Anybody that’s been following my posts on IdeaLab should notice a pattern.
- Growing a Community and the Importance of Being Iterative
- Eliminating the Fear of Being Open and the Importance of Being Iterative
- Starting Small and the Importance of Being Iterative
I’m always trying to chop Spot.Us
into small and executable steps. Test an idea, see how the community
reacts and if it’s positive, build a more stable infrastructure around
The Spot.Us wiki, which has been
moderately successful with three and a half pitches funded, is a
perfect example. It was very informative and helped us refine our
designs to turn Spot.Us into a dynamic site.
About two months ago we left the design phase and entered what I
will now call “the age of development.” My development team Hashrocket
also ascribes to an agile or iterative technique in relation to their
programming, so it’s been a great working relationship.
This required us to be in constant contact. I would set the agenda
by breaking website features into small executable goals, determining
what features were the most important and Hashrocket would deliver.
After a five week programming sprint (geeks can follow along here,
here, here and here… what can I say, it was a well documented
development phase) we have a 1.0 version of Spot.Us. It’s been
incredibly fulfilling for myself personally, as I’ve finally started
fiddling with code (at least on a surface level), something I’ve been
wanting to do since before I applied for the Knight News Challenge.
And now we’ve reached the current stage and crux of this post.
Spot.Us is not waiting for a “tada” moment, although that effect is
only natural when you make a big leap from wiki to what can only be
called a more dynamic website.
Being “iterative” or “agile” is language I’ve adopted from the
programming world. Developers often say they are “agile” and use
“scrums” to program. But just as open source princples can and should
be applied to journalism, so should their approach be adopted towards
creating community and launching a living breathing website.
Spot.Us did a short “beta” period with the goal of getting some
content in so that when we launch the public site, people will have
pitches to fund and tips to join.
I’m hoping this small batch will grow as more people engage with the site.
Meanwhile “the age of development” will continue. The site isn’t
finished by any means. I’m sure we will find a few bugs, some user
interface issues and I have a ton of feature ideas I’d love to
implement. I just hope we can get to them all.
These first few weeks of Spot.Us will be getting our footing and
positioning to see just how people interact with the site at a small
executable scale. Starting now I am ringing bells and whistles about
Spot.Us. We will continue to improve the site – but we want to do so
with direct feedback from users. Tell us what tools you want to better
support journalism! I consider myself now having a foot in development
and a foot in community organizing.
It’s been about a year since I first submitted the idea for Spot.Us
to the Knight News Challenge and almost half a year since it was
announced that I won. I feel confident in the progress we’ve made to
set a solid foundation to test this idea. The next six months will
Final note: The code for Spot.Us is already public. People ask me
when Spot.Us will come to their city. My answer: “When you make it
happen!!!” Start with a wiki and if you can show that it works, we can
swoop in with the open source engine of Spot.Us and scale up. I’m not
doing this for money, only glory – so you using the Spot.Us
crowdfunding engine is fine by me!!!!!