Build First, Ask Questions Later

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Mark Boas

As part of the Knight Mozilla News Challenge I’m taking part in, I attended two webinars. The first was given by Aza Raskin concerned prototyping and communication, the second the story of Storify and the Hacks/Hackers community by founder and journalist Burt Herman.

I found both these webinars extremely valuable, I had actually seen Aza’s talk in November in Barcelona when he spoke at the Drumbeat Festival, it was inspiring then as it is now. The main thrust being that prototypes are important as a way to get your idea out there, put it in front of people and iterate upon it! The Storify story gave a different perspective and I found myself agreeing with thoughts on following your passion, building community, teams and again getting your product out there!

However the point in Burt’s talk that really stood out for me, was his stressing of keeping things simple. The Minimum Viable Product approach is something which resonates strongly with me, I have to say I’m a big fan, but what he said next really struck home. Specifically in response to a question on how Burt and his team went from early prototypes to the current incarnation of Storify, he re-emphasised the iterative approach of and gathering feedback from early minimal releases … and then BAM – out it came, mentioned almost as an aside :

“We built this thing that made it easy to embed a tweet in a blogpost”

“so you could just type in the ID of a tweet and it would give you a nice formatted HTML thing”


So beautifully simple, yet hugely powerful. And it was built by co-founder Xavier Damman in a day! Unsurprisingly TechCrunch picked it up almost immediately and many people started using it soon after. Once they realised what they had, they built upon it and worked it in to their main product. This for me was such a great example of what the ‘just build it’ mentality can achieve. Prior to that, they had been experimenting with slightly more complex systems, but they tried a few variations on a theme and with the help of good feedback they hit upon a fantastic solution.

I have a few ideas for applications for the ‘Unlocking Video’ challenge, I’m not entirely sure of any of them, but one thing’s for certain I’m going to get the very core of an idea out there early and then iterate wildly in response to as much feedback as I can gather, and hope as Burt and his team did, to strike gold.

Related resources :

Storify storified – SXSW Winners []

Storify Gets Funding from Khosla Ventures to Reinvent Media Online []

Storify Raises $2M From Khosla Ventures To Blend Social Media With Storytelling []

Tweet embedding tool :

The Storify Co-founders : Burt Herman (@burtherman), Xavier Damman (@xdamman)

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Monday, July 18th, 2011 inspiration

5 Comments to Build First, Ask Questions Later

  • Fantastic stuff. I have to say I really enjoyed the weeks webinars. I feel that we are in similar boats with where we are with the project. I too have a handful of ideas for web video. I think I will be working with popcorn.js which Christian Heilmann mention on Mondays talk. The whole Web Made Movies project ( looks very interesting.

  • John Tynan says:

    I also think the idea of creating a minimum viable product coupled with getting feedback and iterating quickly is very powerful.

    I’m interested to find out what ideas you come up with.

    Feel free to let me know when you have something that you would like tested, and I’ll be glad to give you some feedback.

  • John Tynan says:

    I agree with James, the work they are doing at Web Made Movies is exciting. Maybe we should get a group of us together to work with popcorn.js a bit more and see how we can apply this to our projects or to other ideas as they come up.

  • MarkB says:

    @James @John Thanks for your feedback guys, my subconscious has been working on an MVP and I think something is about ready to hatch!

    I’ll keep you posted!

    PS It will probably involve popcorn.js – see my last two blog posts! :)

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