By Steve Persch November 30, 2022
Subscribe to We Make The Internet, a new podcast about what makes or breaks web teams from Pantheon. Available on Apple Podcasts.
My first glimpse into the challenges of regularly publishing on the web came through podcasting. Back in the mid-2000s, my college radio drama group wanted to take the shows we produced live and get them on the internet. We devised a long multistep process that flowed from a big mixing board to MiniDisc to ProTools to an mp3 file to a barebones WordPress instance that spat out an RSS feed. It was quite the team effort.
Nearly two decades later, and many years since I started writing about teams for Pantheon, I still think the team sport nature of website operations is what makes this ecosystem tick. That's why I thought it fitting to name the podcast I'm hosting We Make The Internet.
In each episode I chat with leading voices in the wide world of websites about how they connect the details of their day-to-day work to the big picture view of what they need to accomplish together.
For instance, in the first episode, you will hear about the decade-long relationship between GreenBiz and their digital agency partner Kalamuna. Isa Anna Stamos, Senior Director of Systems and Technology at Greenbiz, and Andrew Mallis, CEO and Co-founder of Kalamuna, share tips on how they've structured budgets, daily stand up meetings, and stakeholder involvement to ensure that the website supports the GreenBiz goal of accelerating the just transition to a clean economy.
Mallis of Kalamuna discusses how over the years working with GreenBiz, they have shifted from a "vendor" model where Kalamuna acts primarily in an execution role, to more of a partnership. Making that partnership model successful depends on Stamos playing the role of product owner. He sums up the value of a strong team leader like this: “Ultimately, it comes right down to that product owner relationship and how strong that is and how strongly the role is understood. And also strong lines of communication and role definition. And it really unlocked a lot more possibility, imagination and innovation.”
The GreenBiz/Kalamuna relationship is an excellent example of how webOps depends on a full team playing different positions. The players on the team can span more than one company and still rally around a common goal.
Throw Away Extraneous Details
In the second episode, I was happy to interview two leaders from Lullabot, a Drupal-focused agency I've looked up to for years. (One of my foundational memories of the Drupal community was listening to the Lullabot podcast as I took long train rides to my first Drupal Camp back in 2008.) When I saw Lullabot posting about paper prototyping, I needed to know more.
Marissa Epstein, Senior User Experience Strategist, and Greg Dunlap, Director of Strategy discuss their usage of paper prototypes. They use physical note cards, markers and other low-fidelity material for exploratory conversations with clients around topics like homepage content and UI functionality. By using simple physical materials, they avoid the learning curves and distractions of digital details. When a web team needs to ferret out misunderstandings among stakeholders around what elements need to go on the homepage and which don't, that might not be the time to fall down the rabbit hole of font choice.
Even the transient nature of the tools in paper prototyping make the purpose clearer. As Dunlap put it, “the prototype is a tool to draw out observations. And so, once those observations are made, the prototype is done, like it's disposable… the prototype is really just a means to enlightenment.”
The Recurring Closing Question
The title of the podcast, We Make the Internet, isn't just a reference to Pantheon's famous "I make the Internet" t-shirts. It is a statement about the "team sport" nature of website operations we so often reference. Making better websites on a better world wide web requires better teams. And that is why each episode ends with asking the guests about their teammates and what they do well. Speaking of Stamos of Greenbiz, Mallis of Kalamuna said "There's always this spirit of, 'Okay. Well, we're all in this together and what can we do? How can we fix things or how can we approach things differently and how can we keep this in mind to make the team stronger and our collaboration stronger?'"
I hope that with this podcast, the tactics, strategies and relationships that make successful teams tick will become easier to adopt by more web professionals. Find out more about We Make the Internet and subscribe.
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