So Far, So Good Enough

Saturday, February 27, 2010
By Suki

Photo: NathanaelB

“If the first product you ship isn’t almost an embarrassment, you’re doing something wrong.” – Jason Shellen

I watched Jason (former member of the Blogger/Google Reader team) say that this afternoon as he spoke to a group of high school students via UStream. Jason was making a reference to how much he believes in the concept of iterative design and why it’s important to get something out there before investing too much time and effort.

This is not how I was trained. I can hear my educational research professor saying this is not the right approach.

But over the past 7 years of doing stuff in the educational technology space, I’ve learned that sometimes it is actually okay to release something that is not quite yet ready, or you run the risk of it actually never seeing the light of day!

Case in point – right after the war officially ‘ended’ in Sri Lanka last year I had the crazy idea of creating a social network for expatriates and locals who might be interested in “moving the country forward”. Just like how YouTube is for videos and Flickr is for photos I hoped this community would be a safe platform for sharing ideas. Very organic. Very unconference like.

I went back and forth over the technology for weeks trying to figure out the best way to set it up. Should I use an open source platform? Should I used Wordpress MU? Buddypress? I finally decided it was more important to actually test if it would even work and decided to go with Ning. I set up the network in a few hours and was on my way.

It’s been a struggle for a variety of reasons (I’ll save that for another post on how NOT to build community!) My point is, I’m glad that I didn’t spend months building something to test my idea out. I was able to use ’stuff’ that was already out there, and for very little money test out something that I was passionate about and know how to do it better next time. Now that’s a skill we need to teach in schools!

I once asked my friend, a non-native speaker of English, what she thought of something we had just created and she said “So far, so good enough!” This, to me, perfectly describes the process of iterative design. In fact, I think I’m going to make a poster out of it and put it on my wall at work :)

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