Lessons learned from 500 Thank You Letters

Earlier this year I launched a project, 500 Thank You Letters. I want to share some things I learned:

  1. Curated Content – Successful projects must launch with curated content to get the ball rolling and set the culture. I’ve pieced this together through various sources, ranging from my work at Mozilla to projects such as Cowbird. Most often the curated content will be self created and last far longer than may have initially been envisioned. While this may not be the ultimate goal, it is necessary to build momentum. This will take a lot work and time.
  2. Publicizing is hard – It is very easy to overestimate how many people will get behind the initial push of a new project. Numerically it seems reasonable that a healthy percentage of the people you know will gladly take part. They would but they are busy. 500 seemed like a reasonable number over 500 days. No. Whatever the percentage you think you will get, cut that at least in half. My hunch is that better success here is derived from personally reaching out. Many people may like a project but getting them to take part is another story. Find a way to make it easy to onboard and showcase others who have. Still some more thinking to be done here.
  3. Make something people can own – Think of the first thing you do when you sign up for a new site. Often people check their profile and create something reflective of themselves. I would say that the more someone can own what they are doing, the more they are interested in being part of the project. Think of how we name our cars and give them personalities. Humans like to personify. Furthermore, people want to share that with others. With 500 Thank You Letters, I saw that people really liked to make and share something very personal.

500 Thank You Letters remains quietly active, which means I will keep it up but not do much more than post new letters as they are received. Thank you to everyone who has helped out.

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