I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future direction of Puffbox. The company has been in existence for two and a half years, and things have gone pretty well. I’m consistently busy, with regular offers of interesting projects: sometimes too many offers, actually. The mortgage gets paid each month, and there’s no immediate threat to a pretty comfortable status quo. So I’m not worried as such; just keen to stay ahead of the game.
The ‘WordPress (etc) into government’ campaign seems to have been successful; partly through my own efforts, I hope. We’ve got some departments doing some really quite adventurous things, and others dipping toes into the water. There’s now a clutch of us freelancers / consultants selling our expertise into Whitehall, and a few instances of departments doing it for themselves. And with WordPress itself maturing as a product, it feels like we’re entering a new phase.
It’s a shift from ‘look what we can do’ to ‘how can we do it properly?’. A realisation that high-profile sites really can’t rely on individual developers, no matter how multi-talented – for the benefit of the developer as much as the client, possibly moreso even. The accumulation of a year or two of actual real-world experience.
I can see several possible directions Puffbox could take. But I’d like to get some input from those actually inside government: the clients, current and potential. What would be of most interest to you – practically, strategically, financially?
- More of the same. Keep doing what I’m doing, designing and building modest, innovative sites and apps. But bring in other similarly-skilled people to share the load. We’d continue to use off-the-shelf hosting services, or departments’ own arrangements. Sell the benefit of our longer experience: sure, you could do it yourself, but we’ll do it quicker and better.
- Move into hosting and support of WordPress sites – not just sites I/we build necessarily, either. ‘Business class’ rather than ‘coach': expensive, but with a package of WP and plugin upgrading, security, etc etc to merit it. I’d need to form some kind of relationship with a tech guru or two; good news is, I know a few already.
- Focus on a couple of specific WP-based apps of specific interest to government. Perhaps a ‘press office’ function, skinnable to slot neatly into departmental sites. Or a locally-hosted Basecamp-style project management app. Or a UserVoice-clone. Or an online content aggregator. Or a ‘social intranet’ based on BuddyPress. Or a consultation platform. Hire them out for an ongoing fee, as opposed to selling a one-off deliverable.
- Develop an expertise in something new – RDFa? Data/API? Geo/mapping? Emailing? Video hosting? Possibly WordPress related, possibly not.
- Does it weaken the ‘government expertise’ pitch if I start to look at more political or commercial work?
It could be one of the above, or several at once, or something completely different. But I can’t shake the feeling that now is the right time to be doing something. What would you want from me, guys?
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