Not Dead Yet

Written by: Christina Wodtke

When Boxes and Arrows was founded a little over ten years ago, there was nothing quite like it online. There were peer-reviewed journals, and basic how-to articles. A List Apart was much more concerned with the CSS behind the interface back then, and UX Matters, Johnny Holland and Smashing Magazine were not even a twinkle in their creators’ eyes. So a bunch of scrappy volunteers gathered together and pushed to get the stories we wanted to read online. We were struggling to figure things out in our day jobs, and we created a place where we could learn from each other. Boxes and Arrows did much better than we could ever have imagined, surviving transitions over four chief editors, thirty-nine editors, and today it holds four-hundred-and-forty-one articles written by three-hundred-and-nine members of the community at large.

But it was always a volunteer organization. It lost money for the first five years of its life, and for the next five barely paid for hosting and conference coverage. This allowed us to podcast the IA Summit for the first time, and paid to have those podcasts transcribed. Jesse James Garrett’s incendiary talk on User Experience is captured because of the passion of those volunteers, and the kind sponsors who made it possible. Our history is written because of the amazing volunteers of Boxes and Arrows. Wireframes were defined and debunked here, Design Patterns explained and complained about, career advice given out and career transitions documented. Boxes and Arrows was the best of us, and we like to think it inspired our many peers who now make it so easy to share inspiration and knowledge.

But as often happens with volunteer efforts, the volunteers’ lives changed. Some people left the field, some people took on jobs that required long hours, and some people made babies. Some people did all three. The people who used to have spare time, didn’t.  They didn’t even have time to notice what was happening. And through spam and neglect, the magazine started to wither. And the torch didn’t get passed. And lacking oxygen, it started to flicker. And now, some say, the light is gone.

But rather than dead, let’s say it is sleeping. Boxes and Arrows is old for an online magazine, and with age comes some advantages. One is SEO: with no new article published, it still gets 5-7K pageviews a day. A bad day for Boxes and Arrows is ten times most blogs’ best day. Which means Boxes and Arrows is still a site with reach. It means it is still a place where a voice, having something important to say, can be amplified. That voice could be yours.

And so, facing retirement or resurrection, we’d like to ask you, reader, what should be the fate of Boxes and Arrows? Is there a new generation of designers out there who wants to take the power of this magazine’s reach and use it to talk about the next generation of user experience design? Will you define it? Will you defend it? Will you debunk it?

If you would like to take over Boxes and Arrows, speak up. We have moved it to a new platform. We have reached out to new writers. We have breathed a little oxygen on to that torch, and the flame begins to catch. We’d like to pass it to you.

If you would like to to volunteer to create the next Boxes and Arrows, please leave a note below. Say what you would like to do, and this magazine is yours.

Again.

As it always was.

As it should be.

Addendum: So grateful for the outpouring of support!  Please join this mailing list where the next generation of B&A begins to plan for the future…

 

Christina Wodtke

Christina Wodtke

Christina Wodtke is an itinerant instigator and maker of things to happen. She is currently on sabbatical, advising start-ups and gardening. Most recently she led new product development and reinvention as a general manager of Zynga.com at Zynga, was general manager of Social at Myspace, principal product manager at Linkedin, and senior director of design at Yahoo! back when Yahoo! was pretty neat. As well, she likes founding things: She founded a startup where she developed the collaborative blogging tool PublicSquare; founded Boxes and Arrows, an on-line magazine of design; and co-founded the Information Architecture Institute. She may found again.
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40 thoughts on “Not Dead Yet”

  1. Sign me up! I would love to volunteer and we have enough people that care about UX, product development, design principles online that are not apart of the Smashing Crew or A List Apart to make an impact. I love those guys, but what UX is missing is the flare! The mystique that designers bring to the practice. So yes, I would like to sign up. I have no idea of the undertaking, but I believe in the magazine. Would love to collaborate as to how to change the image and bring this mag blazing back!

  2. Not sure exactly what is being asked for here–authors, editors, web masters, or sponsors–but I could be persuaded to contribute in all three ways. This site has a legacy to live up to in the UX community and a premature retirement would be a real tragedy.

  3. We need everything. Chief editor, managing editor, editors, copyeditors. Story authors. AUTHORS!!!!! and a sponsor every so often is nice.

    Ideally you’d find each other, and we’d meet and plan.

    I’ll always be around to keep the lights on, pay the hosting bills, etc. Chris Baum, Hoping-to-retire Chief editor and Austin Govella, always lending-a-hand-editor can help people on board.

    And if you are shy, write me cwodtke at pretty much anywhere, but usually eleganthack dot com.

  4. Would love to contribute. We have authors, editors and designers that could contribute to keep boxes and arrows alive.

  5. Christina, Chris, Austin and all the others who’ve made this revival come to be, Congrats! And thank you for all your hard work!

    We’d definitely like to continue to contribute. There are editors and writers here on the team that would be very excited to jump in. In fact, I was just reviewing an old folder with some story ideas that received good responses. I could bring those back up.

    But yep, feel free to reach out! We’re up for it!

  6. I have visited this site since it has been in existence and recognize that it has been a pioneer in the world of UX. When I first visited the site the term ‘UX’ was a foreign word to most and information architecture as a serious practice was still in its infancy. I have truly appreciated the depth and breadth of opinions and knowledge that Boxes and Arrows has brought me over the years. But as I ventured back to the website over the past couple of years I could sense that something was awry and the lack of fresh content was apparent. Yet I continue to come back because of my appreciation of the views and insight that I am able to get no matter how infrequently it may occur. I for one don’t want to see this resource to go away and even though I am only a single entity, I’d like to be able to assist in some way.

  7. I consider myself one of a new generation of information architects and designers, and ever since I discovered Boxes and Arrows back in 2006, I’ve been inspired by the clarity and honesty with which the articles are written.

    You’ve helped me find my way more than once, if my contribution could do the same for someone else, I would love to get involved.

  8. Always happy to help keep the conversation moving forward. Please let me know how/if you’d like me to assist. Whether that’s continuing to interview people for podcasts or assist in the editing process.

    As I’ve said from the beginning, if the community finds the ideas and content (podcasts) of value, I’m in. If not, happy to move on to assist in other ways that will benefit the growth of the design community.

  9. I’ve always turned to B&A for insights, reference, and when I was looking for my next gig. I’d be happy to participate in keeping our keeping our community current.

  10. I’m in. I’ve been a B&A moocher for far too long. I would also welcome an opportunity to spread my UX is the next SEO heresy. I am a better editor of other’s work than my own and will gladly sign on for that duty or where needed.

    Private Sweeny, reporting for duty.

  11. I’d be delighted to contribute! Without other resources like it around, B+A was a great resource for me as I delved further into my UX career, and me helped find a connection with others doing the same. I would love to see it continue helping others in the same way. Wherever you need me to help…

  12. I’m eager and willing to edit, copyedit, or help with web stuff. Contributing an article is on my before-I-turn-40 bucket list, but I’ll need to harness a good deal of courage first.

  13. I’m so happy to see this have blood pumping through its veins again. I have a ton of content that needs a good home and a spark to get the writing done.

  14. Would love to help in whatever way I can, as more of an outlier (not currently working in a design role) I’d hope to be able to bring something a bit different to the table (even if my end goal is to work in a design role)

    So sign me up, in whatever way is needed.

  15. Happy to see Boxes and Arrows regaining the old momentum with quality UX write ups with faster frequence !

    Happy to be part of that ! My area of interest is persuasive designing !

  16. I was so happy to see the site revitalized, I’d hate to see it whither away. More than happy to help where needed.

  17. I’m glad that the team was able to re-platform and get the spam under control. I would be interested in both writing and perhaps helping in an editorial role.

  18. Would love to help – I am the program coordinator of our Web Development program and B&A is an important resource. Anything to do with education, curriculum, and such I am willing to help.

    Cheers,

    Bernie

  19. I’d love to see B&A continue. It has such a lot of history, and a quite different focus to some of the other magazines that have cropped up since it started.

    I’d love to help as an article editor & work with authors to make their ideas work well.

    I may occasionally write, but that seems to be one of the jobs I still have trouble getting around to 🙂

    BTW – any plans to redirect old URLs? All the links broke in the upgrade and there were *so, so many* links into my previous articles that are now dead. I can fix some, but not many…

  20. Hi, congrats, glad to see this and hope to help!

    My former life before UX was as an editor and journalist (http://www.twoangstroms.com/journalism/); I’d be glad to take on some editorial duties, advise on workflow, and toss in a few story ideas. Boxes and Arrows was always a great resource and glad to see it come back.

  21. I’ve learned so much from this site, it’s my professional responsibility to give back to it now. So, Cinnamon and Austin, just tell me what you need. 🙂

  22. My mentors turned me onto Boxes & Arrows and now as I mature in the UX world, I want to give back if I can. If there is still an opportunity to submit article ideas or white papers I’ve written I would love this to be a forum to do so in the future!

  23. I am also interested in publishing articles. Here at Trinidad Consulting we have a lot of experience in a somewhat quirky area of UX: large information systems and systems in the public sector. They are often cumbersome and too much too handle for a regular UX company.

    I would love to write some explanatory articles on that subject, so shoot me an e-mail and lets talk! 🙂

  24. Mark! If you don’t contribute, there will not be any keep going to go! A magazine’s life blood is stories. Start writing now! All of you!

  25. Wow, Christina — what an awesome rallying cry. Now that I’ve done with the 2 books I had on the plate I can finally get something going for you. Perfect timing.

    Greg

  26. I’d love to write for Boxes and Arrows. I’ve been a longtime reader. When I wrote my first article back in 2009, Boxes and Arrows was the first place I turned to. I posted it in the Ideas section. Unfortunately, it just sat there for a long time with no follow up. So I published it elsewhere and didn’t try Boxes and Arrows again because I thought it was either too difficult to get published there or no one was following up on the posted ideas.

    I see that now, new authors are directed to email their articles to the editor. That’s a good change, if that’s more likely to get attention than the old Ideas forum.

    I’ll check out the Google group.

  27. It would be sad to see Boxes and Arrows going out of business.
    Even while IA, and ID, and KM, and UX, and XD, have all failed and CS will probably share their fate – i think all these attempts are needed. Just like there would be no modern chemistry without medieval alchemists, our craft cannot arise without all those failures. And no matter how futile our attempts seem to look, we should push forward, as humanity needs to understand, how to deal with the Information tsunami, that computers unleashed upon us.

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