As I've announced here, we've recently taken the difficult decision to put development of Citrus in hold, indefinitely (let's be realistic, probably forever). I'm now wondering what if anything we should announce about our new project.
Is openness a strength or a weakness? Is there value to the community in publicly documenting our design decisions, and how we've come to them? Is it something our competitors could and would use against us? Is there anyway to mitigate the effects?
I like what Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have done with their series of podcasts on the Stack Overflow blog where they've released their design meetings as a series of podcasts and given us all an insight into how they've come to some of the decisions they've taken. But let's face it I'm neither Jeff or Joel and I don't get anywhere near their traffic. So the first obvious question I'm asking myself is if it's even worth the effort of writing posts, let alone recording and releasing podcasts.
Next is the question about maintaining a competitive advantage, given the fact that our team is so small, just the two of us at the moment; I'm only working about half time on the project and Simon, who isn't a coder is working even less. So giving someone a guide to competing with us could be downright foolish. Then again, nobody is really listening are they? So does it even matter?
The other question, which I think is equally important as the project grows - hopefully into a product is what if any level of openness is appropriate post launch? Will an open discussion of ongoing design decisions as they're being taken before, or even as they're released be of any benefit to the community? Communities can be some of the biggest supporters and can be some of your most passionate users - sometimes these passions can work both ways? What level of support ongoing will a public discussion of the decisions you're taking, before users have all the prototyped interfaces to play with, be required? Is there an ongoing effort you'll need to make to maintain the level of trust and confidence of the community?
I think I've talked myself out of a podcast of our internal discussions, for now - but I'm still keen to use community interaction to help us develop a product that meets the needs of the people who are interested in using it and to drum up support and interest in the project. I'll no doubt return to this topic in the coming weeks as I develop a clearer idea of how I think we should accomplish that.
If any of the few of you out there listening have any questions or comments, please let me know your thoughts.