The Death of the Idea

What value is there in an idea that never sees the light of day?  Many times, we come up with fantastic ideas.  The next great American novel.  The next great web project.  The next multi-billion dollar disruptive innovation.  But 99 times out of 100, the idea dies in its infancy.

We create a great plan, bounce it around inside our head, then let the spark of imagination and brilliance fizzle out without explaining it to anyone else.  The idea dies, and we trudge on through life towards the next disappointment.

This is not the way things should be.

On my birthday last year, the founding father of WordPress published a fantastic article explaining the ambitious objective of releasing a buggy first version of everything.  The revolutionary idea behind this is that your first version won’t be perfect, and if you spend too much time trying to add shine and polish, your project will never get off the ground.  dkny sweater

No one will ever see your website.  No one will read your book.  Your new restaurant will never have its grand opening.

To keep an idea from dying, you need to infuse it time to time with the creative energies of others.  Put it out into the market, let people poke at it and tear things apart.  Then revise, rebuild, and release a new, improved second edition.  That is how you keep an idea from dying.

Case in Point

Years ago, I discovered a plug-in for WordPress that allows users to upload and manage downloadable documents on their website.  My employer was using it at the time, and I’ve set up at least three clients with it since then.  Unfortunately, the last time the plug-in was updated was May 2007.

It was buggy, and I guess the original developer got tired of polishing it.  The idea died, and the community suffered as a result.

So this past year, I elected to take on the mantle of development.  I re-wrote the plug-in to use an up-to-date version of WordPress and re-released it to the community under a similar name.  It’s not perfect, and won’t be for a while, but the goal was to get it out not to get it to perfection.

This weekend, a user noticed a bug – there was an extra space at the end of a file – that caused the entire thing to break quite brilliantly.  I fixed it, and quickly got out a new release.

Keeping an idea from dying requires perseverance and community effort.  What idea do you have simmering on the back burner that would benefit from being “out there” in the market?


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