Those of you who visited Bloggers without Borders back in December and January who have visited it in the last month or so have no doubt noticed a change; it got real quiet. This is not because Sean, Jonas and I suddenly decided it was a bad idea. It’s just that it was Sean, Jonas and I doing most everything when it was hopping and we are some of the worst people you could choose for a site to depend on our full attention. We are just too busy to give it all it deserves.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned in taking on a major project like this:
1. You need at least one person who can devote at least 20 hours a week to it, week after week.
2. You need more than one person who knows how to make all the backend technical stuff work.
3. You need to make time for a weekly meeting – in person, chat session, on the phone, whatever – between the key people on the site where you talk about not the project of the moment or crisis du jour, but about where you’re going with the site, whether you’re meeting your goals (or if they’ve changed), and what needs to happen in the next week.
4. You need to keep a list of stuff that needs doing and the kind of person who could do it AND who can supervise the project. This will allow you to put interested volunteers to work so you can both find out if they are a good fit for the project. If they work out well, then give them more from the list or let them evolve to a more responsible position.
5. Each of the key people should have two more lists: "Things I’d like to be able to delegate" and "Things I’d like to be able to spend more time on". This feeds into making good use of those more responsible & involved people when they come along and provides a safety valve to keep your key people from burning out.
6. You should also keep a big list of finite tasks which you can give to those people who don’t have much time but do have major skill or clout. Find a way to make use of them instead of having an "all or nothing" approach to involvement.
Why are half my points lists? Yes, okay, I do like lists, but it’s not just that; key people will get busy and need to drop out. They get new projects, have babies, change jobs, fall in love, get sick, or just plain need time off. It’s important to get ideas out of their heads and into the group’s knowledge before they fade out of the project.
Does all this mean that Bloggers without Borders will stay quiet? Not necessarily. Does it mean I may not be very involved in the next few months? Yeah, probably. Does it mean you shouldn’t take on your big wild idea? Hell no. If nothing else we promoted the idea, tested the technology and, incidently, raised a pile of money for tsunami relief. I’m mighty happy about all that.