Why I Like Media Experiments

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During the time when I'd normally have written a blog post or two, gone on a long run, and made some tortilla soup, the world had helped us to create several brand new things

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It was 2:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the end of the 48-hour period we'd assigned ourselves to complete the third issue of Longshot Magazine, a project I cofounded. As we surveyed the offices at Gawker, checking in on our digital team, which had built a website from scratch, and our print designers, who had done the same, we realized something: we weren't going to make it.

Everything was 99 percent done, but that last percent was tough enough that we weren't even going to be close enough to declare victory and go have a beer before applying the finishing touches later in the afternoon.

It was a tense moment. Despite the almost total lack of sleep, the weekend had gone remarkably well. Gawker's Joel Johnson was a fantastic host and the offices were amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of essays, interviews, and other articles came in, the product of people's sweat and tears. So many of them were good. Like, really good. We were simultaneously high on the quality and heartbroken that they wouldn't all go into the print magazine. (I have never been able to adequately describe the horrible feeling of going through submissions for Longshot. I have so much gratitude for everyone who chooses to spend their Friday and Saturday working on something for the magazine. And yet I know we will disappoint and/or anger some of the very people whose work I admire.)

Dozens of other editors cycled through. A couple, like Choire Sicha and Molly Oswaks, stayed for nearly the entire time. I want to call out her contribution because she made some incredible and difficult edits. We hadn't laid eyes on her before Friday night, but by Sunday evening, I realized I'd trust her in any media trench on Earth.

People like Molly and Jon Snyder and Rachel Swaby and Nick Jackson and Chloe Daley and Angela Watercutter and Andrew Losowsky and Erin Biba and Adrian Covert (and many more) put in absolutely heroic efforts blindreading submission after submission, then turned to editing. Some of them we know really well. Others we'd never met. Mostly, they self-organized as my fellow co-founders Mat Honan, Sarah Rich, and I tried to figure out what our products should look like.

It was a ridiculous project, more so than our previous experiments in this vein. We were aiming for 68 pages of magazine, a new Longshot Radio section, and a website with the same copy as the print edition. Beyond that, we wanted an interesting model for a nagwall that would allow you to circumvent it easily by paying $1, $5, or $20 or sharing the story that you're reading. We were building it all from nothing in one weekend.

Unbelievably, in the morning on Sunday, we were thinking we'd finish everything up early. Geoff Halber and Kyle Blue, who designed the magazine, had it all just about done. Adam Hemphill who led the Web efforts with an incredible team of young and brilliant coders, thought he'd have the site up, too. We were ahead of schedule.

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Looking back on how we got from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., I can already see some of the stumbling blocks. A couple were out of our control: when you bring in a ton of people onto the same Wi-Fi network, some weird stuff happens. Our designers were having trouble sharing files back and forth, slowing everything down. Then, our main printer broke, which stopped our copyediting process in its tracks. Half our design team was essentially sidelined as he waited for more edits. We had a server problem that slowed the Web team down, though its details now escape me (if I ever really understood them in the first place).

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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