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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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