Skrift Magazine First Issue Art

Inside the Running of Skrift Magazine

Six years of connecting the Umbraco community, one issue at a time

Skrift Magazine Editors On Zoom
Written by Erica Quessenberry

Erica, Janae, and Kyle are more than enthusiastic Umbracians. They're the founders of the community-driven Skrift Magazine - and in 6 years, they've only ever missed ONE issue 💪 They publish original articles on everything from UX and design to community issues. Umbraco MVP Erica Quessenberry takes us through the magazine's founding, everyday challenges and triumphs, and how you (yes, you!) can write for their next issue.

The Origins of Skrift Magazine

It’s hard to sum up nearly six years of running a magazine in one blog post. There have been numerous ups and downs over the years, changing of roles and processes as we found our groove, and so many ideas tossed around that we’ve either implemented, tabled or tossed out. You can find an abbreviated version of our origins story on our About page, but I suspect that since we didn't announce it, many people haven't had cause to go and look for the changes. Perhaps it's best I start there, with the why behind the magazine.

Janae, Kyle, and I used to work for an Umbraco Gold Partner agency called Mindfly. In 2014, Mindfly engineered and sponsored the first (though I do think technically it was the second) Umbraco festival in the northwestern hemisphere. It’s something that we often talked about but was daunting to pull off. Since the US is so huge, we weren’t sure if we could entice people to fly so far for a one day ordeal. But we decided to see if we could make it work. 

With just under a 100 or so in attendance, we called it a rousing success—and enthusiasm was flying high for the next one. Fast forward a year, Kyle and I got to chatting about how it’d be nice if we could sustain that interest throughout the year; if only we had a platform where we could talk about the festival year-round so it didn’t seem like such an overwhelming task in the month or two before the actual event. 

We finally landed on the idea of a community-driven magazine, complete with newsletters that would give us space not only to advertise the US festival but all the other regional festivals too, as well as provide a platform where community members worldwide could share what they’ve been working on, learning, and how they live life. Our belief is the more we share with and get to know each other, the stronger, more empathetic, more open and more accepting we’ll be as a community. That helps us grow personally as well as professionally. Win win!

So we picked a date, brainstormed potential magazine names and cross-checked them to available domains, emailed Doug Robar and Dave Woestenborghs who graciously agreed to be our first two authors, threw together a site in under a week, sweet-talked another co-worker into doing some art for us and launched ourselves out into the world. Skrift Magazine was born!

We were very excited about the initial response we got, but then thought, whoops, now what? Kyle had once been an editor for his school newspaper, but this was new territory for Janae and me.

 

Skrift Magazine cover art issue 1

Skrift Magazine cover art issue 1

That's artwork from our first issue by the very talented Stacy Williams!

 

Running the Magazine

The Articles

Finding Authors

There are quite a few things that go into the running of this magazine. The most obvious is finding authors who are willing to give a little time to share their knowledge. We troll (in a nice way) Twitter and the Umbraco community Slack channel, we ask past authors if they or any co-workers might want to write, we have asked some of the meetup organizers if they can put in a good word for us and encourage their attendees and speakers to write, and we meet new people at Codegarden and other regional festivals to encourage them to consider writing. 

There are times when finding authors has been really tough and we scramble to fill spaces, calling in favors and writing last minute articles ourselves. There are other times when people approach us with ideas and we fill the schedule several months in advance. While we prefer the latter, we’re more than willing to reach out to people as well because we know how validating it feels to be invited.

That said, while we’ve been a part of the Umbraco community for many years now and know quite a lot of people, we could definitely use help finding new voices, ideally from every continent and as many countries as possible to represent the Umbraco community as best we can. It’s challenging and we have quite a ways to go on that front, but we like to dream big. 

Becoming an Author

When you become one of our authors, we send you an onboarding email with as much helpful information as possible including:

  • The issue number and date in which your article will be published
  • A deadline date for your draft
  • Guidelines on length
  • What format we’d prefer the submission in 
  • A request for a photo and a short bio of you

We are there to help you in any way we can—from brainstorming potential topics based on the type of work you do to giving feedback on potential topics you’ve chosen, etc.

Depending on how far out your article is scheduled, we might also send periodic reminders and check in on your progress to make sure things are going smoothly and on time. We don’t want you to forget about us, but we also want you to know we haven’t abandoned you if you need something.

After your draft is submitted, you’ll go through an editing process with Kyle until it’s finalized. After we publish, you’ll get one more email from us with:

  • Our heartfelt thanks 
  • A link to your article
  • How to subscribe to the comments as you’ll be better equipped to answer any questions and engage with readers than we will
  • Your mailing address so we can send you a card and some stickers

Publishing Challenges

Life can be busy and hard sometimes. When authors have occasionally had to bow out or push their article to a later month, we understand that—the more notice we’re given, though, the more successful we can be in replacing it.

In our nearly six years of existence, we’ve only missed one month completely when we lost all three of our scheduled authors right before publication! It happens, and we’ve learned to roll with it instead of letting it stress us out.

 

The Newsletters & Website

We wanted to make it easy for people to know when there was new information on the site, so newsletters were a must. We decided, and hoped, two a month would not be too many. The first is an issue announcement with article previews. The second shares various things going on in the community, such as what attendees can expect from upcoming festivals or other community initiatives like uPractitioners or 24 Days.

Skrift magazine website

Skrift's latest newsletter, sent 05 January 2021

Both newsletters include a roundup of community members’ blog posts, packages, videos, or gitup repos and the like as well as upcoming festivals, events, and Umbraco trainings. We scour the web and try to pack in as much useful and relevant information as we can. Community members are welcome to give us a heads up if they’ve either produced or seen something amazing that they think we should share. 

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The new iteration of skrift.io — version 8 running on Umbraco Cloud

The new iteration of skrift.io — version 8 running on Umbraco Cloud

As for our website, after five years of rocking our hastily-thrown together first iteration, we decided to give it a little facelift and migrate to version 8. We’ve run on Umbraco Cloud since the beginning and had a few demons from being on such an early version, so we were quite excited for not only a UX/UI change, but also a more up-to-date code base where we could implement some of our wishlist features more easily.

Social Media

We’re pretty good at sharing news of our issue releases on Twitter, but beyond that, I’m not going to lie, we’re a bit rubbish on social media. I shouldn’t really speak for Janae and Kyle, but I think we have a love/hate relationship with it. I know I do. There are rare times I’m on it a lot (maybe too much!), and there are times (like now) where I’ve disengaged completely. I have a lot of general ideas on how I’d like us to expand our presence on social media, but since I find it so time-consuming, I might push it into my 2021 goals. You can all help keep me accountable! Find us on Twitter and Instagram, where we are most active.

How We Keep Organized

Right from the beginning, Janae, Kyle, and I met for lunch every Tuesday to communicate regularly on the project. We still do it, though we’ve had to switch to Zoom, and we rarely eat because that just seems awkward. During meetings, we ideate, plan, remind each other what needs to be done before the next issue, plus catch up a little on what’s going on in the community.

We use Slack for our more regular communications with dedicated channels for the different faucets. Aside from #general, our most used channel is probably #around-the-web, links that are reflected on the website and in the newsletter.

In 2020, I built out an editorial calendar in Google Calendars and it’s helped me immensely. While we don’t plan out themes to our issues, it’s helped to remind us who’s writing when, when to check in on them, when we expect drafts from them, what we’re putting in the mid-month newsletters each month, etc. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. Rookie mistake! Next up: social media!

How We’re Funded

One of our original goals was to pay our authors as is standard for magazines. That still is a goal, in fact. Because we didn't want to put advertisements on the site, we set up a Patreon account with specific milestones to get us there. Early 2020 was the first time we got remotely close, but unfortunately, 2020 being what it was, we have to reconsider options for what to do going forward. 

Skrift Magazine editors on Zoom

Having a Moscow Mule together on one of our Zoom Tuesday lunch calls

One idea is adding sponsorships, but we are still figuring out how that would work. In the meantime, if you would like to help us support our authors, please feel free to become a patron!

Where We Go From Here

We always thought we’d expand to four articles and publish twice a month, maybe even have a couple regular columns on the site. While we wouldn’t write off either of those, I also think what we have is sufficient. It’s not overwhelming in terms of new content coming at you, but it’s fresh every month to feed our need and thirst for knowledge and connection. We do welcome feedback, however, on what you’d like to see or things we can improve. Our issue page redesign came from feedback from a community member I met at the US Festival in 2018. We do listen!

If you would like to contribute an article, we’d be ecstatic to hear from you! A gentle nudge at a colleague or co-worker to also write would be appreciated as well. You can reach us via social media (Twitter or Instagram) or at hello@skrift.io.

 

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