During our first meeting with Gina, she asked us: “What are you guys focused on, building a technological solution, or building a community?”

In our minds, we were focused on building a technological solution. We believed that if we developed a better commenting platform (one with real identities, insight points, multiple conversations, individual profiles, etc.), the community would come.

This is why we discounted Gina’s recommendation: “Why don’t you guys forget about the features and focus on building a community using Ning. Attracting the right community doesn’t require fancy features.”

We ignored Gina’s advice because we were excited about the platform we had in mind (and Ning would not allow us to develop that platform). We believed that if we built the platform, users would come. However, we were wrong.

I believe we should have focused on attracting the right community first (individuals interested in having high-level conversations). We should have picked a specific news topic, and built the “right” community around that news topic. Then we could have focused on the right technology, based on what that community wanted.

Then we could have built other communities around other news topics, and expanded from there.

I believe this project was a tremendous learning experience, one that will likely save me a lot of wasted energy on future ventures.