Motivation and focus

July 23, 2006

When creating software, particularly social software, tailoring to not only the users’ needs, but also their wants is paramount. Unlike, say, a spreadsheet, people use your software not so much because they need to, but because they want to. But what do people really want? Do they even know? How can you know early on what your users want?

I’ve heard people say your software should have focus. While this is probably true, I’m not convinced it’s prudent to be too focused early on in the life of a product. I read recently that Napoleon’s strategy on the battlefield was to probe on all fronts, find the enemy’s weakness, then decisively attack that weak point. Granted, a small start up is far from being a 19th century army with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, but the general idea of focusing on what you know will work, when you know, is probably not a bad one.

Of course, you don’t want the product to completely lack focus. But being open to users’ various “wants”, developing the initial site with slightly more spread, then responding to emergent trends and user feedback might work reasonably well…

The Pilot System

June 29, 2006

I came across a quote from the The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks, known as the father of Brook’s Law.

When designing a new kind of system, a team will design a throw-away system (whether it intends to or not). This system acts as a pilot plant that will reveal techniques which will subsequently cause a complete redesign of the system. This second smarter system should be the one delivered to the customer, since delivery of the pilot system would cause nothing but agony to the customer, and possibly ruin the system’s reputation and maybe even the company’s.

Our project is fortunate in that, we’ve already implemented one such “pilot plant” which was released to a small audience a couple of years ago. We learned lots of valuable lessons from the initial implementation, largely from user feedback and rudimentary stats. Unfortunately, we didn’t have good tracking in place to gather more interesting (and possibly more valuable) statistics on user behavior, but, nonetheless, we have some hard data to fall back on.

So it begins…

June 27, 2006

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of an early-stage Web 2.0, nay, Web Candle + Monkey startup. For a number of reasons, we won’t be revealing who we are, or what we’re doing, other than to say “we” are plural, and “what” is a social software. (No, we’re not in “stealth mode” either… ugh, that’s like so 2005.)

We’ll cover technical, project management, legal, and businessy topics depending on which dragons (literally, if we happen to be playing WoW) we’re fighting at that particular moment. So join us for the ride, and let’s see what happens.