Be Adventurous & Frankenstein it!

Got an idea and want to quickly test it?

Girls being adventurous

Got an idea and want to quickly test it? One of the easiest ways to do this is to Frankenstein it—in other words, use existing platforms and tools to cobble together something that is functional enough to see if you get traction.

Here’s a quick example.

Last week, my daughter Grace was home from school for a few days with a cold. In order to give her something fun to do, we started brainstorming different types of websites that she could launch.

And thus…The Adventurous Girls Society was born.

Step 1: Ideation

The goal of the site is to get girls to try fun, new things. Each week, we send out an email to a small group of Grace’s friends encouraging them to do something that they wouldn’t normally do (like try 3 new foods or learn how to do a backbend). Her friends then email back photos, stories, or videos showing what they’ve done, and Grace will sort through these and upload them to a password-protected site that each girl can access to view and comment on the photos, videos, and stories.

In the tradition of the Girl Scouts, each girl will provide proof that they’ve mastered a challenge and be rewarded with a badge. The badge will either be a pin or an iron-on that they can put on a T-shirt, so that they have something tangible to show off to their friends. In this sense, we’re showing this group of girls how they can use online technology to enhance, encourage, and reward, offline activity.

Once we came up with the general idea for the site, we looked around on the web at examples of similar sites for inspiration.

Step 2: Inspiration

Grace is a big fan of the site DIY.org, but the challenges on the site are usually limited to “making” and the site has a bit more of a boyish vibe. There are also restrictions on what you can and can’t post based on COPPA Regulations (the rules that regulate sites which cater to children under the age of 13).

Because The Adventurous Girls Society is a private project, with heavy oversight by me (a supervising parent), we aren’t so limited in what we can do. The site is only going to be open to Grace’s close friends and I’ve already had conversations with their parents about what they can/can’t do while there. This all may sound overly cautious, but seriously there are a ton of regulations around this!

Inspired by DIY, we decided to build a site that would have some similar functionality—uploading and sharing pictures and videos of things that you’ve done; suggesting new challenges; and badging—but that would be more geared towards girls and would allow them greater freedom in what they could upload.

Step 3: Execution

Next, it was time for Grace and I to build it.

As a startup founder (who also has a second job), I don’t have a lot of time to spend building something from scratch. Through Skillcrush and HopScotch I have been exposing Grace to code, but she’s not quite ready to take on the challenge of coding a site for herself.

So instead, we decided to use Squarespace and select one of their existing templates. For $8/month, it’s cheaper for me to use Squarespace’s off-the-shelf product than it is for me to spend the time coding something from the ground up. Grace and I then went to Flickr and downloaded some great photos for free (Compfight allows you to easily search for creative commons images). Next, we headed over to Tiny Letter and created an email account and then onto Tumblr, where we started three new blogs—one for videos, one for photos, and one for stories–using existing templates, and made sure that these were password protected in compliance with COPPA. We then went back to SquareSpace, and linked the Tumblr blogs and Tiny Letter sign up page to the existing homepage that we had created.

Lastly, we went to GoDaddy.com to find a url and bought theadventuro.us. We then had to map our domain to our Squarespace account. This step sounds far more complicated than it is. The instructions on the Squarespace site are super-intuitive. The only thing that you need to remember, as we’ve discussed before, is that it takes awhile for all of the domain name servers to update their phone books. So, be patient and wait a bit before trying to access your site using your new URL.

Step 4: Launch

Then, we went live!

Clearly, if you head to the site, you will see that there is still a lot more work to be done. This is where it will be Grace’s chance to really shine. She will have to navigate through the Squarespace WYSIWYG editor and start adding content. We have Adobe Illustrator at home and this is a great opportunity for her to learn the basics of the program to create some super-simple badges and then figure out how to upload them. She’ll also have to come up with interesting challenges each week to send out to her friends. But, it is a great introduction to the web and all of the wondrous things that you can create using it!

All in, this entire process took about an hour and a half of time. Now the site won’t stand up to the scrutiny of a venture capitalist looking to invest or even survive a TechCrunch bump. But it serves it’s purpose–to get girls engaged in doing new and fun things. And, for an hour and a half of our time, that’s a good thing!

If you want to follow along with our progress, you can check out the end result here. The Tumblr blogs are all password protected (remember, COPPA), so I’ve included a screenshot below.