Ernest Hemingway once famously said:
The first draft of anything is shit.
He’s right you know.
The first draft of most things is absolutely terrible – the only thing that can be possibly redeemed is the core feature, the core value proposition, the one thing that keeps the idea in place; the mission and/or vision perhaps.
I wish Ernest was around as I’d love for his perspective on web technology and the culture today where the first draft, in the context of software, is often what’s heralded as necessary shit – the MVP perhaps.
And it has to be this way; it saves you time, money, valuable resources to get “it” right as quickly as you possibly can without spending too much on the shiny doodads and frills that can be easily added later. I have often found myself at the crossroads of choosing between shipping a product faster or adding a new “neat” feature that might help attract users or help gain more traction.
It’s a tension that strongly exists for those that build and I have to always remind myself that it’s ok to be somewhat ashamed of v1.0. In fact, I really like what Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn (not a fan of this service, at all), has famously said:
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
Is there a solution for finding the perfect balance between shipping a MVP (i.e. first draft, shit) and not being completely embarrassed? I think so… yes… possibly.
You see, I have discovered through the process of building Pressgram a happy medium, one that’s mitigated feelings of embarrassment and that will help me deliver the product in a decent timeframe.
The solution? Community. Because I have involved the community in the discussions and discourse of the product since the very beginning (or at least since Kickstarter really accelerated my timeline) I have been able to build and iterate on the product in real-time as I gotten closer to launch.
The thing is this: v1.0 of Pressgram is anything but a blackbox; most apps out there seek to control their “brand” or their “messaging” and especially take care of keeping their product “under wraps” until it’s ready for this big “reveal” when everything is peachy and clean shaven. I have approached it entirely different, sharing the entire journey with a growing audience who’s willing to jump fully into the soup with you and experience the mess that you’ve made.
As a result I have limited an incredible amount of doubt, anxiety, and question marks that people have about the product and what’s being built. Want to know what Pressgram is all about? There are no secrets – just read the archive of blog posts in reverse-chronological order and you’ll know exactly what this is all about. Nothing to hide. Nothing to fear.
I couldn’t imagine myself doing it any other way at this point. Instead of getting disappointed folks who have been “teased” the product through cryptic tweets or email newsletter blasts or image and screen captures I have given everything away.
When you reduce the mist and fog around your app you reduce the possible gap between expectations and reality which in turn can be capitalized and converted into excitement, anticipation, and favorable support. In other words, you get raving fans even before you launch. The mystique is not so much the app itself but the wild possibilities of what each and every user could do with it.
I’d rather be in that ballpark with all the lights on and all the players in view than in one that’s completely blacked out with only silhouettes to glean from. I think of Super Bowl 2013 when the lights went out – remember that snafu?
Sure, the first draft might be shit, per Hemingway’s perspective, and that’s totally fine but you can reduce the collective embarrassment (not eliminate, mind you) with inviting others into the process.
Blogging the Pressgram journey and experience has been one of the most important decisions that I’ve ever made.