What you “do” comes before what you call it

One of the first things someone asked me when they found out I’d gotten the New Media Women Entrepreneur grant was what I was going to call it. “Do you have a URL yet?” she asked.

I remain evasive on that question, because I know the trap that I can fall into searching for a domain name first, compromising based on what is available, THEN trying to fit the business model to what the name may suggest. Sounds backward, but oftentimes searching for a domain name is the first activity because it looks like a legitimate business activity.

But what are you branding? Words have meaning and domain names have meanings (or not, if the word is a neologism) associated with them. Is the name representative of what you are delivering?

And so I’ve pushed back, focusing my energies on finding a platform/technologies that will nurture the types of online connections and conversations that I’d like to see in my model…and letting the name evolve from that.

I’ve been asking myself:

  • What do you want people to be able to do?
  • What are the uses you expect people to have of the technology? How is it better/different than what is currently in use?
  • How will I know when I am successful? What activity demonstrates that the technology is working?

I know these don’t sound like questions of a journalist trying to reinvent the business. They’re not. They are questions designed to focus my attention on the larger purposes of the journalistic/community building enterprise…beyond delivering data and information to building the knowledge and capacity for action of the community.

And a choice of a platform affects the larger architecture of the franchise model. Do I use a blog-type software that perhaps embodies ease of use for the franchisees but feels like a push model (traditional content delivery model) to my community? Is the software representative of the collaborative writing space that I’m hoping to model in the community’s actions? Does an open-source solution philosophically match the contributory nature of the environment I want to simulate? Or would a proprietary solution help ensure that there’s motivation by *someone* to continue to build out the software? Each of these questions has consequences and compromises as to whom the tool best serves.

So I’m a philosophy in search of a platform. I’m looking for an architecture like the franchise model that embodies independence, yet collaboration, collective development, yet independent practice. The ultimate solution lies in the in between, the spaces between the either/or models I’ve seen to date.

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What you “do” comes before what you call it

2 thoughts on “What you “do” comes before what you call it

  1. Your questions are music to me! My work with groups always begins with the intention of the work. Form follows intention. I was shocked when I discovered that journalists didn’t start with the question of their intent for telling a story and who they wanted to reach.

    So your questions make me smile.

    Peggy

  2. michelleferrier says:

    Hi Peggy,
    We’re often taught to focus on audience…but oftentimes in the daily grind of newspaper production and other deadlines we forget who that audience is…or that the audience is not monolithic. So defining the audience beyond “reader” is key. Personas are often used to develop key details about specific audience types…right down to pictures and sites they visit and where they live and what they buy. Being more specific about audience can help us make better decisions about the intention of a story, good sources, editing, placement and a host of other decisions.

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