Minimal Mass

I was searching for something else in Google Reader, but it seemed timely to resurface this note:

A great example of why I’m skeptical of [app-centric RFPs]. Rather than focusing on critical mass, I’d rather see a requirement of “minimal mass” : Who do you need participating in order to demonstrate a proof of concept of the outcome/social effects? Fund it in Stages:

1. Fund the outreach organizing of a minimal mass who will serve as focus groups during the development phase

2. Then fund development of the app buildout

This would help with what I dislike about [app-centric RFPs]: not that they fund bad projects, but that the process is structured to encourage exactly these outcomes: a focus on a novel function/problem rather a novel audience (who then needs that function/solution).

This was inspired by Ryan Sholin announcing the closure of ReportOn:

…a few recommendations for developers of software “for journalists”:

  • Reporters don’t want to talk about unpublished stories in public.
  • Unless they’re looking for sources.
  • There are some great places on the Internet to find sources.
  • When they do talk about unpublished stories among themselves, they do it in familiar, well-lit places, like email or the telephone. Not in your application.
  • Actually, keep this in mind: Unless what you’re building meets a very journalism-specific need, you’re probably grinding your gears to build something “for journalists” when they just need a great communication tool, independent of any particular niche or category of users.

And I recognize that “critical” mass and “minimal” mass should be equivalent, but somewhere along the way critical mass became related to sustaining the growth of the community, not the benefits membership accorded (probably cause you make weasely appeals to “network effects” just beyond the horizon… and ad impressions)

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