The Luxury of Launching into Obscurity

As I was getting my blog ready, there was a large part of me that wanted to hold back until I had something meaningful to contribute. But there was another part of me that realized that at this point, it doesn’t matter. When I launch my blog, no one will notice. When I write a new post, I will be the only one that will care. If there are problems, or if there is something with which I am not happy, I can change it easily, and no one else will ever know.

This feeling of obscurity is simultaneously intimidating and empowering. I have already considered some of the empowering consequences, and now want to explore more of the intimidating aspects. When you know that almost no one will consume what you create, there is little incentive to deliver quickly. It can be extremely hard to build the discipline to start shipping.

So how do you conquer this?

One thing that I have learned in shipping my apps is that when you focus on creating something that is meaningful, people appreciate that. My first app, Pointedly, was a project that was part of my path in learning iOS development. I worked on it together with my 7-year-old son, and we used it often as a family, and my wife and I made decisions together about the business side of the app. Every time that we had a trade-off between making a solid business decision for ourselves or improving the user experience, we focused on the users. One example was the business model. Many people counseled me to either have a paid app, or require an in-app purchase to access all features. We decided instead to make the app completely free, and add in-app purchases to allow users to support the app with a tip. We have been pleasantly surprised that many people have been willing to give tips, and have left positive reviews.

I know that this isolated example will not hold true in all circumstances. But the lesson that I have taken away is that a focus on users will often be rewarded. Pointedly is not in a position to build a business on, and I am definitely not ready to support my family on the income from the tips, but it is a first step. The piece of the app that I hope will be the foundation for my business is a focus on users first. I firmly believe that when a business focuses on users and their needs above the needs of the business, the business will be more successful in the end.

To tie this all back together, even when you have no audience to receive your work, do your best work. Focus on improving the experience of your users, and when faced with a decision, choose your users. Start shipping, and as you ship, make sure that what you ship is work of which you can be proud. Allow the empowering effects of obscurity to drive you forward. Take advantage of the time you have to launch into obscurity, because there will come a day when you no longer have that luxury.

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