Building Shepherd - Podcast, filters, and vacation :)
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Summary: September 19th to September 30th
We hit 6,000 published book lists! 🥳🎉!
We have much better coverage of books, authors, and topics with this growth. And that means happy readers! It also puts us in a good spot for our upcoming launch of genre and age pages since we now have ~30,000 recommended books in the system.
Podcast interview :)
Len Epp invited me on the Leanpub podcast to talk about Shepherd. I had a lot of fun!
I talked bout...
My entrepreneur origin story and how that led to Shepherd
The long-term goal for Shepherd and its impact on the world.
Details about how we use machine learning and natural language processing for book discovery now and in the future.
How I hope to imbue "search" with personal meaning.
How I am handling tricky subjects like abortion, white supremacy, anti-vax, homeopathy, words like "retarded", etc...
You can listen here.
Let me know what I need to improve when I do these.
The last 2 weeks have been devoted to 3 things:
Working on future features and prepping the next round of work.
Working with the designer on filters (preview below).
Getting everything ready so I can go on vacation.
Over the last two weeks, I've been working on:
How genres and age groups will work in our backend systems.
A new format for 2023 that I will announce to authors soon :).
How book series data will be pulled into our backend systems.
Last week, I had a mental breakthrough on the genres and age group data. So I am mapping that out now and testing to make sure it works as well as I think it will.
Slowly but surely :)
What is the ETA for the next round of work?
We are starting work now to add the concept of book editions to our backend systems. This will take 4 weeks. We need to do this to improve the quality of data we have, which will help us with future features.
After that, we will automate 90% of book creation. Right now, everything is manual. This will make our book grooming team more efficient, which is needed for future features. This will take 4 weeks as well.
I am bummed that this is going to take 8 weeks. As this pushes back the work on the individual book pages, "books like" pages, "book lists this book appears on" pages, and the new "explore this book" feature. As well as genre and age group pages and filters.
But, we are interviewing part-time frontend developers now to see if we can find someone suitable. If we can find someone good, our current part-time developer could work on the backend while the new part-time developer works on the frontend. If this works, it could mean that we can start work on the new frontend features concurrently.
I am unsure how I will squeeze this into the budget, but I will make it work. 100% of the new Founding Members program goes toward this (and my goal to hire a full-time developer in 2023).
What will filters look like?
I can't wait to have genre and age groups in Shepherd. We will start building this toward the winter.
I want to add filters to bookshelves so that I can go to the World War 2 bookshelf and filter it to show me recommended books that are Historical Fiction.
Or, I can go to the dragon bookshelf and filter it to show me recommended books for kids.
Or, I can go to the artificial intelligence bookshelf and filter it to show recommended science-fiction books.
Or, I can go to the science fiction bookshelf and filter it to see only new books (books published in the last three years).
Here is a very early look at what filters will look like...
Going on vacation :)
I will be doing a big bike trip in October, so I had a lot to do before I leave.
I will be riding ~1,000 kilometers, and this will be the coldest/wettest bike tour I've ever done. I leave on October 4th and should get back around November 4th.
Since we are a small team, I can't stop working, but I will do the bare minimum while on break.
Luckily I have Cathy, Serita, Joy, and Bella, who will keep the publishing process running while I am gone. This is a significant improvement over last year when I still ran the publishing process and had to pause it when I was on vacation.
What have I been working on to prepare for this?
I did a massive round of automation work to automate processes at Shepherd further. I started using Zapier and love it! Anything I can do to free my time up for marketing and new features is a win.
I moved from Mailchimp to Campaign Monitor for Shepherd's mailing lists. Mailchimp is super frustrating to use and I am tired of fighting it. Campaign Monitor has a fantastic UX, and I was able to automate some of the work I do each month.
I revamped all the stats I create each week/month to make sure Shepherd is working well. This saves me a few hours each week and makes adding new stats to my dashboard easier.
I got specs in place, so the designer is all set while I am gone.
Now I need to pack :)
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
A TON of work. It has been jam-packed :)
We've also been dealing with some family health stress, but that is on a much better track. As that stress cycle broke, we all needed a lot of sleep and crashed. I hit a wall on bike training and have taken the last eight days off to do almost nothing.
What am I reading?
The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. Fantastic book, and I can't wait for the sequels. The main character is hilarious, and I love them.
Bane of Gods by Alaric Longward. This is book 5 in a Roman Historical Fiction series I've been reading. I love the main character (flaws and all). Although I am a bit tense, as they are stuck in a bad situation, I hope he can get out without killing more of his friends through stupid decisions.
My son fell asleep on my office floor a few nights ago. He was wearing all of our jackets and crashed hard while I was finishing an email.