So, 2008 is upon us and we're all a year older and a little wiser. As things start to wind up again (slowly) after the Christmas and New Year break, one thing has struck me: it's nice to be back in these conversations again. In 2008 I intend to have more interesting conversations, online and offline. I hope you'll all join me. I'm particularly happy to be spending more time this year on School of Everything, which has really kicked up a gear since Christmas. We've just launched a new, tidier version of our alpha site, so all feedback very welcome. It's not the finished article yet though - far from it - and this has left me pondering the implications of releasing our early versions into the public eye in such a bold way.
The "release early, release often" motto is a good one, and I'm discovering something important at the moment: it's okay not to get things right first time. The work we've been doing with the RSA recently is a great example of that: we produced a prototype which does one thing well, and from that we've grown a community and justified spending more time refining it and adding requested features. It's a very healthy way to grow a system: grow the technology alongside the community, and it certainly brings down those pesky barriers between community facilitators and the members themselves.
But openness comes at a price. By showing our users something which isn't finished, we risk leaving them frustrated, possibly so much so that they never coming back, or bad-mouth us to their friends. We're not exactly following the standard cautious processes for online brand-building (closed alpha, restricted beta, invitation only etc.). But if we don't trust our users, how can they trust us? And surely if we trust them, they'll see what we're aiming at and help us get there with them. Sometimes it takes that naked honesty to really convince people you're worth helping.
Fingers crossed anyway. Here's to a hopeful, collaborative, honest 2008, to more interesting conversations, and to the School of Everything - growing up in public.