The New Shiny

I recently read a very good interview with Jason Fried on The Great Discontent, and one of the answers towards the end of the interview struck me:

The other advice is to focus on one thing. I see a lot of entrepreneurs build something and then move onto the next thing and the next thing and the next. Building something is only step one. It’s not that hard to put something out there. Building on top of that to maintain and improve it is actually the harder thing to do. Anyone can release something, but it’s much harder to polish and refine it over time once it’s out there.

I admit I've been tempted by this same thing many times—trying out new idea after new idea, leaving the old to gather cobwebs in a closet. Lately I've been refocusing on some of my older, mildly successful projects, like my Hosted Apache Solr service and Server (they're not that old compared to other mature services, but they're old for me).

Later in the interview:

Creating things that are lasting is what great cultures do. When you travel in Europe and see structures that have been around for hundreds of years, you think, “This culture cared to make something that would last forever.” What are we creating today that’s going to last for 20, 50, or 100 years?

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis - Nave Photo by Jeff Geerling

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (pictured above) was built and its interior artwork completed over the course of more than 70 years. It would not be the masterpiece it is today (one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world!) if the artisans had given up after finishing the rough brick and concrete shell of the building. Still today, parts of the façade are rough hewn stone, waiting for a chisel to refine the building further.

Instead of progressing from one new idea to the next, over and over, hoping to strike it rich with one, why not spend some time taking one of your good ideas and making a truly beautiful product, carving out the details that take the product from something good to something great, and showing your customers that you truly care about them and what makes their lives better.

I love the products I use from developers and small companies who truly put themselves into the polish and functionality, rather than a bunch of random features and bugfixes that simply sell the product. Companies like Panic and Toggl make products that are now beautiful and functional tools that work exactly how you expect, through thousands of incremental refinements.

This level of polish takes time and patience—don't ruin your great idea by abandoning it too quickly.