Build in the Open — #BuildInTheOpen

One of the things that I absolutely love about Indie Hackers is their mantra around building in the open — it’s a practice that resonates deeply with me, especially because it’s something that I’ve been doing for decades!

But what does it really mean… to… build… in… the… open…?!

I got this question, again, via Twitter and I thought it was about time to pen a few thoughts around what I believe this principle stands for and how it can be applied practically (it’s not that hard, honestly).

(What’s neat is that he came via Indie Hackers! 👋🏻 @hkanaktas!)

What It Means to “Build in the Open”

I don’t know if there’s an “official” definition, but, this is what I think when I hear (or see) #buildintheopen:

“Building in the open” is a practice of sharing what you know as often and as candidly as you feel comfortable.

The key words are as follows:

1. Sharing What You Know

All this means is that you’ve found a place to share what you’ve learned with other people. Sometimes, this is in a public venue a’la Twitter or your own blog or even via your product log on IH and sometimes this is in a more controlled or private venue like a paid community (I’ve got a small one for business & community builders). The most important part is that you’re actively giving away the information, knowledge, and wisdom that you’ve accumulated from your experiences instead of hoarding them or keeping them to yourself.

There’s a ton of value in doing it both publicly and privately and, if I were to give any advice, I’d suggest that you do the vast majority of this “sharing” publicly, in open forums where you can meet new folks, make new friends, and even start using these opportunities to share more about your own project, community, and business. Even the smallest opportunities can become big ones, in time.

My breakfast… and where I do most of my writing!

2. As Often…

This means that you’re sharing regularly in whatever places that you’ve decided to share your progress. Places like IH have built-in features that can help “remind you” to do this more but there are tons of ways in which you can develop the repetitive and consistent skill of sharing what you know.

I share my thoughts and experiences daily on a very discrete and intentionally-selected channels: TwitterYouTube, and on our Indie Hackers product page. Remember, if you’re going to be successful at building community (before product!!) then you’ll have to become a visible and valuable (i.e. positively contributing) member of whatever communities you’re already part of!

And, if you don’t show up regularly… the magic of building real relationships won’t actually happen.

Recent sketches of our rewrite!

3. As Candidly as You Feel Comfortable

Candor isn’t the same thing as transparency which isn’t the same thing as honesty, let’s not confuse those things! For starters, being candid on the internet is a skill that takes time to develop, grow, and eventually master (yes, you can actually MASTER this!). A big part of what most people are missing is the actual practice part of the equation!

Finding “your voice” online and being comfortably-candid means that you’re sharing your experiences in ways that feel authentic to you! Authenticity is also a skill and takes time to develop as well and it looks different for every person — one person’s level of authenticity will never match or mirror that of another person and it’s incredibly important to stay open (and be super-kind!) when you find someone who’s actively practicing their efforts to “build in the open”!

The best thing you can do is to encourage them to keep sharing what they know and to not give up on the important practice of helping others progress, move the ball forward, and not give up!

The Bottom Line: Building in the Open is going to look & feel different for each person. But, the philosophy & practice will always be the same: We share what we know so that others can succeed.

Why?

Because we are the beneficiaries of a TON of folks who have shared their experiences (and know-how) and given all of that information to us for free — this is our opportunity to become part of the larger metaverse that is the internet and continue to help others build meaningful products, be masters of their own destiny (e.g. run their own business, project, hustle), and love the people that they get to do life with (e.g. their community(ies))!

Let’s keep building. Let’s keep building healthy, vibrant communities.

[Originally published on Indie Hackers.]