Out of stealth at 106 Miles

Speaking about stuff and nonsense

Went and was a “contender” at Joyce Parks’ and Adam “I Find Karma” Rifkin 106 Miles gathering tonight against Kevin “Rank that Tail” Burton.

Yeah well, I think there was less antagonism than Joyce might have hoped for, but nevertheless, it was a good chance to actually express some of my varied views on the state of open source, the Bubble 2.0, the whole stealth/beta thing… and a couple other topics. Maybe someone will podcast it, I dunno.

David Weekly told me his biggest takeaway had to do with having some humility when launching something on the web… which, I admit, Flock did not. And which, I admit, caused us to experience a trial by fire that taught us a great deal about the way things are… and about the important of expressing, with clarity and honesty, why you might not exactly have the kind of humility one should have when coming out and boldly pronouncing that you’re going to change the world…

Well, I’ll keep it brief, but the story goes like this: I came to San Francisco a little over a year and half ago. And when I got here, I knew no one. But through the power of networks, open source… getting involved in Mozilla and CivicSpace at the right time, hell, I was able to get the job I currently have now, doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing: taking back control over technology and putting it to work for regular folks (myself included!).

So when I came to Flock and helped formulate the vision for what they should build, well shit, I was full of vim and vinegar and busting to tell the world all about it.

And so I did. Publicly. On our website. On our website that asked for your email address. And that was just like the countless other “private beta” sites that cropped up around the Web 2.0 conference.

Which was fine and good and so on, but that now represents something dirty or tainty it seems. Well whatever, that’s not the important thing here.

The issue is how we launched Flock… and how all this beautiful enthusiasm and hope and optimism turned into vengeful anti-hype and disdain. And whether or not, given the opportunity, I would have done anything differently.

The answer, simply, is, “no”.

We endured a trial by fire that any project with our level of visibility deserved. We underwent a continued scorching that demanded to know whether or not we were legit or just the first in what might become a trend in Mozilla-derivative businesses using the success of Firefox to get ahead.

Are we? Well, I don’t know. Really. That’s not the project that I think I’m working on, but I’m just a lucky kid who happened into this mix of things. And I’m emboldened by the success I found on the Mozilla project; on having my ad in the New York Times, on being mentioned in Wired and Rolling Stone. These are things I never dreamed of when I came out here — why would I? But having experienced them — serendipitously — I’m convinced, as I was prior to Web 2.0, that what we’re doing is important, is relevant, has the potential to change things… and for the better.

What we didn’t communicate when we launched was a timeline — was how long it would take to get to the fabled One Dot Oh, if indeed that denomination even makes sense anymore. While I was going off on how we were going to change the web and, by extension, the world, I forget to mention that, Oh yeah, this’ll take us a couple years. So don’t hold your breath… just yet.

But y’know, at the same time — well, I’m glad that we said what we said. I’m proud of the vision that we have for Flock. It’s saying something — it’s taking a risk where it might make more “sense” to stick with conventional wisdom of what a browser is all about… And heck, I don’t know if we’re going to succeed and make this thing happen now, today, this time around. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that we’re asking these questions, now, that browser-makers can start to think about expanding beyond the baseline concepts of “history” and “bookmarks” in the browser and start to incorporate “people”… “web services”… “syndicated content”. And on and on.

Anyway, as I’ve just blabbed all this out, this is part of the humility — the mea culpa of saying, “Man, did we learn a lot!” And yeah, I’m sharing it with you just because, well, it’s worth knowing that if we had it to do all over again, maybe a touch more of humility would have helped, but no, I wouldn’t do it any different than what we did.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

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