I was talking to a great Google engineer about how Google development can be like a flywheel. Google doesn’t tend to do big bang announcements, but instead goes for incremental growth.
Get something out in beta, and then keep iterating. No vapor, keep the code coming.
We just saw the Gmail Labs announcement, and the wall that shows the iterations of Gmail over the last couple of years. It is cool to see how the extension points are growing. First, people would start tweaking Gmail via Greasemonkey. Then, the Gmail team created some nice formal extension points for Greasemonkey to give a cleaner API. It is interesting to see web applications publicly putting an API out there to make the scripts less brittle. Now with Gmail Labs we see a way to plugin more deeply. The next step.
As I think about the flywheel concept I see how it can be successful elsewhere. It can be hard to keep the pressure up and keep pushing.
The Blogging Grind
I notice this a lot with blogging in fact. I remember back in the day, working on TheServerSide, and having other Enterprise Java communities startup all over. A fine gent sets up ilovemetheEJB.com, starts posting a few times a day, and tries to grow their community. However, three weeks into it Johny Poster realizes that the daily grind is…. grinding. Finding regular posts is hard and time consuming. Two months later and the site is down for the count.
In fact, The Grind is one big reason that TheServerSide and Ajaxian grew. It sure as hell isn’t my writing style!
Hitting the flywheel elsewhere
I am going to try to keep the flywheel pattern going elsewhere in work and life. Wouldn’t it be nice to instead of jumping into a crazy work out / diet regime that only lasts a couple of days…. you start small and slowly grow in a way in which you can manage it.
What if your open source project doesn’t have documentation. Instead of trying to sit down and write the book, how about committing to one short article a week?
Slowly, slowly, catchy, monkey.