On.. Having a compelling idea

I have recently been reading this article on Wired about the winners and losers in the Web2.0 world. I find it interesting that the winners all conform to a rule I’ve personally been extolling for a while, what I find disturbing is that the losers do as well.

My rule is simple : Don’t do anything that anyone else is doing (unless you can do it significantly better or different)

It is a single sentence two part rule. Don’t do anything that anyone else is doing. This isn’t in terms of details like tagging or search or whatever, but it is in terms of overall principle. If you describe your idea to someone and they say “that’s like x, y or z” you best make sure you fulfill the bracketed section of that statement. There is no problem with doing something that someone else is doing, although you will have issues entering the market place. If for example I decided to do a new photo sharing site I would defiantly require it to be better than or significantly different to Flickr. That lesson you can learn from the winners in the Wired list, however the losers also conformed to this rule. So it will serve you well enough to get you noticed and used but perhaps not guarantee success.

Inventing, finding or building the next big thing is possible for small developers still, you don’t need a team of developers, swanky offices and huge amounts of VC financing to achieve the next big thing. However at least one of the losers on the Wired list failed because of lack of scalability. So I have added a second mini rule for starting out. Develop for success. It is all to easy on the web to quickly develop a proof of concept or a working prototype, and then get that out there. However when it starts to become a success or you start adding requested functionality you learn that your system should be much more efficient. This can have dramatic effects on your products agility within the marketplace as well as the speed of your system in a live high volume user environment. Which in the fickle world of web will mean users going else where.

I touched on it briefly in the Digital Divide entry, if you want to identify up coming trends and potential new businesses have a look at what other countries are doing that your country isn’t. There has been a great series of articles on ReadWriteWeb about popular websites in different countries around the world. I was particularly interested to read the ones about South Korea and Japan. It is intriguing the way that the Japanese web has a lot of convergence with mobile technology. This is a trend I’m starting to notice within my own development circle, we are getting more and more requests to make things accessible from mobile devices, or at least have an email component so they can be used via a Blackberry. Microsoft’s TechEd in Barcelona has a strand for integrating mobile devices and a number of those seminars have gained ticks next to them as a must visit.

You can’t guarantee success on the web, but you can avoid guaranteeing failure. Don’t do anything that anyone else is doing (unless you can do it significantly better or different) and build for success.

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