I’ve worked on numerous products at WooThemes over the past few years, and like most things I work on, each one I’ve ended up developing an attachment to; after all I was creating something and much like a parent (which I can fully appreciate since the birth of my daughter) I want each product of my creation to flourish to it’s full potential. However, something that I found in the past that was very hard to do was to let go of the “thing” and see it in the hands of others, sort of letting it “fly” in a way.
The problem with hanging onto a “thing” is that you (may) eventually lose your objectivity in terms of making decisions, well that’s what I’ve found as the original developer of a product. You sometimes lose sight of when to stop developing a project, to pivot, or to kill it.
At WooThemes I’ve seen several things I’ve started working on either fly or fail, and it’s a difficult thing to watch from the sidelines because so often I’ve wanted to dive right back in and “fix” it – the problem with that, is that usually no one wins! Not the project, not the people involved and certainly not myself.
I’ve seen the following examples in my career:
I built WooNav as my first project at Woo and I’m still immensely proud of it, however opening myself up to the rest of the WordPress community and their ideas and thoughts for how it was going to end up as in the WordPress core was difficult. I’ll be honest, I didn’t agree with some of the initial decisions, but it turned out for the best for WordPress. And that’s the bottom line, it wasn’t about me or what I thought was best for the product, others have done a fantastic job of taking what I originally built and making it far superior than that initial commit. It’s good to be wrong every now and then!
Another of my early Woo projects, our Tumblog themes/plugins arguably gave rise to and increased the prominance of the popular “tumblr” style WordPress themes. Eventually things led to post formats being included in core, of which we had nothing to do with directly, but I do think that ultimately the Tumblog functionality influenced the community in a positive way. Over time the plugin popularity has waned and isn’t even necessary for a tumblog style design because all that goodness is in core. So the Tumblog plugin will eventually die, much like Woo’s Tumblog themes, and that’s not a bad thing – may it rest in peace.
Sensei is my current development project at Woo and I’m super passionate about it and education in general, but more recently other members of the team have been getting involved in the development of the core code and it’s been awesome! I originally had a definitive direction in my head, but it’s been nice to let go and allow others the breathing room to run with ideas and build it without having to “run it by me.”
If you are a product visionary/original developer and are building in a team environment you need to be able to take a step back and allow others to embrace the product as their own – this allows for greater creativity and opens the product up to new ideas and can help elevate it to greater heights.