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We know that we have a lot more to know.

That pretty much sums up our mentors’ advice this week. So we’re back to interviews and ethnographic studies to help us better identify user needs in order to pass/fail our hypotheses before we can move into user validation.

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Onward.

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An instructive lesson for our project from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason who sums up his entrepreneurual experience building a global $15 billion company:

We started out building a site that was designed literally to solve the unsolvable problems of the world, and now we’re hawking coupons.

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Our first foray into customer surveys provided fascinating insights into their use/non-use of news commenting systems, universally poor experience, desire to share news and product discovery opportunities.

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After a late night fajita-fueled brainstorming session, our project team has dubbed our comment networking product “voci.us”.

The name is derived from the Latin root “voci” which means “to give voice” and is pronounced VOH-see-us.

The Lean Launchpad philosophy is predicated on an iterative process of customer development and validation. In Four Steps to the Epiphany, author and e245 teaching team member Steve Blank fervently evangelizes this process of field learning, discovery and pattern detection.

The Voci.us Team experienced its first mini-epiphany this week during a second round of customer interviews on one of the web’s most contentious issues — online anonymity.

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Welcome to 2011, it’s a Read-Write-Execute world.

Gone are the days of unidirectional reporting and detached, view-from-nowhere analysis of current events. The audience now demands the capacity to remix, share and creatively adapt content as partners in the newsreporting process. A first step in this cultural shift is drastically improving online commenting systems for a more satisfying and productive experience.

With that charge in mind, the Voci.us Team is supplementing our customer interviews with data gleaned from research, public discussions and case examples within the intersection of communication theory, social networking and online user experience.

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Apparently, there’s no kiddie pool for budding entrepreneurs. It’s cannonball into the deep end or be the weird kid with the water wings and goggles clinging to the edge.

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Sketching out a needs analysis for our product coding structure.

Voci.us (formerly “News Talk”) is an ad-supported, web-based comment platform for daily news content. Vibrant real-time conversations and dynamic curation of news stories empowers people to expand their social networks and personal expertise about topics important to them. This improved capacity for discussing and sharing information addresses three problems vexing the news industry: inadequate online community engagement, poor topical search capacity on news sites, and scarcity of targeted online advertising niches.