It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, and an even longer journey since I launched Think, Kid, Think! almost exactly five years ago.
When I started the site, my intent was to simply establish my web presence as an author. I never imagined that TKT would become the home of an annual event as expansive and intense as Madness! Poetry quickly became — both in the sense that the event’s requirements would soon outgrow the capabilities of TKT’s infrastructure, and that managing the event would soon take up so much time and space that it would leave very little room for … me.
As many of you know, I work in the software business by day. Specifically, I run product and user experience design, and I’ve done so for a long time. So I know good products and experiences from bad ones. And I can say, with some objectivity, that Madness! Poetry as it existed on TKT from 2012-2015 was a very good product … with an absolutely awful user experience. Let us count the ways:
- From a reader perspective:
- Where do I start?
- How do I get from one poem to the next or find a particular matchup?
- Which poll do I vote in?
- Did my vote go through? Did it got to the right poem?
- Which matchups haven’t I voted in yet?
- How do I find more poems by this author?
- From an authlete perspective:
- How do I get my word?
- When is my poem due?
- Where do I submit it?
- Did you get it?
- When will it be posted?
- I noticed a typo. Can you fix it?
- I want to change my bio. Can I?
- The voting process isn’t fair — I deserved to win! Can’t you do something about it?!?
- From a teacher perspective:
- When does my class need to vote?
- Which matchups should we vote on?
- Which of these three poll buttons should I click on?
- What if my classroom is split on which poem to choose?
- How do we find more poems by this author?
- From an administrative perspective:
- Is there a WordPress plugin to automate that? (No.) How do I work around that?
- How do I manage custom user IDs for each authlete and each teacher to make sure they can vote in the appropriate polls?
- How do I create custom matchup headers for each of 63 matchups during the event so readers get to know the people behind the poems?
- How do I manually create and post 96 polls in one day?
- How do I track 64 poems from 64 authors in my inbox within 48 hours and make sure each one is in on time, follows the rules, etc.?
- How do I format a poem to look like that?
- How do I make sure people aren’t abusing the public vote?
- When do I sleep?
Looking ahead to 2016, I was dead set on addressing these problems. In my opinion, the event could not — and I could not — survive another year without a significant experience improvement. Luckily, around September 2015, I learned of a new software application that would allow me to design and build a custom Madness! Poetry application at a reasonable cost. So I got started immediately, discovering the possibilities, adapting to limitations, building, and testing. But when January/February 2016 rolled around, I was still nowhere near complete. So my options were: 1) try one more time the old way, or 2) cancel the event. Given the always-on nature of family and startup life, I determined that option one was simply not possible; so, I cancelled the event. It was an easy decision to make, but a tough one to accept.
As March came and went, however, I gained some perspective. Above all, I shed my sense of obligation: I did not have to do this anymore. You all survived without #MMPoetry 2016. If I wanted to give it up forever and return to just writing poetry myself, I could. But then I remembered what I loved about the event — the rush we all felt, the relationships we formed, the real impression that poetry made on young readers — and I regained my sense of purpose.
I launched Madness! Poetry in 2012 because I wanted to do everything in my power to get more high quality poetry in front of more kids. Five years later, that goal remains as relevant and personal to me as ever.
So now I’m proud to introduce the new home of the Madness! Poetry tournament:
I built this site from scratch to support the event from end-to-end. It’s still a work-in-progress, no doubt, but I’ll continue to add features to make the experience as seamless as possible for authletes, teachers, and readers — and yes, me.
Please check out the site as soon as you get a chance and drop me a note or comment below with your feedback. More importantly:
- Writers: APPLY to become a 2017 authlete! I’ve made numerous changes to improve the experience for you, and to make the voting more fair. The event cannot exist without at least 64 of you signing up to play — let’s have some fun together again this year!
- Teachers: REGISTER your students to become official voters! Likewise, I’ve made changes to make participating in the event easier for you as well. The event need not exist without direct student participation — let’s see if we can hit the 5,000 kid mark this year!
- Fans: JOIN the Madness! community by logging in with your Facebook account. This will grant you access to vote in 2017 matchups as part of the Community Vote, and open up other fun features as well.
Lastly, with the departure of Madness! Poetry to www.madnesspoetry.com, I hope to return to using Think, Kid, Think! as my own personal space for writing and interacting with the community of kids’ poets I’ve come to know and love over the last five years. I’ve missed it … and you.