“Why are you building readershideout.com when sites like Shelfari.com, BookChums.com, linkedin.com (the book list part), GoodReads.com and a dozen others exist out there?”
We've been asked this question multiple times, on facebook, on this blog, on one on one discussions and during long walks and my personal opinion is that this question is actually bigger question than reader’s hideout so I’m going to take some time and answer this to the best of my abilities.
The question really boils down to saying, “If anything close to my idea exists on the web should I even be building an implementation or should I spend the rest of my life waiting for another idea to show up?”
The reasons are multiple of course, but here I some I feel fairly strongly about.
I. Many Italian Restaurants.
I’ve talked about this before so I’m going to keep this point real short. We are perfectly ok with the idea of having two Spanish or Italian restaurants existing around the block but we cringe when we think about having two similar websites anywhere on the internet. Personally I still believe that even though the total distance from any website to another on the internet is just one click, there is some solid value in having choice of websites and services out there.
For one, it pushes innovation and allows the service owners to put a little bit of themselves and a whole lot of their imagination in the service. But then there are other bigger reasons why if you have an idea, a willingness to make a difference and the ability to contribute an implementation towards that idea you should go ahead an implement that idea, which transitions us to our next point.
II. There is No Abstract Art. You Always Start By Building Something Real.
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something (real). Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality.” - Pablo Picasso.
Readers hideout is our attempt at making reading cool and providing you a gorgeous way to discuss books and meet interesting readers out there. We had a few ideas that would make Readers Hideout completely different from any of the other book tracking service out there. We had two options:
- Hide in a cave, build something for a year which implemented every single one of those different ideas, throw it out to you guys and see if it works.
- Throw out a basic version of the website that looks like most other services, ship it and then work on “removing all traces of reality” gradually over time.
We chose the latter. There is a reason why you do not see book categories on the website. There is a reason why we didn’t go out there and build the user group functionality. The honest comment here is that we don’t know all the answers yet but we’re also deeply convinced that the approaches most book sites out there allow readers to communicate are not the best of the approaches possible.
We’re deeply convinced that there is a better way of allowing users to discuss a book. More on this later and we will be announcing each “abstract” or fun feature when we release it and we’ll be talking about precisely how different it is from any other website out there.
The point is that we need a live “real” code base shipped and working in production before we could start experimenting on it and start shipping some serious abstract art.
III. The Vibe.
Even though reader’s hideout looks like most other book-sites out there the list of features that will start showing up in the next couple of months will start setting a very different vibe to the service. I would love to talk about it but I realize that talking without a real implementation in hand is just lame marketing. I’ll keep the stories on hold till we have something real to show you and I promise you we’ll talk about some of these very different features when they go live.
IV. Why Not
No, seriously. Think about it. Here you are with an idea so strong that it will not let you go, even when multiple other implementations exist out there. You brush it aside a couple of times and it keeps coming back.
Then on one fine evening when you have nothing else to do you sit down to code a tiny part of the idea into existence and you really love working on the idea.
After working for hours you feel all charged up and excited.
You keep doing that weekend after weekend. And in the process you learn how to tweak your application for performance, how you can return the cleanest possible HTML back to the users, how you can do AJAX JSON calls without using ASP.NET Ajax and a thousand other things always wanted to try out before.
The cost of hosting a website or a service is cheaper than ever before making guerilla services like Readers Hideout possible.
The other day someone asked me what my business model was and I told him I don't need one. The cost of keeping Readers Hideout up and running is so low that I plan on keeping it up even if I and a couple of friends are the only people on the system for the next few months.
When the cost of running a service is so low, the intrinsic rewards are so high, effort and passion are the only two requirements, the real question I have to ask you is, why aren’t you doing it too?
Why don’t you take an idea that you have, stop worrying about if someone else has built it, see what you can add to that idea and start shipping?
And then when someone asks you why are you building a service that already exist out there, you can just point them to this post and I’ll take up the tasks of arguing with them on comments. #grins.
On a serious note, we are going to be working on some pretty amazing features on reader’s hideout. My only suggestion would be, stay tuned to this blog and we’ll keep you informed about the features we add.
The series of blog posts is not just going to cover readers hideout but larger more generic questions and things that we learn along the way as we move ahead with readers hideout.
Thanks so much for the questions, for trying out Readers hideout and for continuing to read this blog!