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Don't write, build something

Follow our progress

I remember it well.

It was last March. Shayne and I were at the Whose News? conference at Harvard.

Between one of the sessions I found myself talking with Bill Gannon, Editorial Director of Yahoo!

I was asking what he’d like to see in a new paper we were working on when he suddenly stopped me.

“Don’t write anything. Just build something. And then sell it to us.”

The clarity and simplicity of his advice was undeniable. Writing, though it opened many opportunities for us, was ultimately about trying persuade others to action. Why not take action ourselves?

As autumn approached, Gannon’s advice still echoed in my head. But with so many ideas floating around the ol’ bean, I couldn’t settle on just one.

Then the phone rang.

“Hi, Chris? I was told I need to hire you.”

At first, I thought it was a case of mistaken identity or a crank call. But the caller sounded legit. I agreed to meet for lunch.

“So, what’s the project?”

“Well, I have a bunch of money, but don’t know what to build. Thought you might.”

By March, I had left my position as creative director at Ancestry.com and was working with a small, highly-skilled team in Lindon, Utah.

Since then, it’s been non-stop brainstorming, designing and researching. The family has had to deal with seeing Dad a little less but our blog and the follow-up report, We Media 2.0, have felt the brunt of neglect.

At the same time, Shayne has seen his efforts payoff and is working with Microsoft.

The bottom-line is that while we’ve taken a much needed break after four years of writing, things are good.

And, with a little luck, there will be a reward for the five-month silence on this blog: Something will be built.

For the curious, we’ve started a blog to share some details of our work-in-progress.

Posted on Oct 25, 2006 | 11:03 pm EST

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Hi guys! I definitely recall the conversation and my urging you to build - create - implement - what you had learned from your important research. I confess I don’t recall saying the “And then sell to us” part or I may have been joking if I said it but I am not writing here to quibble in any way...Instead I am writing to say that journalism - citizens, professionals, users, publishers, advertisers, and even Democracy (yes, with a capital “D") - needs more real new product innovators like you both. I am also writing to say that I am glad our conversation was useful and that I look forward to both your future writing and future products...My best to you both.

Posted by: Bill Gannon on Nov 19, 06 | 2:46 pm EST

 

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