Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Welcome to Vox: a work in progress

Dry erase markers came in handy. Joe Posner

Welcome to Vox.com! Again!

On March 9, we launched Vox.com, which included our first videos, and we started talking to readers on our Facebook page and on our Twitter feed. Today marks phase two of Vox’s launch: the beginning of our effort to build the vast repository of information that will make it possible for us to explain the news in real time.

At the core of this phase are the Vox Cards. They’re inspired by the highlighters and index cards that some of us used in school to remember important information. You’ll find them attached to articles, where they add crucial context; behind highlighted words, where they allow us to offer deeper explanations of key concepts; and in their stacks, where they combine into detailed — and continuously updated — guides to ongoing news stories. We’re incredibly excited about them.

But we're just starting to learn how to use them. We have been employees of Vox Media for less than 65 days. The product team began work on the site seven weeks ago. Most of our staff started three or four weeks ago. Some people haven’t even been here a full week. Several key positions remain unfilled. But we didn’t want to wait a day longer than necessary to launch the site.

We’re launching this fast for one simple reason: there is no better way to figure out the best way to do explanatory journalism on the web than to do explanatory journalism on the web.

We have some exciting ideas about how to do a better job explaining the news. But right now, those ideas are untested with the audience. And that's the only test that matters. Our theory is simple: the quicker we can launch, the quicker we can start learning — and start improving.

The site we have today isn't perfect, and it isn't anywhere near complete — not editorially, and not technologically. Poking around this evening, or this week, or this month, you may notice a few things seem missing. We don't have commenting features on most articles. We don't have a menu bar. We're woefully lacking in snazzy data visualizations. We have some card stacks on key topics in the news, but there are many, many more left to build.

That's not because community or navigation or graphics or context aren't important to us. It's because they're important enough to us that we don't want to do them badly. We’re working on them and when we feel comfortable that we're delivering a certain level of quality, we’ll release our ideas into the wild and test, refine, and improve them.

At the same time, we didn't want to delay the parts of the site we had ready. We're launching today because three more weeks or three more months or 30 more months will not produce a perfect website. We’ll always be a work in progress.

But we're excited about what we have now, and we’re excited about what we’ll roll out in the weeks and months to come. Most of all, we’re eager for you to see what we do have so we can learn what’s useful to you and what isn’t. And then we can get better at explaining the news.

You can reach us at editors@vox.com.

Let’s get started.

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