s lots of documentation and forums posts about that sort of stuff, and the unknowns are known.

But this is a bit different. Gluing together tools that weren’t designed for this into something that is robust and usable is always tricky. There are quite a lot of unknown unknowns.

That said, we’ve made some good progress. We’ve done the hard bit. One can add stories and pictures to a bucket of content for your newspaper, and then lay them out into spaces in a few different templates. Just the three at the moment, but once we’ve done a bit more design work, we’ll have more.

Newspaper Club | Helping people to make their own newspapers

It feels newspaper like. We’ve got baseline grids, hyphenation, fully justified text and all that.

newspaper-1.pdf (page 2 of 5)

And I’m less scared now. I can begin to hold the project in my head, and think beyond the engineering, into something that’s usable by the folk that we’d like to use Newspaper Club.

And I reckon that’s pretty good progress for week three.

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Filed under: engineering, startup

Week Three – TSP

Day 18

We’ve been out and about meeting with some newspaper printers this week. And, as often in life, there is some good news and there is some bad news.

Bad news; they can’t do what we’d like them to do, yet. At least the ones we spoke to can’t.

Good news; they don’t think we’re mad (this is important) and they are willing to discuss different ways to achieve what we’d like them to do. This is the bit that could have derailed the whole project, so this really is good news, although it doesn’t appear that exciting.

And it’s also good that we’re starting to talk to printers about this stuff. As we’ve mentioned before, there is a part of every project that just involves getting on with it. This is the bit they describe as a ‘numbers game’ on The Apprentice. Not glamorous, but essential.

Come to think of it, none of this is glamorous.

Posted by Ben | Comments Off on Week Three – TSP

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Investor Demo

Yesterday, we indulged in a bit of Investor Theatre.

Day 16 - Investor Demo

We got out the best china, wore our best jumpers, tidied up a bit and looked like we were concentrating really hard all the time. Then we hit them with our Investor Demo. Including some of the nontrivial stuff.

We think it went well. They liked what we showed them and we’re a little bit ahead of schedule. Even though the “investment” hasn’t appeared in our bank account yet.

If yesterday we were in the Dragons Den, today we’re off to the Lions Den. We’re meeting with some actual newspaper printers. More news as we get it.

Posted by Ben | Comments (1)

Filed under: 4ip, investors, news and press, startup

slogging through the slog

day 12

We had proper meetings today. With disagreements and raised voices and everything. In a mild way. And we’ve drawn a calendar with milestones on it. Blimey.

Things we’ve realised…

The human stuff is probably going to be harder than the computer stuff. Wrangling printers is going to be tricky. Though, excitingly Ben has meetings with printers next week. So; fingers crossed.

Things we’ve decided…

We think we’re going to limit the formats for the first product out the door. No variation in number of pages or anything like that. That’ll make life easier for us, and it’ll be easier for people to understand costs and logistics and all that.

We’re going to try and force a live paper through the system in two weeks, to see what we’ve missed.

Things to be done for next week…

Site design elements including warning signs, ticks, crosses and question marks.

Invite some contributions/tagging from people for the trial run.

More technical gubbins from Tom.

Get something more officially beta-y here.

Oh, and we’ve updated the graphics on the twitter page.

Posted by Russell | Comments (1)

Filed under: news and press, startup

a little less

day 13

Ben made this to illustrate progress to date. (And he’s not quite being fair on himself. We’ve got a logo after all.) But I mention it because Meg supplemented it with my favourite flickr comment ever:


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Filed under: news and press, startup


day 12

Day 12. We had a status meeting this morning. It was good but I realised that we’re over the initial excitement and into the slog. Very good progress from Engineering, we’re way ahead of milestones on that, and we’ve got a nice logo and the Art Department have clearly started thinking properly about design. But we’ve had little hiccups on budgeting, people we wanted to talk to aren’t calling us back and we’re facing up to the dread business of merchant accounts and all that.

Plus, this morning 4IP sent us an invoice, and they’ve not even paid us any money yet. It’s all legit, right there in the contract, we should have expected it, and it’s part of the money you get, but still, it’s a little shock when it arrives. Ah well. It shocked us into paying more attention to money, so now we have a special budget barometer to help us keep track.

Posted by Russell | Comments Off on Status

Filed under: news and press, startup

Week Two – more mock-up than start-up

day 8

It’s Friday morning. Day 10. Fifty days to go. Time for another update.

1. Engineering…

…have got XML flowing into InDesign and PDFs coming out. This is a triumph.

2. Art Department…

…made a logo. This too is a triumph. Though we need a new clip-art paperboy in the middle. Thinking about commissioning one. And we’ve produced a prototype that can be run through an ordinary printer.

3. Sales & Marketing…

…have had countless innovative and bold ideas, the genius of which the other departments aren’t equipped to appreciate. The best of which is to actually run a newspaper club – people join, pay us a subscription, vote on articles via Delicious – get a newspaper. So simple, yet so good.

This week’s realisation: We’re good at making things, but we’re even better at looking like we’re making things.

Posted by Russell | Comments (1)

Filed under: news and press, startup

Week One

It’s Friday afternoon. Day Five. We’re supposed to deliver something working at the end of Day Sixty. (Working days. And we’re closed for August.) Fifty-five days to go.

Things to report so far:

1. Ben has been worrying about the logo, identity and ‘feel’. We’re not sure that Newspaper Club encapsulates exactly what we’re going to be making any more. We’ve told him to relax. We don’t even know what we’re making yet, so there’s no point deciding all that. So the logo he’s doing now, and Newspaper Club as a name are subject to change. And we’ve decided not to decide about ‘tone’. If we try and make the site feel different to ‘us’ then it’s going to be too much work. We’ll just make those decisions as we go along.

2. We had an excellent brainstormery session at the RSA on Tuesday. Many kind people came and helped us out. Things were decided:

a/ We shouldn’t start with the tagging a blog post thing. It seems like it’d be too hard to parse the real content from all the web cruft. (Look ‘parse’ and ‘cruft’ – I’m talking like a developer. There was also much talk of rabbit-holes.) So for the first version of the thing it’s going to have boxes in which you post your text, headlines, author details etc. Which means people can take their content from anywhere, it doesn’t have to be online already. This opens all sorts of possibilities. Which we won’t think about now. We’re just going to try and get something that works done as soon as possible.

b/ We need to talk to some printers pretty quickly. A lot of the things we might do depend on what our minimum batch size is, and what the unit cost will be. We won’t know that until we’ve kissed a few printer frogs.

c/ Legal. This needs a lot of thinking about. But we’re not going to worry about it until we’ve got something that works.

d/ Logistics. No-one knows what 1,000 papers looks like. How big, physically is it. We’ll need to help people visualise how much actual bulk is going to turn up at their house or wherever.

e/ And lots of other stuff. We have notes that are too long for here.

3. We’ve realised we’re going to need demo newspapers. For lots of reasons. Partly just to test the system, partly to have stuff to show people when we’re explaining the idea, partly to help express the range of things you can do with the product. We don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a parish newsletter provider. So we need to show how this could be used for art, music, travel, food etc. We call this the Paninaro strategy.

Posted by Russell | Comments (2)

Filed under: news and press, startup

Posted by Russell | Comments (1)

Filed under: startup

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