App.net project update #1

On getting public attention

The number one thing that I tell new founders before they launch their product is to remember that no one will care. I have launched several products, dozens of major announcements, and hundreds of incremental improvements. Without exception, the wider world’s response to those launches was smaller than I expected.

It is very rare to be sitting on an idea that manages to capture people’s imagination. My understanding of just how rare having an inherently powerful idea is prompted me to pay a great deal of attention to the amount of discussion this blog post generated. I have never before worked on something that, through no real effort my own, got picked up and propagated in such a wide manner.

Sure enough, when we announced the join.app.net project, it got more attention and inspired more strong opinions than anything I have worked on in my career. For myself and the team, putting something out and immediately seeing the Internet jump all over it is exciting, humbling and scary. All at the same time.

How community, and trust, is built

I have thought a lot about the communities that I trust the most, and my belief is that trust is built through a constant, constructive, bi-directional flow of information.

We are painfully aware of the less-than-perfect launches of projects like Diaspora and WakeMate. Both of those projects seemed really interesting to me at first, and unfortunately didn’t manage to win my long-term trust. We will do everything within our power to not repeat that same pattern.

We announced this project early, with the explicit goal of having a collaborative, open conversation with the external world. We expect to be having a constant conversation with the community, asking for feedback, figuring out who is interested in what we have to say. Listening. Learning.

How we will run our API development process

We are going to be running our API documentation and development process in a fairly public manner. We will be posting a draft of our developer API to Github this week. We will be accepting pull requests.

When you see our API documentation, it will be fairly straightforward. You won’t see anything that will be totally unexpected, or anything so new and amazing that it will blow your mind. You may see things you don’t like, or see mistakes that we made. But this is just another step in our two-way collaboration with the community.

I spent a few years in the early 2000s lurking on the Linux Kernel Mailing list. Having read a great number of the threads and flamewars, I am convinced the success of Linux is very much tied to Linus Torvald’s approach. Overall, he comes across as a kind, deeply thoughtful and patient man. On some topics he is very open minded… he seems very willing to seriously consider deeply weird proposals, as long as the code attached to the patch is good. On the other hand, he does not suffer fools and is completely unwilling to engage with assholes. Linus is willing to defend his ideas and not just push people around by fiat because Linux is his baby. Most of the time, he trusts and delegates to his lieutenants in the community, but occasionally he will ignore everyone and do what he thinks is the Right Thing.

To be clear: App.net is not running a completely Open Source project, and I don’t claim that myself or anyone on my team has 1/1000 of the talent and intelligence consistently displayed by Linus Torvalds. But I bring up his development approach as a model of what a wildly successful open development process looks like.

I deliver to you a promise that we will be constantly communicating what is going on. To listen to anyone that provides constructive criticism, and that wants to engage in providing advice and suggestions on systems they have built. However, please note: if you are an asshole, we will ignore you.

We will make mistakes

A lot of folks didn’t like the way we implemented our Twitter username claiming process. Some helpful folks started directly telling us they didn’t like it, and we had a public conversation about it. Within a couple of hours we rolled out some new code with their explicit suggestions, and haven’t received a single complaint about it since. There were a few “Internet Celebrities” making fun of us for this, and that’s understandable. But I would ask: doesn’t our behavior of listening and fixing the issues raised by the community demonstrate that we are following our core values?

These kinds of mistakes will happen again. Maybe next time they will be harder to fix, or take more time. All I can say is that we are listening, and if folks want to constructively push back and suggest a better way to do things, we will do our best. There is no chance we will be able to make everyone happy, but I want to believe we will be able to convince folks that we are part of a two-way conversation. That’s what I expect out of the companies I love, and so I want to hold my company to the same standard.

I want to hear from the Builders and Makers

In the past few days I have met with Ralph Meijer, who wrote the Jaiku side of the (unreleased) code that would have federated Jaiku and Twitter. He was very helpful and provided a great deal of context for me. I am going to be meeting up with Brett Slakin, the co-creator of PubSubhubbub in the next few days. I am going to be sitting down with Tim O'Reilly in the next week to get his thoughts and ideas. I have been talking to a few other people over email, but they have requested that I not make public that they are engaging with App.net at this time. Given the delicate political position they are in, I understand their concerns.

If you are a builder or maker that has suggestions or pushback for how App.net should work, I sincerely want to hear from you. I just ask that you are willing to do so in a constructive, concise and unemotional manner. If you are willing to hold up that end of the bargain, then I give you my word that I will listen to what you have to say, and do my best to integrate your thoughts into our vision of App.net.

On choosing to support join.app.net

If you like what we have to say, and want to ensure that this project gets to see the light of day, please back us here. If you remain skeptical and are still on the fence, I understand. All that I can humbly ask is that you follow our project updates, and keep enough of an open mind for us to potentially earn your trust in the future. Thanks.

 
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