Overnight Success: It Takes Years

Paul Buchheit, the original lead developer of GMail, notes that the success of GMail was a long time in coming:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/01/overnight-success-it-takes-years.html

Amen. The 10-year-overnight-success speech is the first one you hear in any responsible acting class. No matter. Every day, a fresh crop of rubes pile out of the bus, stars in their eyes, looking for the Schwab’s counter.

Tiny acorns/Mighty oaks, etc.

Once we launched, the response was surprisingly positive, except from the people who hated it for a variety of reasons.

This is surprisingly Yogi Berra-esque, except when it isn’t.

Anytime I start to doubt where I’m going, all I do is look back on how far I’ve gotten, even if it did take (GASP!) yers to do so.

I do hope you keep writing for a long time, Jeff.

Time is an illusion. Nighttime - doubly so.

That’s no excuse to move slow though.
[…] you must move very fast […]
because it’s a long journey!
it’s important to be frugal – you don’t want to starve to death…

Strangely, this post almost exactly describes my adventures in Oregon Trail.

Haven’t you heard though? Blogging is dead. Long live Twitter. :slight_smile:

Thanks for this article, Jeff. We’re in public beta with our app, colaab, at the minute so it’s good to be reminded that patience and letting traffic slowly build up can be a successful strategy.

Great words of advice. Thanks Jeff.

Don’t worry about what all those other b**tards say about you Jeff, I still love you :-). Keep up the good work. Stackoverflow is the best site ever!

I discovered codinghorror one night. read the insightful posts over the course of the night. By morning I was on the path to becoming a better developer. As far as I am concerned, you ARE an overnight success. Thanks for everything.

Plus one for it takes time and years of effort. Our startup Tonsho.com - an email service for sending large files was released in beta in April 2008. We’ve now got 600 free users and 5 pro users. It took 6 months after beta launch before we got good enough to get our first pro user. We’ve still got more things planned than we can have time for!

Good luck with Stack Overflow - the first problem I searched for was already in there shortly after launch - so its looking good!

Hey Now Jeff,

Years? Nice Chart with time!

Coding Horror Fan,

Great article, I completely agree having experienced the same need to grind away at a project for years on end with our sports management site (thats free by the way) at www.teamzonesports.com.

Overnight success is a myth, like the jackalope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackalope) some people think its out there but no one has ever really seen it

Malcolm Gladwell spoke of the 10,000 hour rule to hone people’s skills which is pretty much what you state in the second half of the post.

Regarding startup’s, at what point should you consider continuing or stopping your chosen startup? I think this is an important question…

I am working on a startup company and still planning most of the features and layout.

In a mad rush I wanted to get it up within a month as well as thinking it won’t be too dificult based on past experience.

Then I decided to use a lot of unfimiliar technologies on it to add some excitement and learn more, MVC, JQUERY, JSON, TDD.

I now realise that it’s going to take a lot of work continuously even after launching to make it a success.

Plus there’s all the business side of things besides programming that take up time.

Thanks for StackOverflow, it’s solved quite a few problems of mine.

stackoverflow is absolutely roaring along! i’ve started having programmer’s mention it, or use it, who’ve never heard of yourself or joel.

(and i notice you didn’t mention Paul’s nice write up of the ambiguity in your 2/3rds boy child post – http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2009/01/question-is-wrong.html )

best of luck

Thanks for the great article.

There is finally hope for all of us if we put in a little hard work.

According to complete.com the second most popular keywords for stackoverflow are stack overflow at line 873. lol

GREAT article…

I just miss one thing… the money.

If your working for many years on such a site/startup/whatever… how do you mange not getting any money for it? Do you work only in the evenings/weekends or did you manage somehow to get a little bit of money before everything starts… or what?

Thanks for your feedback, keep the good work going here…

Greetings from Austria,