PressThink’s new design and third space

Today I debut a new look, and a new feature of my site, born in 2003.

10 Oct 2016 2:44 am 26 Comments

This is the third version of my site. The designer is Andy Rossback, recently of the Marshall Project, now at the New York Times. The programmer is Garrett Gardner, webmaster at NYU Journalism. My thanks to both of them. They did a great job.

I like having my own joint. My friend Dave Winer — who had a hand in the origination of blogging software, RSS and podcasting — has over many years of conversation gotten through to me that you should always have your own place on the open web. Doc Searls has also helped to persuade me of this.

Anyone who pays attention to online publishing knows that the trend is in an opposite direction, toward capitulation to the platforms: Facebook with its instant articles,, Apple News. I fully understand why the platforms are winning, and I don’t resent them, but I also don’t feel compelled to join in.

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” said press critic A. J. Liebling in 1959. That was a profound remark— in fact, the most important thing anyone has said about press freedom since Thomas Jefferson drafted the bill of rights.

Having a space that’s mine on the web — — is for me indistinguishable from owning my own printing press and hosting my own discussion forum. I’m not ready to give those up those powers.

Instead, I wanted to give my writing home on the web a refresh — especially with mobile becoming the standard — and add to it something new. I’m calling the new feature “the board.” Another term for it would be cards, a slightly different space for me to unfold what I think.

In the way I imagine this working, the first card will always be the same: “problems in pressthink that most concern me now.” It’s a live list that is constantly in motion, although I won’t feel compelled to change it for change’s sake. The problems on it are placed in order of urgency. Since I spend most of my time in my head, I figured I would rank what goes on there 🙂

Following the “current problems in pressthink” card are little posts that are longer than Twitter updates and shorter than PressThink essays, a third space for composing, in between social updates and long form blogging. I have wanted this for some time. You can see the board here and the live list of current problems here. I still have to work out the kinks for making the cards fully shareable on social and snack-able (swipe-able) on mobile. But I hope you get the basic idea.

I don’t think indy blogging is done for. No way. More likely it’s due for a re-birth. My own circumstances are fortunate. I don’t have to make money from my site, or generate big traffic. The PressThink archives are hugely important to me, even if they only draw a handful of users per week. I practice slow blogging: 20 to 30 posts a year. But each one has hundreds of hours of thought behind it. PressThink is not a commercial proposition. It’s the extreme opposite of click bait: an academic project and labor of love.

Ever since I began blogging, people have told me that they often find the comments better than the posts. They sometimes think this will hurt my feelings. No. It’s the opposite really.


Congratulations on the new design. It works well for me.

Also, a heart-felt thank you for bringing light and heat to the practice of Press, which has been drowning in a cold, dark swamp of capitalist greed, public apathy and manufactured ignorance for more than a generation.

Thank you also for remaining off the gated-community “platforms”, those tribalist concentration camps of the mind.

Thank you, Brian.

Hi Jay. Congrats on the new design. Nice look for your blog pages. The font is big enough for my aging eyes. That’s my main concern these days. Also thanks for maintaining your independence. We need more examples/role models for that. 😉

I certainly understand the reason for The Board, I need the ability to have shorter posts, and I keep lists of things (though I don’t publish them, maybe I should).

Just curious how you edit those posts/lists? Is there a tool that you use? If so is it documented somewhere?

Thanks, Dave. That means a lot to me.

The board was my idea. But I did not not know how to build it. I asked Andy Rossback and Garrett Gardner to answer you. It’s a WordPress modification, using, I believe, the custom post type feature.

Hello Dave,

Thanks for all the feedback! I’m the developer who created the new theme. PressThink is run on WordPress, and the new design is a standalone WordPress theme which was designed from scratch by Andy Rossback and custom-built by me.

Jay is correct, The Board was built using a custom post type we call Tiles, which are rearranged in the admin panel by Jay. Custom post types are managed in a very similar manner to regular posts. The Board itself is a simple Page Template which displays hand-chosen Tiles in a customized order. I hope that gives some insight into how it all works.

Hi Garrett, Jay —

Thanks for the extra info. I think I understand. It’ll be most interesting to see how it works after Jay has been using it for a while. Keep on truckin —


I like the look. I am new and this is my first post to read but I hope to keep up now frequently!

mark gelband says:

Love the update – clean, simple, straightforward.

Appreciate your work.

And I appreciate readers of it.

May-lynn says:

Hey congratulations on this one! Although I do slow blogging, sometimes out of laziness and some other times out of lack of any idea, I do agree that a place on the Web is a place to start from. Wish u all the best and will he checking it 🙂

Jamsheed says:

Looks great on my iPhone. Thanks!

(Also, love the serif font for comments. Really nice touch.)

Hi I have a blog on WordPress. I am wondering is your system accessible with voiceover, and screen reader? I am totally blind. I am reading you on my iPhone so I’m wondering if the writing would be as easy. I am a published author of one book. The creator of an online magazine. I am also a nonprofit consultant. I love to blog and I’m always looking for new ideas. Happy to learn of you in your system. I, usually re-blog things but I could not find a press this, or share a link of any kind here. You’re welcome to check me out At I like to re-blog, because I like to share other peoples work. Networking is what it’s all about.

I’m less a of a fan. The narrow columns feel too cramped on my computer monitor. Perhaps something wider, 1/3 to 1/2 screen wide, would look better.

I saw the comment above about mobile and tried that. The Board looks good on my smartphone, but there the text is a full screen wide.

I do like the white text on black. Stark and readable.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the effort! Clean, clear and highly readable. “The same great content in a nicer package.”

I particularly love the philosophy behind why you have a web presence like this. The phrases “you should always have your own place on the open web” and “capitulation to platforms” are highly reminiscent to me of the growing decentralized web and IndieWeb movements which takes these types of statements as their core and were also heavily influenced by Dave Winer and Doc Searles. While I know that journalists like Jeff Jarvis, Leo Laporte, and Dan Gillmor are aware of that movement and using some of the philosophies and tools, it’s great to see others carrying the standard natively without necessarily knowing about it.

While you’ve got some of the IndieWeb tenets down cold, there are some additional steps you might consider, particularly from a journalistic perspective, like owning all of your online content–for example, you’ve got some real value in your Twitter stream that could potentially disappear in the future if Twitter were acquired, sold, shut down, etc. Posting your Tweets on your site and syndicating them to Twitter is now easily doable. Even better, with open W3C specifications like WebMention, you can also port back all the commentary on your posts and tweets from sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram so that you’ve got a record of the conversation that happened in those silos as well. Fortunately for WordPress users, lots of this free functionality has already been built between implementations of the larger IndieWeb Plugin for WordPress and (I, and I’m sure others, would be happy to volunteer some time and effort to help you and your team realize some of this value if you’re interested.)

I’m also particularly interested in your “Board” concept as it sounds somewhat akin to the broader concept of an online commonplace book or even the more modern journalists’ notebook. In some sense I use my own site this way, so it’s very interesting to see a new iteration on the concept on the web. I look forward to seeing how it evolves, and if it’s successful, perhaps the developers would consider open sourcing it as a plugin for others to use as well?

Thanks, as always, for pressing the boundaries and making us think.

Thanks for your thoughtful remarks, Chris.

I don’t like the way tweets displayed on a blog look. I am fussy about that. Would I like to have a searchable archive in my possession so I don’t lose it all when Twitter goes under? I would.

Nicely designed site and focus on ideas rather than monetary gain make this post stand out among the myriad other sites I have visited. I am anxious to follow you and keep my brain exercised by reading and responding to your posts. Thank you!

Hey Jay.

I remember your last redesign. Was it Lauren Rabaino who did that?

I still keep my own blog going as well. I post even less. Last year I did 20 but as I look at my archive this year, I have only done 3 posts. Wow…. time flies.

Blogging/RSS/Comments for me were the original social network. Kinda miss making friends in this fashion. It’s definitely a slower way to build relationships.

Yes, Lauren Rabaino of Vox Media was the designer of the last version of PressThink.

First visit. I like it. Slow blogging is great!

Bernie Latham says:

Boy, this is very nice. Excellent readability, simple navigation and it’s damned pretty too. You three have done a great job, Jay.

Of course, all that would be rather a waste if the content was without much worth. But worth in content is what has always appealed to me in your blog. And this is why…

“The PressThink archives are hugely important to me, even if they only draw a handful of users per week. I practice slow blogging: 20 to 30 posts a year. But each one has hundreds of hours of thought behind it.”

Thank you very much, Bernie. I really appreciate it.

Great readability and design. Congrats to you and the team behind it. Look forward to many more posts.

Erik Rolfsen says:

I like most of the new site, but could do without the reverse type on The Board. I just read your thoughtful take on Trump and press freedom, and I’m still seeing the text, several minutes after moving on to white screens.


Mayson Lancaster says:

For about the last 30 years, I have defaulted to reading black text on a white background on computer screens (not to speak of books, magazines, and newspapers). I find your “Board” pretty much unreadalbe.

I do particularly like the prioritized problems column. My tweetin’ id wants to see tweet-sized provisional answers (“now whats”) to the problems, without clicking away. As a hover, maybe?

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