The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

jpkthumb.jpgSix weeks ago, the first MyMissourian site died an ignominious death at the hands of rogue spammers (which is the Web equivalent of choking on a hot dog.)

Needless to say, as with any total Web site annihilation, there was a fair amount of teeth-gnashing, fingernail biting and general angst from the staff. I think I even saw Jeremy weep one manly tear of grief.

But, with the gracious help of the tech boys in the back room, we downloaded some content to fill the newshole of the print version of MyMissourian, refilled the grave of the Mambo version of MyMissourian and let her Rest In Peace.

Clyde, ever the master of HTML tables, rigged a quick placeholder to fill the URL and we waited a few days for the boys in the back to recode the site into WordPress. Now, six weeks later, it’s like it never happened. We have a new home, with more functionality with barely a beat missed. Indeed, if I weren’t so lazy, I could have written this post a month ago. The fluid changeover was almost imperceptible — so easy, in fact, I had to stop and reflect to realize what had just taken place.

Imagine if we were a print-only publication and our presses or whole building even had burned down? What would we have done, then? The teethgnashing and nailbiting would have been far more dramatic, to say the least. And, with the present financial state of the newspaper industry, it’s doubtful there would be such a swift rebirth, if a rebirth at all.

Sure, replacing a Web site is easier than replacing multi-million dollar presses, but that’s not the point here. Iterating is the point. That’s a word I first heard uttered in a Web setting by the Star Warsian Roelof Botha.

Botha is one of the “big-wigs” at Sequoia Capital and has made money as a venture capitalist on projects like PayPal and YouTube. His name gets bantered around with the likes of Michael Mortiz and Elon Musk. I once worked at a Web site in Santa Monica, mahalo.com, in which Sequoia Capital was a principal investor. Botha came to the office one day to give us a pep talk, not about the vulnerabilities of the Death Star, but about what would happen once mahalo.com went live.

In effect, nothing, he said.

While he sat at a table and chatted with us over some of the worst Hawaiian BBQ I have ever had the misfortune of eating, I stared at the back of his head and listened to him drone on about “Iterating, iterating, iterating.”

The site would go live, he said, and some aspects and applications would work well, others wouldn’t. We would get feedback from the “customers,” the Web users who would be using this “human powered search engine,” and we would have to adapt and iterate new versions to fit their needs.

To iterate, meant to move forward as fast as possible, all the while letting the market’s needs pare away the useless, the unpopular and the unprofitable. Iterating also met letting the market’s needs show us what we needed to incorporate into each successive version. Iterating is not a “thing” that you do per se. Instead, it’s a mindset, a way of life.

In this billionaire’s mind, iterating made for a successful Web business.

Newspapers don’t iterate. They are essentially the same as they were in the time of Ben Day. But there is hope for newspaper-related Web sites.

Without even knowing what we were doing, the MyMissourian team iterated when the Web site died it’s spammy death.

But, in our response, we weren’t thinking like newspaper guys who had a Web site, we were just thinking like Web guys who had a problem that needed fixing. Unconsciously, we had the right mindset, or, like programmer friend of mine said about Linux, “It’s really a lifestyle.”

And speaking of lifestyles… I wrote most of this post a few days ago. But, in the meantime, the New York Times published this article about the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It’s a good read, especially at the end when the boys whip-out their wallets. It appears Hollywood doesn’t iterate either.

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April 15, 2008 - Posted by | Joe Kokenge

1 Comment »

  1. Welcome to the site Joe! Nice comments. It’s funny how it took MyMissourian’s crash for us to realize how powerful free software like WordPress is. It begs the question, why don’t more news organizations farm their operations to other existing sites. Why not have Flickr handle your photos, for example?
    Maybe it’s the topic for a new post!

    Comment by Hans K. Meyer | April 15, 2008 | Reply


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