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When starting a project on the Internet or in business or in really any domain, you may be faced with a glut of similar projects "competing" with you. There may be much interest, a big potential reward, and as yet an undecided playing field. Many people may look at the situation and see it ripe for their own idea to take root and shape the future, and therefore they are motivated to jealously guard whatever territory they have captured from their fellow journeyers. The paradox is that the potential beneficiaries, customers, or users of the projects are left confused as to which project they should patron, and therefore they simply abandon all of them until the market shakes itself out. For any would-be founder, this can be very exasperating. Not only is it hard to find people interested in taking you up on your idea, but a dozen other people have had the same idea as you.

The solution is to somehow make it obvious for potential patrons that your project is the one that will survive to the end. Technical merit is not difficult to duplicate, nor is it particularly a good predictor of longevity or success. The shiniest of projects are often the first to do. Content can be equally cheap in a world of CopyLeft. A better indicator is whether or not other people are willing to put their stake in the ground beside the founder's. But how to convince even one person it's worthwhile?

Simple. You be the first person to believe it is worthwhile. Be deeply committed to the project. While this may seem like a given, most projects are created by people only superficially interested in seeing them through, or even those only interested in a quick buck. These fly-by-night projects are the ones potential patrons are afraid of investing their time, energy, and money into; no one wants to spend time on a project that will evaporate within a year out of sheer apathy. If you can demonstrate that you, the founder, are committed to seeing the project through to the bitter end, you will have gone a long way towards convincing others that they should do the same. After all, if you cannot convince yourself to put your stake in all the way, why should anyone else put their stake in even a little bit?

Therefore, don't worry about the right now, the chaotic church of a frothy market. Think instead of the LongNow. Believe that you will simply outlast everyone else because you have more commitment than them. If you really want to make your effort happen, just believe in it, and start working. If you aren't really committed, then it becomes a lot harder. In fact, a lot harder than it really is, because you are spending half your time deciding whether it is worth taking the next step. You spend your time paying attention to your competitors rather than yourself. When you lack doubt--that is, have faith--you could take two steps in the same amount of time as your 'competitor' takes one.

This advice goes double for FreeCulture projects, which are dominated by the economics of SelfishVolunteers where even the founder has the RightToLeave. Volunteers tend to be attracted to a) content, b) sanity, c) safety, d) commitment from the leadership. Presumably the only thing you lack is content, so get your SeedPosting going.

Here's the secret: The size and energy of the SeedPosting, or equivalent initial bootstrap, is actually an IdentifyingSignal of the founders' commitment. If you are lazy at the start, particularly if you follow the mantra of IfYouBuildItTheyWillCome and simply wait for the magical Internet elves to come out at night and finish your stitching for you, you will get a similarly lazy response.

But, after a while, you need to step back. As long as the project looks like one person's work, it is one person's work. Commitment after you have attracted others looks different. You need to start working on the team rather than the project.


Corollary

What you will find if you follow this truthfully is that you should abandon projects that you aren't fully committed to. Follow your passion totally, or do nothing. You will not have time for anything else as Passion is a demanding boss.


Discussion

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