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Issue № 388

A List Together

by Published in Community, Writing, Workflow & Tools21 Comments

We got a head start on our new year’s resolutions this time around. A List Apart has big plans for 2014 already underway, and you’re at the center of them all.

Last year we launched a new site, the latest in more than a decade of iterations that took us from a rough-around-the-edges ’zine to the polished magazine we are now. When we sat down together at the end of the year to discuss what comes next, the resounding answer was that we had to get back to our roots—not the ’90s design, but the heart of what ALA does: building community, giving a platform to new voices, and getting people excited about the web.

As a result, we’re making some changes to the way we work—and we want you to be a part of them.

A List Apart on GitHub

We dipped our collective toes in the GitHub waters when we open-sourced our embeddable comments script last year. We’ve got much bigger things underway now: we’re open-sourcing the code that powers alistapart.com itself.

Now, our goal isn’t to put you to work slinging code and fixing bugs. Contributing to an open-source project can be tough, and it can take time to get the hang of things. We want to help with that. If you’re inexperienced with GitHub, our goal is to provide you with a great place to send your first-ever pull requests—to help you get comfortable contributing to a large open-source effort, participating in issue threads, and reviewing code.

By joining our conversations as we weigh the pros and cons of certain approaches, you’ll be better armed to make the same decisions on your own projects. If you’re already well-versed in the ways of GitHub we’d love to have your eyes on how we’re doing things, and your help building a welcoming, low-pressure place to learn the ins and outs of contributing to an open-source project. Working alongside you will help us focus on the topics that matter most to you, and—of course—we’ll be publishing the lessons we learn along the way.

Things may look a bit sparse for the time being. We’re currently using ExpressionEngine, which makes it tricky to clone the repo and run the site locally—at least, with this first incarnation. We’re exploring ways to make that better.

We’ll be doing all our development out in the open, with a “dev” version of the site that directly mirrors the development branch of the site, at dev.alistapart.com. You might even find the occasional mistake on the dev site—out in the open, where we can all learn something from it.

But code isn’t the only thing we hope you’ll contribute to ALA.

Let’s write something together

A List Apart has grown up a lot over the years; the site is sleek and refined, and boasts some of the finest editors you’re apt to find on the web (not including me, of course).

That can be intimidating, though. I know that all too well—it wasn’t long ago that I sent in a nervous “I have an idea for an article” email myself. This nervousness on the part of would-be authors is something we’ve thought about for a while now, because what makes ALA great is the mix of new voices and viewpoints alongside some of the biggest names in the industry.

Better explaining how to write for us was a good first step, but it still relies on you sending an “I have an idea” email into the ether—easily the most nerve-wracking step in the process. We want to smooth out that step by working with you even before any writing starts.

Let me introduce our acquisition scouts: Garann Means, Tim Smith, and Yesenia Perez-Cruz. Their role is to act as a sounding board for your ideas. No formal process, no tense emails—just say “hi” on Twitter and let them know what you’ve been thinking about writing. They’ll help you think through your ideas and get you pointed in the right direction.

Now, ideas are the easy part—writing is tough. But if you have the start of something amazing, the scouts and editors will be here to help you along, from initial outline to final draft. In fact, we believe so strongly that everyone can and should write that we’ve devoted half this issue to breaking down the writing process and showing you how to get started.

It’s hard work, but I speak for everyone here when I say that you—you reading this, right now—have something important to offer this industry. You have techniques, experiences, and approaches that are unique to you—things that all our readers can learn from. The scouts are here to help you find your topic, and our team of editors is ready to help you shape your idea into an article you can be tremendously proud of.

This is going to be an exciting year for A List Apart, and we can’t do it without you. Together, we’ll build something great.

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