The power of releasing early and often

Release early and often” is a phrase often heard in software development, and is more like a mantra for most web development projects.  The idea being that it’s better to get something “out there” in a simple or reduced form, rather than wait and wait and wait for your grand plan to come together. (In Getting Real, 37signals calls this “half, not half-assed“)

Well, this applies equally well to projects outside the software realm, and there’s a great example right here in Brooklyn.  Anyone who walked over the Brooklyn Bridge this summer (possibly to see the waterfalls) probably noticed a new patch of park on an otherwise ignorable patch of land jutting out into the river.

This is, of course, the first public taste of Brooklyn Bridge Park project, called Pier 1.  It’s a temporary park, on the nearest edge of what will become the first major section of the park. It’s highly visible, and perfectly timed to capitalize on the buzz around the waterfalls.

A few quotes from Going Coastal demonstrate the power of this approach:

“Since popping up with little fanfare June 26 in Brooklyn Heights on a sliver of the future waterfront park’s construction site, a temporary playground at the edge of Pier 1 is giving the public its first real sense of what the long-delayed development will bring to the Big Apple.”

I love the “with little fanfare” bit — no need to make a grand launch; just put it out there and let people find it.  And of course…

“… critics of the long-delayed park project are still questioning why it took the city and state so long to offer a first glimpse of the breathtaking waterfront access the planned 85-acre park will bring.”

It sounds like a change of administration was what was needed to get things moving in the “getting real” direction;

“Even the development’s biggest critics agree that the project only gathered steam in November after Regina Meyer, a longtime Brooklyn planning director, was appointed president of the state-city Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corp.

She replaced Wendy Leventer, a Pataki administration holdover who was fired in March 2007 after the Post reported the agency at that time had spent $16.5 million over the previous five years with little to show expect mounting legal fees and continuously changing project renderings.

But this past March, construction kicked off despite there only being enough government funding to build about two-thirds of the park. Including $6.1 million recently donated by the City Council and Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, the project’s current budget now totals $231.1 million.

Meyer said she felt it was important to finally get the project going and then lobby to fill the remaining budget shortfall at a later date.” [emphasise mine]

This is really the important part, and where the power of the “early-and-often” approach is really evident.  Instead of tweaking the plans forever, Meyer decided to just go and build something (anything!), to show progress and give people a glimpse of how awesome things will be.

And man, it is awesome.  The photo above really doesn’t do it justice, but the view from the new (temporary, mind you!) Pier 1 is incredible, and it really opens up the waterfront in an entirely new way.