Monday, December 3, 2007 - By SeeClickFix Team - No comments
When we started talking about this idea, we were excited. Rather than debate all the organizational issues upfront, I suggested getting together to build a really early prototype. Through building the site together, we could learn if we have a shared vision (seems that way) and continued passion for the idea. Since we know and trust each other, we were choosing to postpone the discussions of incorporation (for profit/non profit), ownership, titles, expenses, etc. Those things are theoretical and basically irrelevant if we don't like working together and don't like the product.
We'll see how it evolves. In the time we spent on the project this weekend, we do have continued passion and an amazing amount of functionality. You can now search for a location and open a ticket in the market pop-up window. You can also edit an existing ticket, including setting the status to closed. Right now it emails us every time a ticket is opened and we'll be responsible for contacting local government. We're still working on the functionality to automatically report it to local governments. The site works best in Firefox right now since Internet Explorer works differently.
Last night at dinner with friends we were talking about the relative advantages of incorporating as a non-profit or for profit. I believe that many for profit organizations can work for social good and therefore do not rule out that structure for this project. Is there enough revenue opportunity to be funded by investors and become self sustaining? Or would we be reliant on grants ongoing? Will users trust us more or less if we are for profit? I'm grateful that in the US we can get the ball rolling with a project like this without being required to get a government license.
A question that we've been putting a lot of thought into is how to attract attention and help the early adopters believe in the power of the site. I believe that building a group of users and a strong sense of communitty, almost a sense of ownership, among a core group of users will be important to building critical mass. Some have wondered if building that level of passion among users is easier if they understand we're a non-profit. An example of that might be Wikipedia. On the other hand, there are a number of for-profit projects that have strong user collaboration and content building.
Another issue that was raised at dinner with may be related is legal liability for us and for the towns. We have yet to really research this, but we were discussing the concept that local governments might be concerned about an increase in legal liability after being informed of an issue. Something to research and understand better. Overall, I think we believe that as a matter of policy more transparency provides benefits that outweigh the risk. I wonder how this will impact our decision. More to come on that.
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