Dan Shapiro. Photo via Randy Stewart

What would you say if you could only speak once a year?

That’s the question that Seattle entrepreneur Dan Shapiro has been pondering. And it forms the basis of a new side project that the current Googler and former Ontela CEO kicked off this week at TheBestThingThisYear.com. In an era of 140-character Twitter messages and short-form blog posts, Shapiro wanted to take a different approach to content.

Here’s the basic idea: TheBestThingThisYear — TBTTY for short — allows members to post just one piece to an email distribution list. Once you post, you’ve got 364 days to think about the next thing you’d like to share with the community.

In other words, you better make the post pretty memorable. That’s a far different proposition from other mailing lists, including the popular Seattle Tech Startups list. Created by entrepreneurs Gaurav Oberoi and Chuck Groom, the STS list serves as a valuable resource for entrepreneurs to learn tricks of the trade, promote their wares or share war stories from the stratup front lines.

Shapiro said he loves the Seattle Tech Startups list. But he also said it is “noisy,” oftentimes with a dozen or more posts each day.  The best content often gets lost, and the coolest stuff doesn’t always surface.

Taking a page from Twitter, Shapiro said that he wondered what a mailing list would be like with tight restrictions. (much like the 140-character limit for a Tweet).

“Sometimes restrictions can be inspiring, and self-control can create great things,” said Shapiro. “And so I asked myself – how fascinating would it be if you could hear from thousands of people about the best thing they’ve done, and share your best work with a broad audience — but you could only do it once a year?  If you only have one bullet, you’re going to aim carefully.”

Shapiro doesn’t want press releases or shouting matches.

“I want to hear what people are proud of and why.  You launched your new product? Fantastic!  Send the link, but tell us about why this product is important to you.  Closed a financing round?  Awesome!  Tell us what you went through,” says Shapiro, adding that the contributions don’t have to be work or startup related.

“If I had to pick a role model for content, I want this to be like Ignite, a glimpse in to what people are most excited about,” he says.

At this point, Shapiro is offering 365 “charter memberships.” Those who grab one can start working on their thought pieces immediately, but once they post, they are done. The service is not yet available as Shapiro is still rounding up content and contributors, but once it goes live the idea is to send out one piece per day.

So, is this Shapiro’s next great startup idea? Not really.

“This is an experiment that fascinates me. It is definitely not a business,” he says.

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  • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

    Fun idea, Dan. I’m noodling….  The follow up question, “what if the people you most wanted to hear your idea/story/wish/accomplishment/rant really would see your post each year?” Hmm….

  • Guest

    What if every half-assed idea every geek in Seattle had was covered by GeekWire? 

    • Guest

      Hey be thankful this isn’t a piece on Ben Huh.  I am just happy for any Geekwire article that isn’t about Ben Huh.

      • Guest

        The first TBTTY post this year is from……Ben Huh!

    • Guest

      Not every geek, just a select few John Cook is enthralled with, like Dan Shapiro, Ben Huh, etc. I’d love to get a complete list of all angel investors in Geekwire. Disclosure would be interesting.

      • johnhcook

        Well, since you asked, here is the list, and it is a short one, with just one name: 

        Jonathan Sposato. 

        We’ve always been extremely transparent about Jonathan’s involvement in GeekWire, disclosing it in every piece we’ve written about him. 

        You can certainly criticize our editorial choices, but we take pride in our journalistic integrity, professionalism and responsibility to cover different aspects of the community.

        In terms of the diversity of content on GeekWire, feel free to email me if you have tips, story ideas, Startup Spotlight features, Geek of the Week profiles, etc. Thanks for reading. 

  • My_one_post_this_year

    Here’s what I would say if I could only say one thing this year:

    “This is a dumb idea”

    There are a couple of big problems here (1) If I had something that maybe was my “one big thing this year”, I’d likely withhold from posting it, since I’d be thinking that maybe something even bigger would come along in the next 364 days. The problem is obvious: great ideas and/or thoughts would either not be shared or would be shared hopelessly late. (2) So very many people, myself included, would post too early, (something much more important would come along), and I would be unable to post it, since I had already used up my allotted annual post. The problem is also obvious: great ideas and/or thoughts would not shared because ideas that, relatively speaking, were great at the time, would preempt them.

    It might solve the original problem (quieting down spammy-ish lists), but at the expense of stopping the flow of relevant/salient/great ideas. 

    PS: Plus, December would be super-chatty, as everyone reflects on the year and tries to back-fill their one big idea. 

    • http://twitter.com/NVEchols Noah Echols

      It doesn’t stop the flow of great ideas. There are still blogs. This is just a curated “best-of” series. I think it’s a great idea.

      • fisherman

        “best-of” what? It’s a chance for people to blather about whatever, just like always. “look at me”!

    • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

       Feel free to sign up and use your posting privileges to share that. :) 

      1) I’m not an expert on the math here, but I believe the optimal strategy is to wait (1/e) * 365 = 134 days, then post the next thing you get that’s better than anything you’ve posted before.  We’ll see in 4 months how many people try to follow that strategy, since a large block of people got posting rights this month.

      2) You are correct, not everything great will be posted to the list.  There will still be room for blogs, television, Twitter, and Geekwire to pick up the occasional tidbit. 

      PS)  When you post, you can’t post for another year.  It’s not tied to the calendar. 

  • snap

    Just got one of these from Ben Huh, can somebody read it and paraphrase for me? It’s too long to read.

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