Salon #17 - Build in public
24 min read

Salon #17 - Build in public

Salon #17 - Build in public

This time we had a conversation on how to build in public.

ūüéß This recording is also available via the Knowledge Entrepreneurs podcast feed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and various other podcast directories.

  • Building in public appears to be a trend but what does it exactly mean to build something in public?
  • There are a variety of terms around the topic: building in public, working in public, working out loud, learning in public. I think they describe different things. What are those differences?
  • Bryce Williams describes Working Out Loud as Observable Work + Narrating Your Work. What is the difference between the "observable" and the "narrating" part?
  • Far from just sharing anything indiscriminately, building in public entails involving your audience in ways so that everyone wins. How to distinguish what to share and what to hold back?
  • Recently I experienced a strong difference between two separate calls-to-action from someone who builds in public. I realized how degrees of context, motivation, and connection made a strong difference to me. How should you think about these terms?
  • What are good examples of projects that were built in public?
  • What resources are there to help with building in public well?
  • What technologies or building blocks are useful to consider when building in public?

Full Transcript


Achim: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Knowledge Entrepreneurs salon episode 17  about building in public . At the salon we create insights through conversation on topics that are relevant for Knowledge Entrepreneurs. I'm very excited for today's topic because it's very promising one also a little bit scary one and that's a good mix to create value.

I've created a little write-up in the beginning. Asking some questions or putting out some statements with some attached questions and I will use this as a guideline here or as a conversation starter. I also share the public notion file again for taking notes together in a collaborative way.  We can also use it to exchange URLs through reference articles.

The interesting  part of building in public, is that you read it everywhere at the moment, especially on Twitter. You see a lot of hashtags. You'll see a lot of people shipping and being very open about it. I also find myself sometimes confused what this actually means and how we use the language.

That could be a good place to start because there are these terms like building in public, working in public, working out loud, learning in public, so different terms. Maybe as introduction, I already started with one article. I thought about building in public and working in public and whether there's a difference. My suggestion was that working in public is a mindset, it describes basically being open to put your work out there, not behind a curtain, hidden from somebody to see, but to be open about it in a deliberate way while building in public is a project.

Of course done in the same way it's done while working in public, but building in public it's something that you want to build and then you ship it and then it's done, and you do it in a certain process. That was one suggestion. I would be curious about how you see these terms.

Maybe you have also different terms, additional terms to contribute. With that being said, I would like to open the conversation.

Massimo: [00:02:19] I invented another name, which is learning out loud, but this is just a combination of all of them. So I don't even know if it makes sense

About working out loud

Achim: [00:02:29] Working out loud is actually an interesting one because it is a kind of branded methodology. You can think of it, getting things done, that's a little trademark on it. And so working out loud was sparked from a blog article 2010. I will reference the blog article also here in the chat, and this was just somebody having this thought and actually having a little framework for it. Working out loud is observable work plus narrating your work. He described it in a little blog article. Then somebody else, John Stepper took that up  with permission and elaborated it into a book. This book working out loud has then five elements of a framework of working out loud, that's relationships, generosity, visible work, purposeful discovery, and growth mindset. If you think about generosity and growth mindset, visible work, purposeful discovery, relationships, that's already giving a good feeling. I think from the mindset that you have while doing it. Does somebody has already heard about working out loud or maybe has even some experiences. .

Lynoure: [00:03:51] I was briefly before the pandemic started part of a working out loud circle. I haven't read the book, but what I have read about the book, it seems that some of the material at least is available in the circle session materials. It's basically, it's just a group of people trying to work out loud together. The working out loud circles, but I would say that material can be really useful for becoming more comfortable being more out there with one's work, even if one is when it's going through it alone.

Achim: [00:04:24] They call these circles. I've read there's even some corporate ones. You see Audi and Siemens and German companies working together in a circle in this framework. There's a lot to learn from this framework. You can easily derive also general rule it's, general principles that you can then apply to how you approach your own version of building in public.

The principles of working in public

Rika: [00:04:51] When you mentioned that you can figure out your own principles for building public, it got me thinking okay, what are these principles? And I think one of them is honesty and another one is vulnerability. I know a lot of people's trouble to build in public because they feel like they're being too honest and it's very challenging. So I think for myself, at least those are the two principles for building in public art, honesty and vulnerability.

Achim: [00:05:27] I remember,  it's maybe five or 10 years ago, somebody came back from Silicon Valley into Germany and said he was at this conference. And they share their data publicly, that was so strange. The startups, they were putting the numbers out there and that was a totally different mindset.  This was  some of the first steps or already on the way of this open, vulnerable in a way, an honest mindset.  You share what you have in the light of creation value. Maybe it's it's because you're talking to community of people that want to do a similar thing with our own expertise or with that one company. And so they're listening now to you to learn from your experiences, what could be your potential clients, your potential users that look at you and use this as data points to build trust . Maybe they are surprised that you are making progress, or maybe they are happy that you are not that big already. They thought you were already such a big brand, but they are much more comfortable with somebody who's not too far away yet. So by being open by being vulnerable, you can create a lot of value.

Learning from people two steps ahead

Chris: [00:06:45] I think that kind of builds on the concept of, you want to learn from people that are maybe two steps ahead of you and teach people that are two steps behind you and you move through it as this cohort. I'm seeing someone that I'm friends with on Twitter, he's building a course on something and he is kind of putting it out there, it's okay, we're going to do this in April and he put out his copy. It is really rough. Let me know what you think.  It was pretty, it was very basic, but I had some input, but I'm not a copywriter, but I could see it needs improvement. And then they reached out to people that are also at their level and then they came back and said, okay, I work with person A, B and C, and now it's here's what we have. And it was night and day. So now I'm seeing that I want to talk to person A, B and C, so  it starts building these connections.

Rika: [00:07:29] I've been thinking about connections from the lens of your social network and not necessarily social media, but just who are the people in your life who are, as you said, Chris, two steps ahead of you and then two steps behind you.  Who are the role models and then who are the mentees? Mapping out who those people are and then put it yourself somewhere in there. And then being able to see where your bubbles are, like your local bubble in your community. And then the second one is outside of your bubble, who are those people? And how can you bring information from inside of your bubble to another bubble outside?

Building in public in an organization

Narayan: [00:08:18] Two thoughts: one is this building in public or working out loud. I'm an executive coach. I work with leaders and companies who are trying to improve their performance and what I've seen us with my own clients, there's this trend now that because they're working remotely their visibility with their stakeholders has reduced and that's impacting on how they are evaluated, how their performance is evaluated.

And we are discussing these concepts why don't you work out loud so that your stakeholders at any point, know what you're working on, how you're going about things, make your thinking visible and so on. The general concepts around building and public can be applied within an organization and help individuals maintain or enhance their visibility when they're working either remotely or working from home. That was number one.

Number two: because I'm new to this concept of building in public I sometimes find that it can actually distract and get in the way of doing my work. There's two parallel things going on.  I'm working on this course and trying to develop materials for the course. I'm trying to, do the marketing material for the course, et cetera. At the same time, I'm committed to doing it in public. But sometimes  it's probably because I'm new to this, but it gets in the way of doing the real work and you're focused on, Oh, how do I communicate this, how do I document this, and so on. That's something that I'm noticing and wondering if anybody else has any experience with that.

How and what to communicate in public

Andrew: [00:09:46] First I'll validate that's just a real struggle. I think no matter who you are  when you're trying to build in public, it's like, how do I make time for building the thing that I'm building as well as actually sharing. And there is a cost  I don't know, am I able to screen-share?

There is a cost because I've noticed I just pulled this up,  I did this video, which was pretty quick of me. This is the project that I'm building and you can see, there's one, like very little engagement here, and this is a different thing where I made a series of gifs and I prompted people and I put a lot more work into this and you can see there's a significant amount, more like interesting communication happening because I actually took some time to think about  how is that structured? Visually there are these gifs that make it really easy to see what I'm referencing and talking about. So there is a real cost to actually the publication of that thing, and it doesn't necessarily mean it has to be beautiful, but it does mean that it has to be a thought, a clear, concise piece of communication. So that's a little bit that I'm noticing in my journey of  soliciting or thinking about what I'm sharing and how, and is it something that elicits feedback from people seems to be a helpful thing.

As far as balancing the two I'll just offer this from my own personal journey, which is I recently really trying to actually reduce the amount of people until I was working with a couple of marketers in the project and I had a  conversation with them last week and I said, Hey, our product's not good enough. I need to just focus on that. I have to spend all my time on that.  I'm majorly downshifting and trying to figure out some more lightweight ways that I can do that sort of building and public piece of it and the sharing and that kind of stuff. I might try to experiment with some lightweight ways here's what I did today at the end of the day kind of thing. And that sort of thing. Those are some of the things that have come up for me and that's one of the ways that I've dealt with that issue.

Achim: [00:11:43] Thank you, Andrew. That was very good. It takes work to create this and maybe that's also a reference point in a way, but what do you want to share? I mentioned at the beginning, this observable work plus narrating  your work. Observable work could be simple in a way because it means work got done and you put it somewhere where other people can find it.

There  we need a mindset for example, having a project page or maybe a company blog, or maybe a podcast where you showcase your work in a way that's better for the narrating part, the podcast, but you need a Homebase and make it easy for other people to find it. It could also be a hashtag on Twitter that you referenced whenever you talk about something like that. That's basically a mindset or a structural change to make your work accessible because that's not always the case. Even in your own Twitter stream, your work can be hidden, because people don't browse your Twitter stream and  look for the tiny bits of your work.  That's one aspect.

The narrating part of your work is another, which is  reflecting on it. This is what Andrew mentioned with these tweeds, for example, putting work into giving context, maybe explaining how something came about and requesting feedback, or just talking, just sharing it.  This narrating part creates additional work that's for sure. And then the question is which medium is best for you? For example, I don't know if the everything bundle this newsletter bundle. They made a podcast of 15 minute episodes. They came out once a week or every second week in the beginning, and they did a really great job of keeping me posted about their journey to start a media business together, two friends. It was very straightforward to do that podcast. They did a great job of using the Pareto principle. It was totally this narrating part for me it was done. I followed along, I got really close to them just because of the podcast. Other possibilities are newsletters, maybe a community even, or on Twitter, just talking about it. These two parts are great. You've got great guidance of how to invest work, but not too much on top of your core work.

Rika: [00:14:14] One thing that I have been grappling with is, okay what am I going to actually build in public or write in public? I read this interesting tweet and watch the video the other day from Michael Ashcroft, which completely reframed my struggle. He makes the point that through the process of writing, you find your niche, not the other way around. So you have to build in public and you have to just keep sharing, and ultimately in that journey, you're able to figure out what it is that you want to actually build and share with other people.

Narayan: [00:14:58] To me -and I'm saying this respectfully- I think sometimes we try and put the cart ahead of the horse. I don't think  the objective is to build in public. The objective is to build an building in public is one mode of building. In this case, Rica, I the example that Michael Ashcroft shares the goal is to discover. The project is to discover your niche and that is the project that you are building in public. I don't think if we go with the mentality that, we have to build in public on how let's figure out what we build in public. I think that probably is more confusing, at least that's how I feel about it.

Massimo: [00:15:37] When I was saying is quite interesting and I want to tie to my experience that is I want to build, but I don't trust on my wheel of being consistent. There's a sort of a win-win with who is really me, because if you follow me, you will give me accountability. In addition to exceptional events, like the brain trust we've been doing together, you were my five people audience, and I felt compelled to keep my commitment. The point is that I find really distracting, fragmented, and boring reading what people has to say about what they have in their mind is the, the river of conscience, today I did this and that, that is called disease and that it's really time consuming. We don't have time to have all of our mind on the internet, but it's important that you do it, but do it privately. The next step is curating. You need to give me the pearls, the nuggets of knowledge, because this is what I want to learn from you. And there is also a sort of a selfishness because I'm not able to do on my own what I did that together with you. So I need you, but I cannot, bored you to death. I am responsible.

I am building what I'm building publicly and I am publishing. I am careful. I am editing. I am curating. I'm revising my writing because I don't want to bother you otherwise, you're not going to follow me and I'm done I'm dead. It's exactly, as Ryan was saying, it is building. It is just that you are completely transparent that this is a sort of strong motivation for you to be, good on the first try. And if you're making mistakes, you need to embrace them completely and say, today I discovered this things that didn't work. And I want to tell you why. So you have something to learn that is value. You have always to provide value, even when you have nothing to say, or you you're tired or you don't know what to do because otherwise you are losing momentum and that there's no way you can continue. It's a sort of a feedback loop. You need to stay there and keep your audience, take care of them. I don't think you have to be talking, other than what to say, maybe I can wear this on that. Maybe not today, maybe tomorrow. That's the end of it. You need to be focused. It's a way of working.

Andrew: [00:17:50] I'll actually pick right up on that way of working thing and some stuff that. Not everyone here is working on software, but one of the things  that we've done at the project that I'm working on is actually build into the tool, like a more stuff that helps us like build stuff in public. I'm working on this note taking tool and one of the things we just built is the ability to share a note,  link to a note.  What that means is in the actual thing that I'm building, I can write release notes and stuff like that, or in the actual thing that I'm building one of the other things we're trying to create is this preview card when you've written a note here and you share that on Twitter, we're eventually going to build this little preview card that comes up with your face and stuff like that. I'm going to try to start using that to communicate. I don't know if there are some analogies for how one might use this, if they're more in the writing space, but that's something that I'm actively working on and trying to do is make that an entire way of life. It's it's built into our product, it's a way that I'm using our product to then communicate the things that we're building in public. And that's the stuff, at least for me that starts to become, or I hope I aspire that it may become part of that flywheel that kind of just gets that stuff going for us and helps us live the as I think Massimo put it, the lifestyle of building and public.

Achim: [00:19:10] I want to emphasize the point that by building or focusing on things that you can do in your product, you are actually investing the time at the right spot because you're not duplicating work, you're actually building a feature that is part of your product. You're using it you're talking about it. We're talking while using it? It's a very virtual circle and it gives us again, a taste that working in public means to focus on specific things that are valuable, like Max were mentioning, and that are also very useful to you because they are part of your product or part of your expertise or a certain angle that's maybe easy for you. We are getting into a very good point here.

Chris: [00:19:53] actually building on something Masimo said about, you don't want to just share every single thing, because you need to think of it as the people need to be engaged with your story or you have something that you're trying to share. You're on a journey.  Think about the early days of Instagram, people are just sending pictures. This is what I had for breakfast every day, who cares. But if you were to send a picture of a day, okay, I'm trying to make this complicated cake. It's very difficult to make. And then, okay. Failure failure. And then after the 10th time, like I did it, everybody's going to be very excited, Oh my goodness. So they're along with you. Or somebody might say, Hey, try this, do this. And they're invested in your journey. If you're sharing what you're doing, share something, you have a struggle with, and that's your hero's journey. Your struggle. Then people may come along and try and help, and they're invested in your story. And then you say I did it and then people can see, they're along with you and they're invested in you.

Different examples of value

Rika: [00:20:46] I have observed that one of the beautiful things about writing in public, building public, you have an actual product already is that you have this support network that previously you would've not had in the past. There's so many examples from history like van Gogh who suffered so much because he knew that there was something special, but the people in his life didn't understand.  He went through so much suffering. If only he had a group of people from all over the world who could shit on his victories and his failures and just provide that kind of support. He may have not got in his ear cut off or something silly like that. So building in public provides this audience and this support that we might not have in our lives, otherwise.

Achim: [00:21:55] Such a great point, that an audience kind of emerges out of that and it can start with your friends, or it can start with peers that you already know, but it will grow and it, self-selects for the people that are interested in something like that, especially in that early stage. It's still like Chris mentioning, you should do it in a nice way. Incorporating storytelling being vulnerable, like you said before. A very good benefit that comes out of that.

Massimo: [00:22:23] I was reflecting on three, interesting things. I want to make an example. I am following Achim for at least three reasons maybe four. The first is that he is an exceptional storyteller. So even if I don't follow his projects, He's already engaging. I am already getting value out of following the story of pursuing the project and getting people together and being a facilitator of success of others. I think it's something wonderful.

The other point is that I want to imitate him is a good model to me.  I want to learn from him. I want to see how he does that. All of the technological stacks the approaches, the communication style. There's a lot to be learned. So that's the second level of value that I get.

The third is that he is actually providing value as a service to me is being providing during these meetings, just, for letting me talk, it's already a huge value, but we've been discussing something important for my professional life. And I got such an immense value that I started project. I would have not be able to do that alone.

And the other part, the other point is that it's a pleasure just talking to him. There's something to notice here. There's something to note, if you want to build in public. There are several ways of inspiring your audience and in addition to that has, is also a product you can go to and yes, even something to sell that's a wonderful way of, getting inspired. Just wanted to say that.

Achim: [00:23:59] Oh, that was really too kind. But thank you for that. I want to emphasize how much joy I get back . You mentioned multiple levels of value, but how much joy from the communication and just the connection to other people right here in the room. And many people that already know that know me already well, and I know them already well, just because of this, just because of being open, being in public, working in public, I'm working on Knowledge Entrepreneurs, I'm working on So I can totally second that there are many levels of value that come back to you when you're doing that.

Fraser: [00:24:36] I like to build a little bit on what what Chris and Massimo both touched on. What interests me with people who are building is not primarily what they're building, it's primarily the decisions they think about when they discard something, include something changed direction. I like to understand whether I have those same kinds of challenges and whether perhaps I could be thinking things differently.

If someone puts up a piece and it's a written piece and it's their first draft would be wonderful to see the first draft and then see the final draft and then maybe a little narrative as to why I changed it, because that speaks to the creative process following the editing process. When you get both, when you get the final product that you see both at the same time, you don't know whether they just came fully formed. And I don't think anything I do is fully formed on the first time, second or third, but I do like the way other people think. And the thinking process helps me understand a little bit about myself and other fellows.

Achim: [00:25:41] That's so good Fraser, giving me the chills in the positive way, because  you create actually value on a different level. And your product doesn't have to be as good in the beginning. We all know that, and we we have in mind of big product or project, and it's not there yet. It's not good enough that I'm also already suffering from that, but actually it's in your hand to create a different level of value to deliver onto that and you are already creating value. When you're ready, you can, offer your product as well.

How you attract the right people

Anders: [00:26:14] I'll just riff a little bit on what you said Achim about like pre-selecting people. I think it's interesting that the more authentic you are the more you are going to attract people that resonate with you. That's actually a way of connecting specifically with people that you share something with. I think that's quite interesting and you can only do that when you authentic your authentic self and then people will naturally want to connect with you.

Another point: when I look at a product I'm interested in the product but I always, I think subconsciously I also buy the person when I buy the product. I see the product in the person. And I think we're we all that like that,  we mirror ourselves in each other and it's deeply personal. It's a lot about trust this building probably.

Andrew: [00:27:11] You know what Fraser said was really interesting about we wanting to see the decision-making process because it helps me in my own journey and it brought up for me there's this? I don't know if you guys have ever seen actually that she doesn't work on the channel anymore, but Bon Appetit has his YouTube channel and there's a pastry chef, her name's Claire. She does these very fascinating videos of trying to recreate Doritos from scratch or like snacks, from scratch. I always am so impressed by watching the way that they edit that video, you get to really watch her struggle. And there are moments when she goes, Oh Oh, like why isn't this working? And you see the hard frustration of all the work that she's going through. And it's so hard. Sometimes I think it's still a reframe. It's still something that I struggle with sometimes. Letting that part of my own work, be seen, letting that be seen by others.

This is an old video of her Perfectly making soup dumplings from beginning to end fully made up makeup on, and it's like the most boring thing I've ever seen. And this is a video of her less made up, try to create Butterfingers from scratch, filled with mistakes, filled with errors, filled with challenges. And it's just an infinitely, more engaging piece of content to watch. It makes me like her way more and be much more interested in seeing and understanding her. in truth, it's something that I aspire to eventually be able to just be that vulnerable. It'd be willing to give on that level  to let others in really behind the hood on what's really going on and that's just such an engaging difference.

Narayan: [00:28:48] So I'll just build on what Andrew was just saying. Cause I think while I completely agree with Fraser on how fascinating it is to be an observer of the creation process, I think there's also an inhibiting element there for the creator himself or herself. Because this whole notion of the shitty first draft, you create a first draft just to get stuff out of your head, and in the confidence that nobody's actually going to read it. In fact, I understand Stephen King locks it in his drawer and allows nobody to see it first, the first thing that people see as a second draft after he's put in some work on that. While as a lawyer, as an observer, that's really fascinating. I think we need to ensure that it doesn't inhibit the creative process in something

Reddy: [00:29:31] This is a subject that's really close to my heart because I just believe that we all grew up playing in public, everything we did was in public. We never had anything. So it's actually second nature or other first nature for us to go back to doing everything in public, like me crawling from fours, all fours to actually standing up on two legs happened in public. Everyone saw me falling a hundred times a day, trying to stand up on my two feet. Everything I did, all playgrounds are public playgrounds. All the kids are watching everyone play. Everyone fall, everyone climb every one swing for the first time. It's only as we started growing older that we thought we have to hide some of the stuff we have to do some of the stuff without letting other people know what we're doing. We don't actually have to unlearn that. Or other we don't have to learn how to, build in public. It's something that we've always done. That's our first memories. We just had to dig back into that and find that space because there's so much joy in sharing, so much joy in creating together because that's the whole collaborative experience. You're not competitive yet. As a child, you're still enjoying the collaborative process. It's only somewhere down the line that you start getting competitive. And now by the whole returning to that momentum, and you're starting to work together, starting to create together, starting to look at what others are creating you're no longer trying to hide, or I don't want anyone else to know what I'm doing. So I think it's done back to that age of innocence, that edge. So we're definitely all going to enjoy the process of creating so much  more if we just do it in public.

Lynoure: [00:31:15] I have had some hesitation of creating things in public, mostly because of my own perfectionism but recently I've started watching also some of the do it yourself and crafting and making YouTube videos with a different eye. I keep in mind that this is the first time this person does this very specific thing. And every time they say that and I have to choose something else, I'm saying every time they mentioned something like that, I try to visualize in my mind, That this could have been a series of videos where they actually showed them running into that dead end and then coming up with a workaround. But currently like the mainstream culture is still editing everything to this, like seemingly smooth progress from the beginning to the outcome. While in reality, there's all these detours that are often more interesting than the smooth journey.

Achim: [00:32:13] I want to be mindful of your time and wrap up now, but with one experiment because there are so many great people in the room, we have Andrew, for example, working on Thunk note taking tool, which looks so beautiful and so nice. We have Narayan as personal branding expert. Max is doing this writing accountability group pretty  soon.  Reddy, master off play and Lynoure mentioned to me in an email that you might even have something available where other people can come to you and use an opportunity for something that you are currently working on.

Lynoure: [00:32:48] I recently gotten a little bit of training and coaching, so I've started to practice my skills. So that's that I'm doing say me in public. Of course there's a limit to what I can share about that because what I talk with a person in a coaching session is private.

Achim: [00:33:05] If you want, then  you can put in the document in the notion document or just send it to me your introduction and what you are working on, what you are currently building. And I will share this in the newsletter to all salon participant also the salon participants from the past. Because we are building a community here and maybe that's just another facilitation of sharing what the people are working on. And maybe it has some opportunity or few also working together doing something like that.

So if you want, then please put it in the document or send it to me in any way you want by a Twitter. And I share it in the newsletter that goes out to a hundred people who joined salons in the past, and also people like you, hopefully.

With that being said, thank you so much.

That was a wonderful conversation . It's just the start of something. As I do the recording now and sharing it in a podcast, you can re-listen to it. You can see the transcript if you want search for something. And of course we can continue the conversation on all the usual channels.

Thank you so much. I hope to see you again in another salon.

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