Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

24 hour laundry: the view from inside

Well, well, well. :)

There's been a lot of discussion recently about a certain new startup called 24 Hour Laundry. It pretty much got started with this CNET article, then as highlights we've got Om, Mark. Even (perhaps predictably) Slashdot.

24HL, as it happens, is where I work. Remember this?

Yep. It's true. Aaaaaall this time and I didn't say anything. Outrageous! How could I?

Well, that's kinda the point.

You see, we didn't want to make any noise. CNET decided that they wanted to "scoop" a story that didn't exist (and is still not all that exciting at this point). We didn't have anything to do with that article.

Then, in the process of not asking for any press and minding our own business, we get branded a certain way, and told we are doing something wrong by focusing on our product.

What is confusing to me is that some of the comments out there begin with "Well, I don't know what they're doing but [insert your thought about why it's wrong here]".

It is one thing to speculate (which we all do a lot of, don't we) and draw tentative conclusions based on that, but it's another to take those assumptions and then categorically "paint a picture". I know: to a certain degree, these are the rules of the game. But there is a difference between saying "If X is doing W, then here are the problems I see" and saying "X appears to be doing W. They're crazy!" This was partially Russ's point with his great post yesterday. (Update 6/23: Jeff Clavier also makes good points on the topic).

For example, Mark Fletcher said:

[...] But creating a new web service is not rocket science and does not take a lot of time or money. My rule of thumb is that it should take no more than 3 months to go from conception to launch of a new web service. And that's being generous. I'm speaking from experience here. I developed the first version of ONEList over a period of 3 months, and that was while working a full-time job. I developed the first version of Bloglines in 3 months.

In other words: "whatever it is you're doing, you should be able to do it in three months."

Ah, those pesky generalizations--but this is actually an interesting point to bring up. Last year, it took me about 3 months to write the first version of clevercactus share, which didn't just include a website/webservice, but also an identity server, a relay server (to circumvent firewalls) as well as a peer to peer client app that ran on Windows, Mac and Linux.

One person, three months. Webservice, servers, clients, deployment systems, UI/design, architecture, code, even support.

Which proves... absolutely nothing.

You have to fit the strategy to the company and not the other way around. In our case, we're doing something a little different (not better, just different) than the next web service, so we're just trying to keep our heads down until we have something that makes sense.

Of course we want to release as quickly as we can. Of course we know that when we launch there will be dozens of features we wanted to add but didn't have time for. Of course we keep in mind that we can't release a "perfect" product.

We absolutely want to involve users in the product's eventual evolution. We just want to make sure that we have a few things figured out before we start sending out press releases to announce our video-blogging social scooter company.

We appreciate the patience, and the interest (even if in some cases it's a bit misguided!). We are working as hard as we can, as fast as we can, to come up with a good product.

Sounds reasonable? :-)

PS: this may be a good time to add "This is my personal website and blog. The views expressed here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer."

Categories: personal,, technology
Posted by diego on June 20 2005 at 11:17 PM

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