This is a cool little background post from Ryan Singer explaining the origins and his process behind Shape Up, a web book about product development.
One of the things he did when getting started (with no solid idea of how to approach it) was commit to giving a workshop on how Basecamp worked. This created a deadlined forcing function to compel him to come up with the initial content and framework:
I didn’t know how to write a book. But I did know how to give a workshop. So I put a call out on Twitter. The workshop was a prototyping device. It was going to do three things:
- Force me to come up with a full day’s worth of content that could eventually become a book.
- Get instant feedback from an audience to learn what’s interesting, what resonates and what doesn’t.
- Put something out into the world that people could buy, so I could interview them afterward using the jobs-to-be-done approach.
I priced the workshop at $1,000 a seat and made people fill out a lengthy application before letting them buy a ticket. The application asked them to tell stories about problems they experienced with product development. Using their answers, I could screen out anyone who was merely curious or a fan but wasn’t really struggling. This created the best possible audience for getting feedback: hungry and motivated with skin in the game.