Elliot Jay Stocks logo by Emma Luczyn

Why we created Insites: The Book

When you’re writing copy for your product’s marketing materials — website, press release, various emails to journalists, etc. — the focus is on selling the product to people in short, memorable, easy-to-digest sentences; and this is all well and good, but after such a flurry of marketing activity, I’d like to take stock on what it actually is that we’ve created.

I am, of course, talking about Insites: The Book.

I’ll be honest: my hope is that you’ll read this post and then go and buy the book. That would be lovely. But that’s not necessarily the point of this article. I’d like to go into the how, who, why, where, when, and — most importantly — why?

Back in early 2011, Keir had recently left his job at Carsonified (which is where we met, when I was the company’s first designer) and we’d started discussing ideas for a different sort of event. By this point I’d been speaking at conferences for a few years and Keir had been organising them, and one thing we’d both noticed is that the kind of conversations you have with speakers in the corridor, or in the pub, or just in passing were about the kind of things they never spoke of in their presentations. What if we could get speakers to open up and share their secrets on stage? Not how to do this or that in Photoshop, but how they got to where they are today. It would be down-to-earth, it’d be cheap to attend, and the whole experience would be cosy and intimate.

So in July 2011 we did just that: we put on Insites: The Tour. We travelled the UK — Brighton, London, Manchester, and Bristol — over four consecutive days, putting on a different event each night. The tour was a success and the feedback we got was that it was every bit as cosy and intimate as we’d hoped.

I interview Dan Rubin on the Manchester leg of Insites: The Tour in the wonderful mN offices. Photo by Samuel Cotterall.

During one of our many train journeys to one of the cities on the tour, we discussed the idea of taking the format and turning it into a book. After all, it was rare to find an interview where the big names of the industry really opened up and told their personal stories — it was all, ‘what’s the view from your desk like?’ and ‘what’s your favourite iOS to-do app?’ (As an aside, it’s worth noting that this was before The Great Discontent arrived and dramatically raised the bar for interviews with web folk. TGD is one of my favourite sites.) If we could get enough big names involved, get them to be really honest, and publish the whole thing in a lovely, collector’s item package, would that be great?!?

So that’s what we did. In October 2011, Keir and I went to Brooklyn Beta and conducted our first four interviews: Tina at Studiomates, Jason over breakfast in a diner, Cameron and Ethan in the bar next to the Invisible Dog. At the same time we met with our friends at MailChimp to discuss their generous partnership that ultimately allowed us to devote the time to the project that it deserved. In the months that followed, we flew to San Francisco, travelled all over the UK, and — where necessary — conducted a few interviews on Skype.

Keir interviews Ethan Marcotte in Brooklyn.

Fast-forward almost a year later and here we are. We missed our original April release date, then missed another one, then another, before deciding that it will take as long as it takes. But now it’s done, it’s out, and the idea we dreamed up whilst on tour is now a real, physical thing. That’s an incredible feeling.

The proof arrives!

Today, as the feedback starts to come in from those who have read the digital editions (the physical book will ship in October), I’m so happy to see that the why has resonated with our readers. As we said in the book’s introduction, ‘even the biggest successes have the smallest, most humble of beginnings.’

Now, go and buy a copy. ;)

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