Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ship first, ask questions later.

"If it fits, it ships."

That’s a hell of a tagline used by the USPS to describe their flat rate boxes.  The USPS, by the way, is the best shipper in the country, hands down, but that’s a topic for another post.  Full disclosure: I do think the government can get it right some times.

Anyway, that’s not what this is about.  When I hear the phrase “If it fits, it ships,” I don’t think about red white and blue boxes, I think about MVPs.  MVP is such a loose term these days, everyone uses it to describe their product, and their product is never a true MVP.  I believe in a militant style of minimum viable product development.  It should be small in scope, and then cut out 25% of that.  Then ship it.  Whatever you can fit into that iteration is what you ship.  Make the original timeline you set out for yourself.  Timelines always get pushed.  What you think will take 8 weeks takes 12.  Or 14.  

My theory is: Ship whatever the hell you have finished in those first 8 weeks.  Then keep working.

You’ll have 100% more customers with a half-finished product that's actually on the market than you will with something that only lives in development on your laptop.  I promise.

[Redacted Yoda quote about 'doing' and 'trying']

In this modern web world, it’s those that can ship products that will win the race.  The race is to market.  People get confused and think that their idea is their baby, and they don’t want to be the mother with the ugly baby.  I promise you, by the time you’ve built a gorgeous baby, someone with an ugly baby is already getting paid for their ugly baby.  Sorry, you just missed the baby boat.  It sailed.

I treat writing the same way.  You don’t know it, but I just deleted 50 words I didn’t like.  This article is an MVP of it's own.  A crappy one, I admit.

The Takeaway

You might be asking yourself, “What the hell has this guy shipped?”  And to that, I would like to say: “Shit, I work for an agency.  Do as I say, not as I half-assedly do.”


  1. Someone gave me the advice "If you're not embarassed by your first version, you've waited too long to ship". That's mostly my philosophy (and why emit is on version 0.4 instead of 0.1 right now.) ;)

  2. I mostly agree, but would also argue that you should be talking to customers on day 1. Don't launch the MVP that's just in your head, launch the MVP of the thing you already know there are customers willing to pay for (bonus tip: actually ask for pre-orders, not just "would you buy this thing")?

    1. That's a great point. I guess an unspoken assumption is that you have a product that you know solves some sort of problem, or some problem you're having yourself.

    2. You'd be surprised how many people either; skip that step altogether, very softly validate it, or assume that a clear problem is the same as a clear problem that people are willing to pay money to solve.

    3. I think that plays to the same 'I don't want my baby to be called ugly' idea that people might think your idea is stupid.

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