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Choosing Web Tools: Best-Fit Versus Good Enough?

Bob just decided to set up an office wiki and wants to know if he ought to use Wikipedia's MediaWiki or maybe Microsoft's Sharepoint wikis. Alice has heard a lot about microblogging and can't choose between Twitter and How much time is Bob going to spend researching his choices? Does it really matter if Alice chooses the vendor-hosted Twitter versus the open source host-your-own model of Laconica? It might.

photo by Micah Taylor
When to take the first thing that works
Many new projects are aspirational affairs. You want to connect with your coworkers after hours? Start a Facebook group. You're thinking about starting a blog? Find a free host like Blogger or Wordpress and start writing. You want to start a wiki for a targeted collaboration with a few peers? Try free solutions at Zoho or PBwiki. Until your project has started to build some momentum there's little point investing too much time and money in making it perfect. Just get it started and keep it fed and watered. Invest your energy in growth, not architecture.

As a software developer I'm often tempted to gold-plate my projects. Once I get something working I'll spend hours - days even - chasing down esoteric bugs and polishing the UI. I do the same thing with reports and emails that may never even be read. Sure, there's a time for perfection and exhaustive proofreading. Most of the time though, you're just reveling in an already-solved problem and distracting yourself from moving on to the next hard problem.

When to take your time and deliver a bulletproof solution
There are times when you need to be sure you get things right the first time. Somehow you've caught lightning in a bottle and you're sure your project is going to outgrow you, your team, and everyone around you. This is the time to get serious about architecture and planning. Think about where your project's going to be in a few years. Will you still have the same infrastructure in place three years from now? If not, be sure that your choice of tools and platforms isn't held back by the status quo.

Once your group of 5 friends balloons to 500 and you want to move the group off of Facebook and over to its own domain, you'll struggle to bring people along. You're going to run around leaving links and "please follow us!" posts until the end of time. If your community had grown up around the right domain name or a particular network, you wouldn't have this problem.

Daniel J. Pritchett writes about knowledge sharing and the human factors of business and technology at Sharing at Work.

Join The Conversation

  • Oct 28 Posted 8 years ago BartCollet Liked this down-to-earth article! gl with the email notifications!
  • Oct 28 Posted 8 years ago DanielJPritchett Thanks for the support, Daniel!  I'm sorry I didn't notice your comment until today - I'll have to figure out how to set up some email notifications.

  • Oct 10 Posted 8 years ago DanielMaxson This is especially important to keep in mind as the social media revolution continues... we need to keep the end goal in sight. Excellent article!

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