Join Jeffrey Zeldman for an in-depth discussion in this video A List Apart, part of Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 years of Web Design and Community.
- (soft piano music) - There are a lot of web designers out there. And it's hard sometimes to think of it as as a community. It's sort of like saying the world is a community. They're sort of, "Well, yeah, but there's a whole bunch "of different kinds of folks". It's a very difficult group, any industry is, to corral and steer in the right direction. - When A List Apart started, it wasn't a site. It was, literally a list, it was a mailing list.
Jeffrey's idea was to take the more curated approach. That it would be more like a magazine, that you got in your inbox. And, somebody had gone through the questions, and yet, curated them into something that had a bit of a narrative to it. And I guess it was a natural progression, that of course it's going to end up as a magazine on the web. - Sites like A List Apart became focal points for people to come together around. So while it was great that everybody had an individual website, it's really hard to go to everybody's (chuckles) individual website all the time.
I remember the first article I wrote for A List Apart, was heavily edited. And it was reviewed through three processes. And so that established a level of authority, and credibility, that I think made that content stand out. - There was kind of a golden period, where every week, it'd seems there was amazing, groundbreaking articles like Sliding Doors and Faux Columns, and these really clever techniques. But Jeffrey would set the tone for that. What you'd do, when you're working, and you come up with something cool, you don't hold on to it.
You share it. It was kind of default, which I really like, because I think that fits with the original spirit of the web, when Tim Berners-Lee created the web. At CERN, it was all about sharing. "Share what you know", was the motto, of the web when it was created. And Jeffrey has always been about sharing. - People who are figuring out web design, and web development, share their ideas on these mailing lists. The problem was, well it's the internet, so, there were flame wars and all this stuff, There was one really good mailing list called WebDesign-L, that's WebDesign hyphen L, which my friend Steven Champion had started.
And that was great. But, it was very developer focused. And I thought there was room for a mailing list about all the things. But I also thought there was room for a mailing list where flame wars never happen, where there was no bullying. So, I met a guy in one of the newsgroups, named Brian Platts, who said, "Well I have this newsgroup software, "and I'm already running some newsgroups. "Do you want to do one together? "We'll make a mailing list that's different." So we called it A List Apart.
Which turns out to have been, years later, a terrible name for a website about web design. But it was a great name for a list that was different. When we made the transition to a web magazine, instead of waiting for that comun... So, first of all, we had 16,000 readers built in, on launch day. That was great. Second of all, I'd gotten to know other people who were doing really interesting writing on the web. And I asked them to write articles. Nobody got paid. There were no ads. This was how it launched.
And so this newsletter had created a community, now the magazine created a community, and I never thought, "Am I fit to do this?", which seems weird. Of all people, I've heard Tom Cruise give this example: "You're driving along and you see a car wreck, "and you're the only other car wreck on the road. "There's a car that's crashed and someone's hurt. "So, you're not qualified, you're not a doctor, "but you don't see an ambulance, you don't see a cop. "What are you going to do? "There's nobody else to take...
"So, you get out of your car "and you try the best you can to help this person." That's how the early web was. And that's how I felt about it. I guess I had some creative self confidence because I had been presenting ads to clients, and I had been on stage playing music. But beyond that, it was just, somebody had to do it. Somebody had to do this stuff. And I hoped... I think the great strength of the web is, if you don't see what you like, you make your own. There wasn't really even a choice. It was just, someone's got to do this, no one else will, and it was great fun.
And every time I had a client project not only was I learning, but it was supporting A List Apart.