The Idea Dude


Monday, December 18, 2006

How do you build communities?

Ben Yoskovitz has a terrific writing project this week. He challenges all bloggers to answer the question, "What did you learn this year?". A tough question for me because the list would be pretty long. After 20+ years working for the man, Tony and I took our destiny in our own hands, 1 July this year. TheGoodBlogs was born. With a couple of terrific advisors, (how can one not think of these folks as your friends and confidants when they look you in the eye and say, "I'm not sure where you're going with this, but I see your passion and I'll support you all the way!"). So here are some of the things that come to mind about what we learnt at TheGoodBlogs this year and continue to live this every day.

  • The power of 2. If you're embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, make sure you take along a great partner. (Having a towel and knowing that the answer is 42 is not enough). I always likened creating startups to climbing a mountain, you need to have a lifeline to someone and you don't want to keep looking back to see if he's still there. Thanks Tealeaf, aka Tony.
  • Establish the core values from the start and agree upon them. The business models may change, the marketing message may change and even the execution path may deviate, but your core vision and values should never waver. Tough decisions are much easier to make if you focus on doing the right thing so as not to compromise any of these values. For us at TheGoodBlogs, it was three things, building a strong and loyal community, providing a service that helps bloggers promote each other and take every opportunity to delight the customer. Note: we love money, we want lots of it, but it's not part of our core values.
  • Turn every problem into an opportunity. Every email that came because we had a bug or a feature was confusing, we used as an opportunity to start a dialog. We even fixed blogs before the bloggers became members and the problems werent't related to us. But to hear comments like, "...that was an online first for me", makes it all worthwile.
  • Small things matter. We care about blog we accept and every email we receive. On the other side, it is not just a blogger, it is a human being. Respect for your customer means we spend a vast amount of time ensuring we fit into blogs with a minimum of fuss and overhead. Putting your widget on someone's blog is like going into their house and adding new curtains, for the blogger, it's personal.
  • Question every assumption every day. We've seen TheGoodBlogs evolve even in its relatively short lifespan. There are no sacred cows and things that were true at one point in time changed as we grew with our users and understood the dynamics of the blogosphere much better. It takes courage to say something that was working is now no longer appropriate or don't fix something that ain't really broke. The only question to answer is, "what is the right thing to do?"
  • Pick no more than one important thing to do at a time. So often I start the day overwhelmed with emails, bug fixes, new features. The mountain always seems so high. The way I deal with it is internally ask myself, "if I could only do one thing today, what would it be?". Invariably, I get to more than that one thing, but it gets me over the paralysis of so much to do and so little done.
  • Nothing comes for free. Want a great idea, think for a lifetime. Want a customer, go get one. Success stories like MySpace and YouTube lulls us into thinking that some magic spark will come along bring 50 million users. How did they start (MySpace)? by going to bars and signing up bands one at a time.
  • Give without expecting a return. More like a life lesson here, too often in business, it's a negotiated process, "I'll give you this, if I get that back". If you gave without reservation or expectation, it all comes back, maybe not immediately but in buckets. Giving is a long-term investment.
  • Wind it up and let it go. Too often we try to perfect a feature or doting parents unable to let go. There's always the paranoia of maybe the public won't like it. If you're going to fail, fail fast.
  • Distinguish between strategic and tactical. Which is really making sure how to set short term and long term goals and doing stuff that matters. Then understanding that you want quick results from tactical tasks and willing to wait longer for strategic initiatives.
  • Don't dwell on things you can't fixThe saying, 'it is what it is' is really a mental note for us to move on when mistakes happen.

That's my list for today, thanks Ben for challenging us to reflect on 2006.

So how do you build communities? one blog at a time... which is truly relevant for us because today we launched a feature more bloggers were asking for, "how do I create my own group and put the blogs I like in there". At TheGoodBlogs, we know let you do just that, to create your carnival channel or your special interest group. Check out our announcement here


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be checking out your site TheGoodBlogs next, sounds like an interesting site. I agree, you begin with one blog at a time and build it up. Great list, I can't wait until the next challenge.

8:06 AM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

Please do. You'll find a terrific community brewing.

Ben's got a good thing going at his blog. I'll be doing more of his projects too.

9:49 AM  

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