Update: This is a detailed account of the creation of JellyTelly. Since JellyTelly now exists, you can just skip this narrative if you want and go straight to the real thing at www.JellyTelly.com! (Then come back later and read all the details!) – Phil
Many of you have emailed to ask, “Hey Phil, whatcha workin’ on these days?” Typically, my response to these queries has been, “Too soon to say – but you’ll hear about it soon!” I realize I’ve been saying this for well over a year now, which may lead some folks to wonder how exactly I define the word “soon.”
The fact is… we are working on something pretty interesting here at Jellyfish Labs. And I have been meaning to tell you all about it – just as soon is it was ready to go and all polished up. The trouble is that the old saying about home remodeling holds true for new business ventures as well: “Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you think.” Our new venture is taking a long time to put together, and I’ve been trying to keep it more or less “secret” until it was all ready to go.
Well, I’m a big fan of Apple (as I write this on my MacBook with my iPod in my pocket). I love how Apple will create something new under complete secrecy, then one day Steve Jobs will walk out on stage, and with a wave of his hand, voila! Boom! The iPod! Boom! The iPhone! And by the way, you can buy it… tomorrow! (Or next week – or whatever.) And the press says, “Holy cow! How did he do that? It’s magic!” And everyone swoons and the new, amazing, didn’t-see-that-coming product is a big hit.
So I think that’s what I wanted to with our new project. Voila! Boom! “Where did that come from? It’s perfect! We’re swooning!” Maybe this was my favorite model for launching a new project, or maybe it was just the model that was on my mind, what with all the Apple-hoopla. (I think that was the original name of the company – “Apple-hoopla.”) So that’s what I was aiming for, and that’s why I wasn’t revealing anything.
And then I noticed another model. I was reading about a guy named Evan Williams, the guy who more or less invented blogging with his easy-to-use software, Blogger. He later sold his first company to Google, then struck out on his own a few years later to do his next “big thing.” What was interesting, was that he blogged about everything – the rise of Blogger, the sale to Google, the decision to leave Google, the fact that he didn’t have a clue what he was going to do next – everything. Nothing was secret. No years of silence and then a sudden voila! at a big media event.
As I thought about the two models, the Apple model seemed almost “old-school” – it was a model geared for a mass market, dependent on mass media. It was a model that assumed the creative genius – Steve Jobs in this case – had all the right answers, and could dazzle the crowd with a fully-formed solution to whatever ailed them. Evan Williams model, though, was smaller scale and iterative. It was web 2.0. Involve your ultimate audience in the whole process – not just the grand revelation. Get your ideas out there early, and let your friends poke at them, contribute to them, improve them. Let them vest in the process, not just the final product. Take cues from the open source movement. Less Microsoft, more Mozilla.
Immediately, the question appeared before me, as if handwritten by God on the wall: “Why aren’t you talking about what you’re making?” “Because it isn’t finished!” I responded. “Let them help you make it better,” God replied. (Okay, this wasn’t actually a conversation between me and God… but grant me the creative license.) I realized I was being silly. I was trying to be Steve Jobs in a world that had gone all Evan Williams on me. Especially since what we’re developing here at Jellyfish is really more of a “movement” than a product. And, let’s face it, even if I “perfect it” and pull off an amazing Steve Jobs-ian launch event, Business Week still isn’t going to give a rip. Being the VeggieTales guy is cool and all, but it isn’t quite like being “the father of the personal computer.”
"So – what’s the point, you rambling, blogging fool?" The point is – it’s time to pull back the curtain. It’s time to open up the lab and invite everyone inside, to poke around, ask questions, and leave Post-it notes all over the place. It’s a new day. It’s a new blog. It’s time for you all to join the movement.