Hope, Heroes and Startups: New Media Campaigns
New Media Campaigns has designed and launched over 400 web sites since their 2006 founding in Carrboro, North Carolina. Carrboro is only a stone's throw from the University of North Carolina where the New Media team studied computer science. I met the New Media Campaigns team at Refresh the Triangle in Durham on May 26th and set up an interview to learn more about the team's unique approach to speed, growth and the mythical man-month.
“No two web sites are exactly alike,” Joel Sutherland shared during our June 3rd interview. Creating web sites for politicians and nonprofits are company specialties. “We’ve built a reputation for quality and speed with campaign managers and nonprofits,” Joel said. New Media campaigns let word-of-mouth do the rest. “We don’t want to cold call anyone,” Joel said echoing something I heard his business partner Clay Schossow say during his Refresh the Triangle presentation.
“We love Fred Brooks,” Joel explained to about fifty people attending the May 26th presentation: On Speed: When being fast is taking responsibility. In the presentation, NMC Partners Joel, Clay and Kris Jordan explained how UNC professor and author Fred Brooks influenced New Media Campaigns. Brooks, author of The Mythical Man-Month and father of the UNC computer science department, is a towering figure in the world of software engineering. Adding manpower to late software project makes it later was a counter intuitive lesson known as Brooks' Law.
New Media Campaigns business is built for SPEED, avoiding the “accidental complexity” that Brooks warns about in his “No Silver Bullet Essay”. They create and live by simple principles promoting SPEED without sacrificing QUALITY. Several New Media Campaigns “best practices” emerged during my interview with Joel including:
- Understand essential vs. accidental complexity solving one (essential) without needlessly creating the other (accidental)
- Ask clients for a creative brief as a first step and use their brief to inform but not limit creation of a functional specification
- Get highly functional designs to users as soon as possible to promote engagement, ownership and involvement
- There is no silver bullet so don’t try to design one
- Modify and use existing code to in order to spend more time on a project’s unique requirements
- Give away as much information, code, advice and full sites as possible (“Anything beats cold calling,” Joel laughed)
- Be unemotional about mistakes
- Value and trust in team members and let relationships guide
- Think long term