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DIY Now more than ever


Do it yourself web production is rivaling even the biggest internet players. Zero budgets or even nascent skills are no longer a barrier to launching successful web projects. Teams of two or three can accomplish what used to take large groups to produce. Learn how these bootstrappers used their abilities to turn good ideas into huge accomplishments without going into life-long debt or making a deal with the devil.


Moderator: Ted Rheingold Top Dog, Dogster Inc


Mike Hudack Co-Founder, blip.tv

Lynda Keeler Founder, Delight Network

Matt Mullenweg

Gina Trapani Editor, Lifehacker.com

Ted Rheingold Top Dog, Dogster Inc


note to self, check out blip.tv


Gina's top DIY tips. Speaking to independent devs who have some ideas and want to get started. We are in an interesting time - bubble is blowin up. Start for the right reasons - not bc you want to be a millionaire. fail fast and often. have your thunderbolt idea and just blost through it at do it. scratch the itch to make something, and you'll know much more quickly whether or not it is a failure.


Q&A begins almost immediately.


##do you get it out there immed or do you be quiet and work on it until it is perfect?


If your idea is the kind of thing where someone else knowing about it will crush you, it's probably not a very good one. It's allll about the execution, the ideas have no cash value.


##How does a DIYer pick a project?


It's never too late, even if the market is crowded. Keeler started her project (delight) to solve a problem she'd been having. Don't get scared by the scope of a project. Get ready for things to get harder than you ever thought. If it's too easy, someone else can come along and sweep you.


##How do you put together a team you can count on?


No one is going to be more passionate than you about your project - you have to put in the most hours, and respond to *everyone* who shows interest in your project.


##How do you compensate your team?


Keeler barters, paid her writer, and her designer for example gave her a very low rate but got lots o business from it. What do you have that they want? Motivation for open source people - community ownership. Wordpress guy: he have them soooo much credit, mnore than they deserved, and they worked more out of guilt for being praised.


How do you parcel when you are successful?


Success is not equivalent financial success. Get handshake agreements with witnesses, says Hudack. You don't want some guy coming back a year later demanding 10%. Intent is a big deal, people need to explicitly state what their expectations are, you don't need legalese. blog called "Founder Frustrations" : http://founderresearch.blogspot.com/


##How do you manage a group that is spread out, all working on own time on own schedules?


Communicate expectations clearly. Constant constant communication. Lifehacker uses Campfire and a wiki. Make tasks small and clear as possible. WP guy: "Open Source devs are usually used to flaming eachother to a crips over email and then getting dinner together." he just called using his own tools "dogfooding it". lol.


##Most of Keeler's dev is done in Romania. how's that work?


It really really helps if you can show them mockups, wireframes, photoshop files, as specific as possible at first, then they learn what you want and what you need when you say things. But they raise their rates and get too busy for you.


##Legal issues.


Just getting a domain name doesn't mean that you have the right to use that name in business. Blip has a team of attorneys. Some lawyers will work with deferred payment. Blip found that every lawyer that they wanted to deal with was willing to work something out. TESS is the trademark search site. Check it out, find lawyerfriend. "Nolo press" books on trademarking and such and so forth - if you can write PHP you can write your own trademark appli.


##How do you keep your own identity separate from that of your product?


Your project becomes a living organism that you simply can't walk away from.


##How to publicize?


Keeler is from Hwood. Hwood is all about swag. Giving lots of stuff away is important. Swag is a line item in their budget. Tracking different writers so that you know how to present your product in a way that works for them. Wordpress community made their own tshirts, woke them up to the fact that ppl wanted swag. Ask yourself what about your product is viral? "hey, cute dog, is it on dogster?" WP says people simply using his project is the best marketing. Blip started having dinner with people that might want to use their product to find out what they wanted. Participated on mailing lists, etc - basically found out where the vlogger community was an participated in it - not in a crass marketing way, but actually joined their communities. Keep your users happy, and they will market for you. Blip: "Give them your IM if you think they might be reasonably sane." GT: keep a live product blog, be open about what's going on in your company. She refers 37signals as a good example. Follow who is writing about it, comment them. Dogster guy: don't get frustrated if it doesn't catch on. If you believe in the product, just keep the blog lively, stick with it every day, and keep up that passion. "Overnight sensations" really take years of work. Apparent failure does not equal failure.


Highs and lows of DIY


You're on top of the world when it works, but when things are broke and you can't fix them, you are on your own - no company to support you. Just recognize that everything comes in phases. Celebrate little successes, that one feedback email, that one blog post. Your life has to come first, you can't alienate the people around you. can't stay up all night every night. dogster: when i find self freaking out, tell self "it's just dogs on the internet."


##How to fail forward:


Failing forward is important, but don't ruin your important connections. Running into your limits is good because it gives you more information regarding your capacity. If you just know that "when things go well they go well" you don't really get anywhere. Success is just one failure away.


##How do you make money with your diy?


wp: paid upgrades, hosting, etc. blip: the more you help people make money the more money you make yourself. others ad-supported. If you are ad supported, the more niche you are the more likely you are to find advertisers. WP is a strong believer in giving as much away as humanly possible. The value you get from people who love you is more important than the ten bucks a month you get from them by stealing their features otherwise.




After a year, blip got to quit his job. WP says it is too early to call them a success. He says it is because they gave a tremendous amount to users and they gave a tremendous amount back.

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