A while ago, I had an idea for a cool website. It involved grouping blog posts under “debate” questions. There was a simple mechanism for auto-detection if you linked a blog post to a debate page. The point was to be able to group postings with more semantic richness than simple tags or categories.
It fell by the wayside, so I took it down after a few months. Recently I’ve been seeing sites pop up based on similar ideas. AllVoices is one, and Debategraph.org is another. It’s nice to see the idea of information richness continuing to develop in interesting ways.
And it makes me wish I had stuck with my site idea, though to be honest, it wasn’t realistically feasible. The hardest part wasn’t coding the functionality, which only took 2-3 weeks of the large pool of free time I had back then. (Side goals were to get a working knowledge of CherryPy and sqlalchemy, so at least those were accomplished!) No, the real difficulty was “selling” it to users: publicizing the site, making it visually attractive and user-friendly, and getting people to use it in their own blogs. I didn’t have the skills or resources to make those things happen.
There’s an adage that says success on the web largely depends upon execution, not the concept. That’s so true. I feel like I’ve known so many smart, talented technology people who excel at what they do but haven’t been able to pull off their interesting side projects. I think it’s because we often underestimate the non-technical challenges in getting a website off the ground. In many ways, those are more important to do well than solving the technological problems.