14 Apr 2023

Working in public

We've been working in public ever since we started building Exist. We've blogged about what we're working on and our long-term goals, published a podcast about the process of development, run yearly user feedback surveys, and since 2016 we've been publishing our user subscription numbers and income every single week. Right from the start we had a public roadmap, too, where users could see what we were working on, discuss proposed features, and vote for what they wanted to see come next.

We feel that working in public is a kind of superpower. It keeps us accountable to users and that in turn fosters trust. Our community can engage with us directly, see at any point what we're working on and what's planned, and have a very real impact on our priorities. Rather than trying to hide behind the facade of a Brandâ„¢, politely corporate and never personal, writing "bug fixes and improvements" in all the release notes, always passing on your feedback to the relevant team but somehow never acting upon it... we've always been open about being just a couple of humans who are making things. There is no curtain for us to implore you not to look behind, there's just us.

Ultimately, we feel that's a better deal for everyone. It makes for a better product, because users can have trust in us, feel heard, and get what they actually want. And we can work in a way that's in line with our values.

When we first made a public roadmap for Exist, we used Trello (which was the style at the time). It was never a very good fit for something we wanted our users to engage with, and as soon as I had time to spare, I started building us an alternative.

At the start of 2016 we migrated to Changemap, our new, proudly custom-built tool for public roadmaps! Changemap gave us a way of presenting at a glance our flow of work from suggestion through to completion, what was most popular with everyone, what we planned and what was in progress, and let us update our users as their suggestions moved through the process. And we've been using it ever since, with over 16,000 votes and comments made by our users for Exist, and roadmaps for our other products too. (We even have one for Changemap itself.) It's been invaluable.

Then a few years ago we opened up Changemap to public beta. During the beta we've seen other successful teams use Changemap with their communities too, like the symptom tracker Bearable and financial planner and simulator ProjectionLab. I feel proud to see something we built for ourselves become a part of the workflow of others who are making such cool things.

Changemap screenshot

Now, finally, we've launched Changemap officially. Now anyone can use Changemap with their own communities, to work in public and engage their users, in the same way that has been so successful for us and integral to the transparency we care about. I'm happy that in some small way we'll be able to help encourage that, and maybe even make it a little easier to do well.