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Building Shepherd - Timeline worries, ads, and age data...
Discovering a new book should be a magical experience where the search is part of the fun. That is what we are creating at Shepherd.
Summary: August 22nd to September 2nd 2022
Things are going well, and growth for August was fantastic! Overall traffic was up 19% month over month, and traffic from Google was up 29%. I hope that continues as we build more great features for readers and authors :)!!!
My worries on the 2022 timeline...
The designer and I have been working hard to finish the designs for the upcoming individual book pages, "books like" pages, and "book lists this book appears on" pages. Plus, I have been working on the spec for the developer.
We are almost done with both and next week, and I will hand them over to the developer to quote on cost/time.
I am bummed as some pieces will be more complex than I originally thought. And that will probably take longer to build (which will set us back on starting the genre and age page work). I will know more in a few weeks once the developer can quote the work.
What specifically are we having to do that I didn't anticipate?
The data we get from publishers through Nielsen is in really bad shape. I knew it would be bad, but I didn't know it would be this bad. Even books like "Dune" are missing key data like book descriptions. I don't understand how this is possible. Because of that, we will need to create a concept of "book editions" to better scoop up all the information around a book by looking at every edition of that book. This is a complex bit of work, and I will know how long it will take in a few weeks. This is also something I planned to do, just not this soon.
We need to automate more of the book creation process in our system. Right now, groomers create everything manually, and this new system will automate more of that process so that they are just checking things over (and finding a high-definition book cover image). I knew I would have to do this eventually, but we might need to do this now. It makes us more efficient (which is good), but it will take 4 weeks to build, pushing the genre and age work back.
Age data for age pages...
I am hitting some challenges with specific age data for books.
THEMA has an age qualifier that does something like this: https://ns.editeur.org/thema/en/5A
Out of the 27,000 books in our system, we are only finding that 500 books in our system have that data.
One possibility is that the specific ISBN of the book we are checking doesn't have that THEMA data, and if we had the ISBN of the UK version of the book, it would have it. That is *part* of why we are building a concept of "book editions" into our system in the upcoming work. As we need to scoop up data on all editions of a book so that we can try to "fix" this problem.
For example, there might be a book called "Donkey" with 5 versions: one paperback, one ebook, one hardcover, one hardcover that is not in print, and so on. The only edition of the book that has the book description might be the ebook, and the only edition of the book that has a THEMA age qualifier is the hardcover. It is that screwed up. So we have to scoop up all this data to create the best quality data we can without asking authors directly.
It is a mess :)
Ads, donations, memberships, etc...
I don't like ads; I wish I didn't have to put them on the site. But, in order to reach profitability next year, we need them. And every dollar they make goes back into features for readers and authors.
I added ads to Shepherd.com in early August, and they are generating significant revenue for the website. I'll share more in a few months as they ramp up and advertisers find the website.
I was excited to see that a publishing company bought ads on the site directly yesterday. That is a good sign, and I hope to see more of that (especially as I get genre pages in place).
I will launch a donation/membership page soon, the idea being that people who want to support what I am doing with Shepherd can support the s. Eventually, I will have a membership set up for authors and readers with some premium perks.
I've gotten a lot of emails from readers and authors who want to donate/join as a member/supporter. That is really motivating and means a lot to me. I am glad this site is resonating with people :).
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
I am leaving shortly to take my son camping (it's his first time). We will drive to Northern Portugal and find a spot next to a river :). I am super excited, and we will make hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill (smores as well).
Beyond that, I have been heavily training for the last nine weeks for a future bike tour. I didn't do a great job training for the last one, and I aim to be better prepared this time. I plan to do the Via Francigena route on my bike this fall.
What am I reading?
The Pariah by Anthony Ryan. I just started this last night and am curious where it is going.
So it turns out my son doesn't have chicken pox, or if he did he didn't get many spots. Maybe just a heat rash, but who knows?