I wish I had invented something like twitter, back then, when nobody knew twitter. Oh, wait, I had! Kind of…
Pretty much everybody agrees that ideas are worthless. Most people I know think that you need the right idea at the right time. They know that there needs to be more than an idea, but they still think the idea is the major part of success. That’s wrong, of course :) An idea can be a good start but it will not nearly be enough. The idea and the right time might not matter that much at all.
In the beginning of 2007 twitter already existed, but hardly anybody knew it. Their first big increase in users was at the SXSW festival 2007. Back then I started to write very short messages about how I feel on my blog (you can still read them in the archive):
Several people liked that, so I created some accounts and wrote some PHP code that would display their “mood” in a single feed. I discussed the whole idea with Rene Pirringer and we decided to create a specialized web site called “presentmood.com” (it is now offline).
Together we wrote a bunch of PHP code and deployed the site in March 2007 (*). It had most of the features twitter had back then but was slightly different. The site allowed users to express how they feel (Twitter: what they do) in less than 160 characters (Twitter: 140). Implementing a character limit was pretty obvious for us because we wanted to be able to control the site by SMS.
What went wrong? Maybe our idea was not as good as Twitter. Maybe we were just a little late (Twitter had a head-start of 9 Months and already had a lot of users). But I think this is not what happened.
What happend was that we deployed the software and then… did nothing. Sure, what we deployed was a good start, but we considered it to be a finished version 1.0, so we just sat there and wondered why nobody sent us feedback. We did not actively promote the site. We did not continuously improve the software. We had ideas for version 2.0, but we didn’t implement them because we did not want to waste time on a site that did not catch on.
I now think that this was our biggest mistake - that we did not invest time because we thought the site was not working. I think we could have had a lot more users if we just had continued to work on the software and pushed hard to promote the site for a couple of months. I am not saying that we would have come close to twitter, but I am sure we would have had more than 50 users.
I now have another hobby project that does not seem to take off - gclimbing.com - but this time, I will keep pushing. At the moment I am working on some improvements of the software, and I do more to promote the site. Maybe this time I’ll get it right.
(*) I think that was when I heard about twitter first, although I am not sure anymore.