Spot.Us: Launching a Site and Being Iterative

    by David Cohn
    November 10, 2008

    Anybody that’s been following my posts on IdeaLab should notice a pattern.

    1. Growing a Community and the Importance of Being Iterative
    2. Eliminating the Fear of Being Open and the Importance of Being Iterative
    3. 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
    be…. interesting.

    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!!!!!

    Tagged: design development launch spot.us

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