by @mcknco

Build in Public Because It’s Hard

TL;DR: Scary and probably stupid.

I’ve considered / attempted / abandoned blogging several times now, and there’s really no cause to believe my latest attempt will be any different. But I just want to articulate my reasons to setup a personal webpage. I’m still at the starting blocks, so any effort to help define my goals could be a useful way to proceed.

The theme

Primarily, I’m going to discuss bootstrapping projects that I build on the internet. Minimum viable products (MVPs). Websites, little ideas that I’ve found a simple solution for, etc. The tech / dev side is the easy part — what’s difficult (for me, at least) is the business side and the marketing. How to launch. How to promote. How to generate interest / hype / gossip — and ultimately — how to generate demand for what you sell.

Most of my hurdles aren’t know-how problems, they’re psychological blocks. Mental blocks. Consider the following:

That’s the kind of stuff I’m planning to tackle in this series. Not just muse about these topics, but rather to take action, go beyond my comfort zone, see what happens and report my findings.

Exposure, embarrassment and courage

Like many computer geeks, I loath attention seeking and shun the spotlight as much as possible. That has to change, primarily because it’s bad for business. If people don’t know you, they literally don’t know you and can’t buy from you. Period.

While in film school I always fancied myself as an “elusive artist” — a maker who becomes renown based on the quality of their work alone. Without having to explicitly force the attention of their audience. Newsflash: it didn’t work.

A lot like dating, to be successful you have to check your ego at the door. A successful maker will specialize in finding ways to fuck up and fail over and over again, until he fails at failing and succeeds, if only by accident.

That’s an attitude that runs counter to our education system. We’re schooled in university to do analysis and plan cautiously so that we never have to fail or lose face. But innovation, new ideas and breaking ground doesn’t work that way. It’s a mess fraught with ups and downs, insecurities, wins and loses.

Build in public

My reasons are multifaceted. Firstly, I’m scared of exposing myself. I’m scared of writing about a journey with an inconclusive outcome. A few years from now, will these posts be the modest beginnings of a huge internet success? Or the ramblings of a nobody who did nothing nor built anything of importance?

The fear factor is an important motivation in and of itself. If you’re afraid of something, the only way you can expand you capacities is to walk towards the fear. That’s what I’m doing here.

The second motivation is branding and image. Corporations are out. Honesty and authenticity is in. Would you rather buy from someone you know (or know of) or a faceless corporation? The more personal, the more I can humanize what I do, the more I can express my creations in terms of an artisan craftsman, the greater the emotional currency with which I have to barter.

To build in public is gaining momentum and going mainstream. Yesterday saw the launch of a new site — publicly.io — in which you can follow the activities of makers who work out in the open.

The pitfalls

To some extent, building in public means giving away your secret sauce. Publicizing one’s success will inevitably lead to copycats, posers, crappy imitations and so on. Thankfully, you’ll always have the advantage of being the first, the original, the authority in what you think, feel, your ideas and your vision of the world.

By starting this site it’s clear what side of the fence I’m on. Is it my first mistake? You can only know once you give it a go.

All in all, I’ve developed so much respect for independent makers online that it’d be disingenuous of me to soak up everything I’ve learned without contributing some new nuggets of wisdom. Public makers, e.g., levels.io, have inspired me to embark on this project, so I’ll go ahead and pass the buck forward where I can.

November 29, 2017, @mcknco

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