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Building Vox 1.0 in nine weeks

Over on the Vox Media Product blogMichael Lovitt, the vice president of engineering, wrote an article on how we got this site up and running in nine weeks.

It all started January 27, when Lovitt sent an email to the product directors at Vox Media:

Email

Lovitt was proposing a pretty radical notion: he wanted to take a hack-week approach to launching what-would-become Vox. It meant gathering a big team of developers, getting them all in a room for a week and having them develop a site as fast as possible. It also meant getting everyone to agree to forego many months of building, developing, and designing a site before readers could get a look at it.

On February 3, Trei Brundrett, the chief product officer at Vox Media asked me to come by Vox headquarters in Washington, DC. I, and my partners, had signed the contract papers just days earlier.

I assumed Trei wanted to prepare me for at least a year of work before our site would ever see a reader clicking on a page. Vox Media had plenty of different initiatives in an already busy year. We had already discussed setting up a WordPress blog in the interim, much like our sister site did at The Verge while they prepared for their launch.

But Trei wanted to discuss Lovitt's idea.

If we committed to a fast and furious launch schedule, we could get something up in a few months. It wouldn't be perfect, and it wouldn't be fully built. But we wouldn't have to wait a year to start producing journalism. And we could start testing our hypotheses right away.

Trei and I talked late into the night. If we wanted to build a digital startup journalism entity, we would behave like the technology company Vox Media truly is: launch fast and tweak often.

Within the week, everyone else had signed off. We agreed: Lovitt's crazy plan just might work.

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty of just how the product team made it happen, take a look at Lovitt's article. It's a great read, and it was a great time.

It also reminds me: there's still much work to do. More on that soon.