Dan Gillmor tells the story of Bayosphere, as he turns away.
There’s been a lot of discussion about this. It’s good that he told the story after the fact, but it’s too late to do anything to help. What if Dan had been blogging the process as he was going along. Yes, people would have taken shots at it, that’s always going to happen (you can see that in my proposal yesterday to create a connection between two promising open source projects). But, people who might have partnered with Dan’s company might have had their creativity activated if it had been discussed openly. To me it was a puzzle what Dan was doing. Too bad we couldn’t participate in the process while it still was a process.
As CEO of UserLand, I tried to narrate my process, best I could. So there’s not much of a post mortem to write, it’s already been written, it’s in the archive of my weblog.
I disagree strongly with Adam Green’s assertion that you must be able to consider the possibility of failure. I’ve learned, through both successful and failed startups that the only times I’ve been successful was when I couldn’t visualize failure. That’s different from anticipating downturns, there are always ups and downs in any ongoing business. I remember trying to imagine what the last day at Living Videotext would look like, and I just couldn’t imagine it. I knew the day would likely come, but I didn’t see how I could lock the door for the last time, calling it a failure. Where would I go then, what would I do? The times that I have visualized failure, I did fail. The times I couldn’t, I didn’t. Hardly proof, but still a belief of mine.
Anyway, it’s good that Dan wrote this piece. I was going to give him a hard time about it, his silence was conspicuous, as he transitioned away from the startup into his new jobs at Berkeley and Berkman (two places I’m pretty close to, kind of weird that way). Journalists often over-simplify what it’s like to be an individual entrepreneur. Maybe now Dan can inject new reality into the world of journalism. Gaining traction as an independent is hard to do, and when it happens we might be more careful about turning things over to the BigCo’s so quickly.