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Building Shepherd - Added breadcrumbs and random cleanup.

Shepherd is making book browsing online fun and full of magic!

Summary: March 21st to April 1st
What is going on at Shepherd?
The last 8 weeks have been intense. Between traveling, vetting places we might live, and the bumps in the road that Shepherd hit, I am exhausted. Things are finally starting to calm down which feels better. I am going to work fewer hours in April to get some biking, reading, and relaxation in to reset so I don’t burn out. And, we are planning some pure vacation time for July/August.
Running behind on publishing...
We are running behind on publishing new book recommendations. My goal is to have a list published within 2 to 3 weeks (assuming nothing is missing). Right now we are running at 4 to 5 weeks.
What happened? We had a lot of authors who asked us to contact them at the start of 2022. I wasn’t sure how many would take part and when we followed up a lot wanted to take part. So we had a big surge of submissions which meant a lot of book and author profiles to manually set up. Joy handles all that now, and I hired Genesis to help us on a part-time basis with that. Together they caught up within a few weeks, but now we have a big list of submissions to edit and check over (which is time-intensive). Serita is working on that and doing an awesome job. I expect we will be caught up and back on our normal schedule within the next 3 weeks.
For the next couple of weeks, I am helping out with some of the ticket queues so that Serita can focus on editing/publishing. And, I totally rebuilt the process within Zendesk to help us visualize this a bit better.
(we can also bump any author up if they need to be published right away to hit a deadline or holiday or similar deadline)
Cleaning up our internal systems...
I finally got some time to optimize more of our internal systems. I’ve been so busy that I ignored a lot of cleanup work we needed to be doing.
Cathy is now helping me to track these and we’ve got a little more of a system in place to do things like:
  • track down authors who turned in a list but are not responding now
  • track why a submission isn’t published if it was turned in more than 2 months ago
  • help me organize hard to find books and profiles
I’ve got one more piece of work to optimize and we will be in a much better place to not lose anything.
We shipped breadcrumbs!
Every bookshelf and book recommendation list now has breadcrumbs to help readers navigate the website. I’ve been meaning to add these and now that we have our new topic system this was possible.
These are not perfect yet, but we have some big improvements coming over the next 60 days to further improve the quality of our topic engine. For book recommendation lists that span a lot of topics, it should choose the strongest (and the upcoming improvements will further improve this).
Example of a breadcrumb on a book recommendation page.
Example of a breadcrumb on a book recommendation page.
Example of a breadcrumb on a bookshelf page.
Example of a breadcrumb on a bookshelf page.
What else is going on?
Fun zoo!
Fun zoo!
We loved our time in Berlin! What a cool city! It was really nice to hang out with Márton and his wife who kindly showed us around (Márton is the freelance developer I work with to build Shepherd).
Berlin was the first real international trip I did. I went as part of an exchange in high school and it was a life-changing trip. I was back years later for a work event, but I was so busy I didn’t see anything but the hotel. This time was better, we saw several neighborhoods, I got two bike rides in, and we ate a lot of delicious Asian food. Plus, Lindsey and Calico got to see a lot of museums and explore the city while I was working.
We’ve gotten really lucky with the weather so far (lots of sun). The last few days have been much colder and grayer with snow flurries (which might be more normal for Germany in March).
Have a great weekend! Onward to April :)
Ben
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Ben Fox

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