The basic reason India Ink exists is because we like reading about history. It’s enjoyable – and it’s actually helped us understand ourselves and the current state of India. So we’re creating a project that we wished existed. It’s basically ‘history communication’ in the sense of ‘science communication’. We seem to accept that science is complicated and needs people to popularize its ideas. Why doesn’t the same thing exist for the social sciences? When internet journalists start asking questions like this, that’s how you get something like India Ink. For a more thorough expansion of our ideas, read our vision doc (which was three times as long before we cut it down).
India Ink isn’t going to be a website though. The website is the hub of the wheel. It’s the central portal for you to access the spokes of the wheel. And those are the various platforms we’ll be posting our content to directly – primarily this is email, facebook, twitter, instagram, and whatsapp. This is an old idea that goes back to the project for an ‘indie web’ and the Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere or POSSE system. The website acts like an archive so you don’t suffer from the transient nature of social media and the whims of the robber barons that own them. At the same time, people can read you where they like.
So as a part of our mission to ‘communicate history’, we’re also looking to play with information design for the articles. Not in an elaborate sense, we have limited resources. We’re limited ourselves to what we can do with text formatting and design. What this looks like right now is lists. Lists have got a bad rap. The “article which is just a list” or listicle is the mainstay of the trashy clickbait publisher. But it’s the clickbait part that’s bad, not the list. We’re big fans of outliner apps like Workflowy – which is what we use to organize work on India Ink actually. So bullet lists are just a part of normal workflow – so we want to rehabilitate them.
Some of the best writing on the web is narrative longform but at the same time, the term has also somehow become shorthand for quality. It’s starting to feel like articles need to be long to be good. That’s not great. Our aim is to be as short as possible while staying true to our source material. This is harder than it might seem – we wrestle over what to include and what not to include. As summarized by this tweet and its constituent GIF.
Instead of traditional longform, when we have an idea that cuts across sources and needs more room to breathe, we turn it into a video. Youtube is a great way to waste your time and learn stuff in the process. That’s the niche we’re looking to hit with our first series, Past Continuous. It’s all about ways the past still affects the present. The only problem is that we don’t know the first thing about making videos. When we were discussing it, we decided that we wanted to do videos that used animated text in some way – rather than talking heads. Enter Doodly. Its a tool for making animation-like videos. It’s a tool you use when you don’t know animation and don’t have the resources to hide an animator. It mimics the style of the RSA Animate videos which we were a fan of … ten years ago when they came out. Yes, this is the cutting edge of the internet, thank you for asking.