Politifact just won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its coverage of the 2008 election. The board cited PolitiFact’s use of “probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”


Matt Waite, one of the site’s founders, posted about the big win and the key lesson he learned building PolitiFact: Demos, not memos. [thx JB]

Demos, not memos.

To be clear, my bosses thought PolitiFact was a good idea from the start. But there was a material difference between how they reacted to memos and how they reacted to seeing it working.

The sales job got easier. The abstract became concrete. The conversations changed from “what do you mean by” to “what if we did this.”

Some of the Getting Real-ish reasons Waite gives for this “demos, not memos” approach: 1. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. Execution is hard. 2. Meetings suck. 3. Requirements documents suck.

(Waite also links to “Why requirements stink” which offers this great example: “Here’s a requirements list: Make a $5 car that goes 500 miles per hour, weighs 10 lbs, and is invisible.”)

Think about how much time you would waste trying to explain the screen shown above. Just build the damn thing and then everyone gets it. Create instead of debate. That’s how you get from “huh?” to “aha.”