I created the IPM site in 2011 not knowing what I was doing, or what to expect. Hundreds of millions of downloads, shares, and resources distributed later, as we’re about to embark on a new decade, I figured it was time to recreate this site. Bonus: now I kinda know what I’m doing.
Let’s start with some context.
The short version of the history of this site goes like this:
It started purely as a way to tell people about the comedy show I was performing on college campuses (named “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual”). Then I started writing articles here, which quickly took off, and it turned into a comedy show + free online resource (and I had millions of people coming to the site not even knowing it was a comedy show). That chimera existed until last year, when I stopped performing the comedy show, and this site became solely a free online resource.
Throughout that decade, I redesigned this site four times (all four versions powered by Wordpress), to respond to the changing nature of what it was, and to keep improving based on the best practices I was learning about. The site was hacked countless times (and brought down a few).
Because of the traffic the site gets, combined with the threat of hacking, I was booted from hosting companies, donated servers, and migrated hosting companies about 10 times. Each time more expensive than the last, with the most recent bill running between $400 and $800 per month. That’s a lot of money for me, someone whose personal income fluctuates around the poverty line.
For a long time, performing the show (and being paid honoraria for doing so) was able to cover the costs of providing this free online resource to millions of people every year, in every country on Earth. But when I stopped performing the show last year, I turned to my readers for direct support.
And now we’re here, at the end of 2019, and the end of this weird-to-describe decade (the 2010s?), wrapping up a year that itself has lasted at least four decades (#ThanksTrump), and you’re reading these words on a brand new version of the site.
What’s new, pussycat?
If you’ve ever visited IPM before, the difference will be obvious (here’s what the site looked like yesterday for the unanointed). But the change goes WAY beyond what you’re seeing on the surface.
I’m no longer using Wordpress – or even servers, in the traditional sense – to power this site in a traditional sense. I created it using what’s called JAMStack methodology, which I’ll suffice it to say – at the risk of losing you in the weeds – is very different from Wordpress (here’s the code, for the curious). And good different.
IPM can now, finally, handle huge spikes in traffic, and those traffic spikes won’t bring down the site or cost me a ton of money in server overages. For the past few years, I’ve had this really weird problem where I actually don’t want new articles to go “viral,” because I literally couldn’t afford it. Now that IPM is serverless, this is longer a problem.
IPM finally works well in the parts of the world where internet bandwidth is sparse. I have always been amazed at the traffic the resources I post here get from remote, isolated parts of the world.
For example, a few years ago I realized that I had a big constituency of readers in Egypt, many of whom lived in the middle of the Sahara, and I went to visit them and learn about how they were using this site, articles, and edugraphics. It was an eye-opening trip in a million ways, one of which was I realized how much of a pain in the ass it was to load my site on a phone in the desert. Or to download a .PDF that was 5MB for local organizing and protesting.
That’s no longer a problem, now that I’ve left the bloated and slow architecture of Wordpress, and reduced my overall data delivery by about 90%.
The benefits of this change are two-fold: people can access the site faster regardless of where you are in the world, and the carbon footprint of the site is significantly reduced (Yes, websites create greenhouse gases – and most of them are an unrecognized nightmare on this front).
And speaking of access, most importantly to me, IPM finally works for all users, especially those of you who are blind or visually impaired. Accessibility is a huge problem on the internet at large, and maybe you’d think websites about social justice wouldn’t contribute to that problem. But we do.
Literally every social justice / feminism / activist website I visit regularly is inaccessible. I’m not going to name names here and put people on blast, or do a little hypocrisy theatre performance, but you probably go to a lot of the same sites. And some of them perform accessibility, but none of them actually do it. Because they’re not prioritizing accessibility – they’re prioritizing search engines or clicks or donations or something else. IPM was no different yesterday.
I’ve always said IPM was accessible. Because it’s free, uncopyrighted, and I don’t have paywalls or other barriers preventing people from accessing the content here (operating outside of capitalism an within the “gift economy”). But it never truly was.
For the past 5 months, as I was building this new site from the foundation up, I had a cabal of accessibility activists and IPM fans who are blind in my corner. I’d send them a new version of the site, they’d point out all the things I messed up, then I’d google a ton, learn how to fix it, fix it, and send it back.
And now, today, IPM is finally accessible in every sense of the word – or at least as close as it’s ever been. This was the primary guiding light for the redesign of this site. There’s still room for improvement, and improving is the goal. With that in mind, please let me know how I can make this site more accessible to you, and I’ll get on it.
TL;DR: All of these new things can represented in this one image, which is the new Google Lighthouse score for IPM:
What’s not new, pussycats:
Beyond the site’s digital architecture itself, not much is changing.
This is still a ship with a single crew member, and I’ll be the one writing all the words, doodling all the doodles, creating the courses, publishing the books, replying to your replies, and coding the code (and learning how to code the code, because my background and degrees are all decidedly humanities, so this computer science world is my exploration of an alien planet).
Everything here is still uncopyrighted, and yours to print, use, improve, and share however you’d like.
I still think John Mulaney’s “What’s New Pussycat?” bit is one of the funniest stories ever told on stage.
Let me know what you think about the new site by hitting that reply button below, or sending me an email.
Here’s to another 10 years of learning, teaching, activism, advocacy, and trying to make the world a more socially-just place,