Hey You Kids! Get ON My Lawn!
(Note: In the process of moving from one host to another – part of the “Live and Learn” approach I have no choice but to take, some things, such as these posts, have had to be recreated. In the process, I lost the comments that were made. Or rather, I lost them as comments that could be directly carried over as comments here. I still have the text of them, so I’ve included them at the bottom of this post.)
Given that this site is only a week old and has yet to become the home to any sort of content, it should come as no surprise that this isn’t what I do for a living.
By day, I’m your average Corporate Drone, toiling away to help make rich, old white guys even richer. By night…well, by night I’m not much of anything, during the week, at least, because I’m mentally exhausted from spending the day in the cubicle farm, and physically exhausted because I get up ridiculously early in order to get back to the cubicle farm before traffic can begin in earnest.
In any case, in my day job, I work in what’s known as Knowledge Management. What that entails isn’t important, but I mention it simply as a way of introducing a concept from my current vocation.
Most people are familiar with the Law of Supply and Demand, but there’s a Knowledge Management-specific version of that Law that sort of inverts the standard concept.
In essence, this variation states that in order to identify what you need to Supply, you need to first find out what’s in Demand. The illustrative anecdote presented when I was getting my Knowledge Management certification involved an architect who’d been hired to design a college campus.
Once construction had been well-underway, someone noticed that the architect hadn’t included any sidewalks between buildings in the design. This wasn’t an oversight; the idea was that they would open up without any sidewalks in place, plant some grass seed, and then wait a month or two to see what routes the students took when they were left to make the decision for themselves. Once some clear pathways emerged, they put in the sidewalks in those locations.
The Demand for a path determined where they would Supply the sidewalk.
Though I wasn’t familiar with that anecdote when I first conceived of OpenDoor Comics, looking back I can see that I was thinking very much in terms of this Law of Supply and Demand. I saw, and continue to see, a demand for comics that are more reflective of the diversity of readers and creators that populate the world, that can, in some small way, start to address some of the injustices and short-sightedness of the industry and a demand to remove some of the barriers to entry, and to more fully embrace the opportunities that digital media present for all of us as fans and creators.
And now that I’ve started the process of supplying, I’m still thinking in terms of demand. As it stands, OpenDoor Comics is like that college without the sidewalks. Just as the architect knew that what he needed to provide was a paved pathway between the buildings but took a wait and see attitude about where to do the paving, I know what I want to use the site to supply, but I still need some demand in order to work out the how of it.
To move away from the metaphor, I know that I want people to begin publishing their original content here, and I know that I want to supply a method for doing so that is as simple and hassle-free as possible, and I know that I want to provide additional support and services that go well beyond simply giving people a place to post their content. But while I’ve worked out much of what that service and support will entail, and I have a lot of ideas, particularly on the technical side, about workflow and the sign-up and publishing process, what I really need is for people to begin using the very rudimentary and not-so simple process of becoming a contributor.
I could sink some money into development resources and build some high-tech, automated provisioning system and publishing workflow, and hire some designers to build me a shiny UI that has all the latest bells and whistles, but who knows if that would actually meet the demand?
In many ways, to return to the sidewalk metaphor, as I continue to reach out to creators and ask them to begin contributing content, I’m really asking them to walk on the grass seed and help me identify the best path.
Sure, your shoes will probably get dirty and grass-stained, and your heels will get stuck in the mud on rainy days, but the end result of your patience will be the best path to your destination, and you will have helped to blaze a trail for others to follow.
So please, keep ON the grass!
Great ideas, keep on being awesome, Jon!
(P.S. Thanks, Jenny!)
What you just described was what my sort of folk (small business owners) would call a “LEAN Startup” strategy. Spend the smallest amount of resources to test a concept before spending more to improve or expand on it. I wish that my creative talents allowed me to contribute here (I have degrees and experience in theatre and films, but I can’t draw worth a lick), but if you ever need someone to bounce business ideas off, hit me up.
– John Brandt