This week's newsletter is an unusual one. I'm not going to talk about new features or implementation changes. Instead, I'm going to be honest and tell you where I didn't deliver - marketing Lotus.
A lot of developers fall into this trap. They plan, build, polish and launch. However, that announcement email or tweet goes into the void, because there's not that many people listening to what you have to say or sell. Folks get so hung up on perfecting their app, they didn't account for what is going to happen after it's done. I'm very much including myself in this group too.
What's odd to me is that I'm definitely aware of that trap, yet it still got me. I'm mad at myself, because I read and listen about marketing, product development and success/failure stories all the time. I consumed the information internet was offering, but I didn't really process or learned from it.
I started Lotus to solve my own problem too, but this time my goals and context are different.
First, I actually care to give Lotus into a lot more hands than just myself. GitHub's notifications contribute to burnout and I believe Lotus can help. Most of the times when I opened my list of notifications, I ended up just closing the tab and saying "not today" to myself. Then I felt bad for not supporting my projects, but that still didn't stop me from repeating the same process again. It got to the point where I contributed a "Mark as unread" button to Refined GitHub project which aims to fill in the gaps where GitHub could be better. Back in 2016, it gave me the option of at least peeking inside notifications without automatically making them disappear from the "Unread" list. Years forward, here I am with Lotus, which takes this original work much further. "Mark as unread" alone was very helpful already and I hope Lotus will be even more impactful and make developers happier.
Second, I've invested way more time and effort into creating Lotus than any of my open-source projects. The only exception is Ink, on which I've been working for almost 3 years now on and off. Naturally, I'd love to see a positive reaction from the community and know that people are using and enjoying what I've built.
Last but not least, of course I want Lotus to succeed financially. Aside from open source, I worked for various startups for the past 8 years and if now is not the time to focus on myself, then when?
Neither of these three things will happen if I continue to neglect the marketing aspect of Lotus.
So, what have I done so far? I promised to be honest in the beginning of this email, so I'm just going to say it - not much. I consistently tweet about new newsletters every week, but that's pretty much it. Unsurprisingly, I didn't get very far.
Let's see what I could be doing.
I've tried that in the early days of Lotus, but the format of developer log didn't seem to fit well with that community. Readers want value from the information they receive, but I wasn't giving them any, or the amount they hoped for. I think Indie Hackers community reacts better to "lessons learned", "users signed up" or "dollars learned" kind of format and I don't blame them. I enjoy reading success stories too! Perhaps I should reconsider Indie Hackers and see if I can tailor my knowledge to that platform and write differently.
I remember seeing a few websites on Product Hunt where developers share their progress daily or weekly and others respond and provide feedback. I think it could be a more fitting place for Lotus than Indie Hackers, because the environment is all about sharing knowledge as you go, rather than posting results.
By the way, any chance you know if there's a Reddit for a similar cause?
Currently I tweet once a week after I send a newsletter, but I noticed that shorter tweets where I show some part of a UI or a neat animation get way more attention. I think I could start doing that again and share some interesting bits of Lotus through the week, reserving the "big tweet" for a newsletter announcement.
When DHH was building Basecamp, he created a framework on the side that he later open sourced - Ruby on Rails. I think DHH admitted himself that Ruby on Rails was a big factor in the popularity of Basecamp, both as a product and now as a company.
I don't have anything to open source on the scale of Ruby on Rails, but there are certainly pieces other developers could reuse.
It could be interesting to try live streaming as a different medium and format for sharing how Lotus is built. What concerns me is that I sometimes pause to think how should I solve a particular problem or figure out a UI, and I'm not sure it's something people want to see in a live stream. Maybe I'm wrong about that assumption?
Is there anything else you'd love to read about in this newsletter besides features and development challenges? I admit I should've asked this question much sooner, so my apologies. Feel free to let me know what you have hoped to read about, I'll try to help!
With all that said, I commit to investing more into marketing Lotus from now on and I need your help. No, I'm not going to ask you to tell your friends, like, retweet or share in your social media circles.
I would love to hear and learn from you!
Have you noticed interesting approaches to marketing from indie developers or small companies? Perhaps you've had experienced this challenge yourself and would be open to tell me about it? Maybe you've spotted an insightful blog post which could be valuable or have something interesting in your bookmarks?
I would appreciate if you shared any resource or idea that you personally enjoyed learning. Please avoid the "growth hacks", I'd prefer organic ways to grow and keep my audience engaged. Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com or just reply here.
Let's keep this conversation going! Thank you.
I'm building Lotus in the open and I'm sending out progress updates just like this one every Sunday.
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