It’s 3:00 AM here on the east coast, and I would normally draft something like this a few times over the course of a week to get it just right. I’d rewrite it over numerous cups of coffee, but tonight it’s just one glass of seltzer water until the job is done. Tonight, it’s less important that it be a perfect piece than that it goes out by dawn.
I’ve written extensively on Product Hunt over the past few months. I’ve discussed why their main sale isn’t tech products at all, but rather community. I’ve discussed how their sophomore effort
could be has been arguably their greatest triumph yet. I’ve argued that the team which has assembled under the Product Hunt banner, and the community it’s built around itself, is something special that should be recognized and emulated. Ryan Hoover’s post a few hours ago convinced me of why that’s true.
The Medium article to which Hoover’s first couple of sentences refer becomes almost completely irrelevant because of the way in which he opens his own piece: he’s not aggressive, defensive, or combative. He’s much more approachable than that. His verbal acknowledgment at his (and his team members’ hurt) over the post, and subsequent chin-up response of taking all feedback with a positive hand, might very well go unnoticed as readers try to figure out and/or find the post that stirred up this whole range of emotions. It shouldn’t.
Where so many might jump to a defensive tone, or a dismissive air, Hoover sets himself, his team members, and their company head and shoulders above by opening (and then closing) the piece with a dynamic of measured grace. It’s very easy to be graceful in your writing when you’re responding to praise. It’s very, very hard to do so when you’re responding to criticism, especially when that criticism is critical for criticism’s sake, with no discernable constructive overtures.
It’s been my pleasure to have numerous, daily interactions with numerous members of the Product Hunt team, and so I’m personally not surprised at such an honest, well-written piece. For those who are really paying attention, they know that this is precisely the reason why PH has shot up in popularity and virality. This is the reason why it’s growth and positive reputation seem to be stupidly big and expanding: because the community which they’ve built inspires people like me to come to their aid at 3:00 AM without batting an eye. It’s because they’ve engendered in their users a desire to see the most positive parts of the community grow, and to help work on the parts that need a little elbow-grease.
In the music business, there’s an adage I hear a lot: for those of you who forget us on the way up, we’ll see you on the way down. It means that for those artists who forget their early fans, and their initial community when they “get big,” there’s no guarantee that those same fans/early community members will be there when the lights come on; don’t take people for granted.
In writing this post (among others), the PH team has proved why it doesn’t take anyone for granted, and why they want to build a place where no one feels taken for granted or forgotten. If nothing else, this is why they win. The tech products, the guest chats, the games, the growth metrics…all of these stem from how they’ve constructed their community. It’s the reason why their community will continue to build with them, regardless of whatever critical responses they might receive in the future. If you want to emulate something, emulate that. I know that my team members and I are. Emulate how to build a damn good community with strong ties. Everything else can come after.