Joel Spolsky’s 2003 article, Mouth Wide Shut, makes an excellent argument for keeping the Secrecy Cap on all the way through until the release of a product. This means no discussion of feature-sets and, if the project is brand new, no discussion of what it does at all.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and the supreme secrecy rubs me strangely. As much as Joel’s points make sense, I feel like I’m missing out on something if I keep everything to myself.
Is it the buzz? I don’t think so. It’s worth a lot more when possible customers can move on that buzz.
Is it the feedback? Possibly. When I’ve discussed my ideas with close friends, I am encouraged by their praise and intrigued by their take on something that has only been tossed about in my head.
Is it an aversion to paranoia? Yes. I believe that there are no new ideas. This becomes abundantly clear every time I look up domain names. Can you believe that MonkeyDonkey.com is unavailable*?
In the end, I think Joel’s argument makes a lot more sense for his shrinkwrap software company than it would for a web application. With a release cycle that works in months and years, it would be important to keep secrets. I like the idea of making many small innovations, released often. Web applications can do this.
What’s the difference between talking about something new now, or in two weeks when it’s available to the masses? And if there really is no difference, then maybe I should default to keeping my mouth shut?
Update: The guy who started Yahoo Groups and Bloglines argues against keeping secrets in Stealth Start-Ups Suck.
* DonkeyMonkey.com is also taken. TigerGoat.com awaits your money…