Smoke The Feed

An Open Letter: The Start Of Something New

First and foremost, I want to thank those who have stood by our side since mid November when we first brought up the concept of Trueblue Magazine. The pain, the headaches, the sheer amount of distress that nearly left us in quandary when the current staff of Trueblue left another publication due to ongoing management issues.

When we started Trueblue we wanted something new. Something that wasn’t like X publication we were at before; concepts that we never thought possible were being brought to the table. We admired some sites: Vice, The Verge, Hello Giggles, RWD to name a few, however we wanted to do something different: Bring in subtle colours, bring in simplicity, really just make people say wow. On top of that we wanted to be about freedom of speech — speak freely, speak true. We wanted to do something that was never done before. A digital magazine geared towards people ages 20-40u. We wanted to feature daily news – interesting news not typical news. We wanted to talk about dinosaurs being found in Turkey, not Rob Fords’ current state of affairs (however Rob is quite funny and we may cover him just for jokes). Our content needed to be fresh, our site needed to be beautiful, our team needed to believe that it was worth the move.

We got to the drawing boards accompanied by an uncanny amount of java and threw ideas across the table. After nearly a full day; filled up notepads and tired eyes were vast — we were happy with what we accomplished. The next step was to get the darn thing built, that’s was going to be the tricky part. I luckily had a friend who’s company was interested in going 50/50 on the project with me — it was a really surreal moment to know that a big company that was as reputable as they are, had that much confidence in myself and my team that they would back us.

The initial estimate of the project was somewhere around 50 hours, no problemo, the company was backing the build so that was one less thing I had to worry about. In the meantime I had to find a job to keep myself afloat. I took a few freelance gigs doing photography for the city which was quite fruitful. I took a gig writing a business plan and creating some documents for a start-up app company, which again was very helpful. I also took a part-time job at a record store — the owner wanted a digital footprint, so I offered him one. Photographs of his inventory and uploading online, paired with answering emails and handling any shipping that needed to be done. What a blast!

December came and went and the site was over 50 hours in, then passing into mid January it was just over 80 hours, and it still wasn’t complete. Seeing as January 1st was our launch date we were all getting a little antsy. The development team was estimating (since they had to) that Trueblue was around 75% completion. Truthfully, I was giving up hope. It was two months past conception and 15 days past due — I had writers in one ear — bills in another, so on and so forth. By the end of January a few writers decided they couldn’t hold on anymore, I can’t blame them, I would have done the same. At that point there were no pictures, no images, nothing to assure them that something was truly in the works. Not to mention that by the end of January it was at 90% completion and sitting around 110 hours of labor. Still not done we started wondering if the company just sidelined the project? But why? We kept up our side of the bargain: Facebook posts, Twitter posts, Tumblr teaser articles, Reddit AMA’s, we did it all to build interest before hand as agreed.

Well fast forward to Feb 5th, I got the email, the coveted email. The site was almost good as gold; it was time to get our endorphins pumping again. To do a half-ass paraphrase, the email read along the lines that: Trueblue is nearly finished probably around the 97% mark, we need to take it off the web for Google to forget it then we will load it up, do all the computer wizardry and bingo-bango Trueblue will be live in a week. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, our launch date was finally happening.

From February 5th – 12th I worked preparing for the launch. I selected the articles for the second issue (the first was on Tumblr) and the images to correspond with them. I told friends and family, I posted on Facebook, Twitter, I screamed it from the tops of these beautiful BC mountains! Like anything kinks were imminent, metaphorical knots needing to be tied, coding issues, navigation issues, small bugs that always happen near the end. Not a problem though, to help defray the issues and get everything dealt with, the company even approved many extra hours to bring in 3 extra developers to finish up the site on the final week — thus raising the total to 142 hours.

The 12th came and there were still a few issues to be worked out: 1, the editorial team needed 3-4 hours of training before even touching the site. 2, some sponsors and advertisers were no longer aboard, so we had to canvas and find new ones. 3, I personally wanted a few additions to the site. We worked slowly on the aforementioned issues starting with my small revisions; what I thought was a mouse click and a breath of magic, turned out to be a few hours of coding per change (yikes right?). Even to this day, launch day, to have all of my changes done we are still looking at another 10 hours so we agreed to work on them slowly in the following weeks.

The advertisers weren’t the pain I assumed; a few supporting friends with businesses and a few companies I have worked with in the past on projects agreed to advertise on Trueblue. What a relief! The training would only be with 3 staff members: myself, Donovan and Allison. We decided that we would learn as much as we can and then train the rest of the staff — additionally we didn’t want the staff having inordinate access to the back end — the site is like a vase to us, it’s beautiful but lets not play hot potato with it if we don’t have to.

Saturday before launch. We all had to sit though the 4 hours and take notes as if we were in school again. It was actually quite fun learning about features our site had: Masonry, CSS3, HTML5, plus many other names that I won’t bother butchering. We learned everything from short code to image compression to— well I forget the rest, but it’s on a notepad somewhere. Sunday was polish day; we went through every article meticulously, every picture with a fine tooth comb, every short code to make sure it was done correctly and basically get ready for our big launch on Monday!

Well here we are late Sunday night — waiting anxiously for the next morning to come to share what we have been calling the greatest advancement in our career of journalism.

I guess a goodnight is in order but before that, I want to thank each and every one of you for the support. I want to thank the company that helped us with the investment they made, you won’t be let down (I pinky promise!) I want to also address our previous employers: I want to make sure that there are no grudges held and no ties severed. I hope for a clean break and hope that your publication will happily compete with ours. I want to thank Allison, my beautiful girlfriend for standing by me, cheering me on from the sidelines when I was losing hope. I want to thank Donovan for not walking away when he knew he could of; for standing in times of acrimony when I was promising what seemed like fairy dust. I want to thank my contributing writers and editors that helped with the pre-launch content, coffee for giving me it’s support through this endeavour, additionally I want to thank Annie the cat for meowing and purring the correct amount of times to help with my sanity. To those whom I forgot, my apologies and thanks to you folks too!

Sebastian Barkovic,
Managing Editor/Co-Founder