SXSW Notes: DIY Now More Than Ever

Loose notes from SXSW 2006 session “DIY Now More Than Ever”

“Do it yourself web production is rivaling even the biggest internet players. Zero budgets or even nascent skills are no longer a barrier to launching successful web projects. Teams of two or three can accomplish what used to take large groups to produce. Learn how these bootstrappers used their abilities to turn good ideas into huge accomplishments without going into life-long debt or making a deal with the devil.”

Mike Hudack Co-Founder,
Lynda Keeler Founder, Delight Network
Matt Mullenweg – Lead WordPress developer
Gina Trapani Editor,
Ted Rheingold Top Dog, Dogster Inc

Mullenweg’s new gig is bbpress — open source forum software, hopefully better than phpBB. Not to mention Akismet – fantastic spam blocking plugin for WP, and hopefully for other platforms someday as well. [This blog is now using Akismet, with perfect results so far.]

Work on the idea that keeps you up at night, where you don’t want to go out at night because you want to code.

Should you sit on your project until it’s mature, or get it out there while it’s young and take the lumps, but also generate buzz? A lot of people are worried about talking about their idea, but it’s 1% idea, 99% execution. Also, if you fail, you want to fail fast rather than spend a year writing code and have that fail. Get it out there, with iterations.

Picking the right project: Pick a project that you can’t NOT do. Even if you think the market is crowded, go for it. If your execution is better than the competition, you have nothing to worry about.

Even if you bite off something huge, you can still break it down into solve-able bite-size chunks. You’d be amazed by what you can accomplish this way.

How to compensate contributors (of code, design, etc.) when you don’t have money? Barter, hosting, and credit — over-credit everyone. Then they’ll feel guilt and will want to contribute more. – Great resource with statistics on the characteristics of startups that succeed/fail. [Can’t find this site].

Open source engineers are used to flaming each other to a crisp, and then going out to dinner later.

Even if you’re a virtual/distributed company, find ways to get together, at least twice a year. Very important. Virtualization can only take you so far.

Working with overseas developers: Eventually they start raising their rates and getting too busy for you.

Just registering a domain in no way guarantees you the right to use a name.

Conversation about how to hold out through the highs and lows — resonates with my experiences with Birdhouse… either take up running or take up alcohol. One little email or blog posting can make or destroy your day… one day feels like you’re going to take over the world, like success is on your doorstep, the next day feels like it’s time for a new job, like it’ll never come together. It’s a roller coaster. What do you when you have a problem you can’t solve on your own? There’s no one to turn to (or maybe there is but they’re not available and you need it solved right now). You learn your limits, learn about the directions you want to take things in. Learn from your mistakes. Your moods go up and down, your business goes up and down. It’s a roller coaster, which you have to embrace or leave behind.

Try to only make new mistakes – never repeat them.

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