Go Design Something ChallengesReading Time: 4 minutes
So, I tried to theme WordPress for the first time taking my inspiration from the super awesome Briefbox.me. And I ended up building a clone, intending to try and differentiate it over time. But, as happens, Orca, the company behind Briefbox, asked me to take it down for copyright infringement. So I did. Which leaves me in a quandry.
What is the Point of the Challenges?
If you ask anyone about getting started in ID and portfolio work, Elearning Heroes is where they’ll send you. And for good reasons. Firstly, it’s run exceptionally well by David Anderson and has been going strong for a while. Secondly, it’s really our only community of practice. I can think of a couple more – Lectora has redesigned it’s community and may offer challenges; haven’t been on there in a while; and Zipboard also has a community but challenges are infrequent. And besides, both of those are still run by vendors.
I remember a time (only a few years ago) when I didn’t have a personal copy of an authoring tool (any authoring tool) and like many of you, I didn’t have any time at work, where I did have access to the tools, to practice. I remember when I had access to a completely different, competing authoring tool and I didn’t feel fully able to participate in challenges put out by a specific vendor (cause that just feels weird, right?). I also remember thinking that others’ challenges didn’t really apply to the work I was doing and I didn’t feel like they would help me grow and explore the reaches of the kind of work I was in.
Given that background, the whole idea right from iteration 1 of the GDS Challenges was to offer different, vendor-agnostic challenges for IDs across the very wide spectrum of industries that we find ourselves in. I wanted to provide options for folks using any tool or no tools at all that were very small and specific and welcoming. I know that other folks like Enzo Silva and Rachel Barnum in the ID subreddit have also been interested in providing this sort of thing, but not having the following of a major authoring tool vendor, all of our attempts seem to fall flat.
I’m not mad at Orca; the site was basically a clone, which a lot of folks might be upset about (though I did reach out to them for some help and they never responded). And, to be honest, I feel like I’m in pretty good company. I made a thing by copying (a practice that I talked about in the launch week episodes of the Dear ID podcast) to learn and to provide value and IP got in the way (take this amazing online Zelda tribute game that Nintendo sent a cease and desist letter to). But my problem now is that, while the project was very helpful in helping me to gain experience in actually doing serious theming in WordPress (score!) I really liked Briefbox’s approach to the way they presented the challenges and the user community they set up. And I’m having some trouble trying to think up an alternative design.
So, what are my options? Well, I thought about using an out-of-the-box portfolio theme. That would take care of presentation in a lot of ways, but I still don’t like it as much as the Briefbox idea. I could also hire someone… but given the difficulty of trying to build a community in the first place, and the money I spent buying plugins for my this experiment, this doesn’t seem like a good option. Option 3 is to consolidate my writing and web efforts and bring the GDS Challenges back here and just post them, letting anyone who wants to try a chance.
After this setback in redesigning the GDS site, I think I’m going to go with a previously unexplored Option 4.
I was talking with EJ LeBlanc for Season 2 of the Dear Instructional Designer show and he inspired me with an idea. I’d like to, in some sense, go back to my original idea and facilitate a monthly ID jam (like a game jam) with an optional theme. The idea would be to give IDs structure enough to have a schedule and a possible theme (because constraints are important) but also perhaps facilitate collaboration between IDs of different skill sets. Naturally, what individuals or teams produce and share would need to be portfolio work; practice projects to strengthen their skills, but if people are willing, it could provide an alternative with enough time to create a larger, more fully formed piece of work and maybe even make some makeshift partnerships that they can carry forward.
Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.
As with putting anything out into the world as an unknown, it’s always a bit nerve-wracking because I never know if it’s going to take hold. But the bottom line is that I still do want to provide value for other folks like me who may not have access to the most popular vendor tools for practice purposes (after all, you have to be careful about stuff you make at work being a part of your employer’s IP) or who work in fields that may seem outside the norm (like, you know, making professional development for police and security) where even finding examples for inspiration is really hard.
I’ve got a short list of challenges that I was inspired to write up from some great Twitter and Reddit peeps so I’ll be work releasing those regularly.
And hey you’ve got any project briefs, or parts of projects that you can sanitize and offer as challenges to solve for other IDs, I would absolutely love to hear about them and put them out there. Drop me a line!