When I think of how I envision DenseLayers’ growth, the model that inspires and influences it the most is Quincy Larson’s FreeCodeCamp. I’ve been a fan of the project since I first heard about it, and it shows a path that I think we can follow as well.
FCC’s biggest advantage was the focus on community-building, and the insight that group-learning is so much better and more efficient than doing it alone. I independently reached the same conclusions about the practice of reading research papers, or for any deep knowledge-building activity in general.
You see the concept of “group study” across all human cultures, from Bible circles in college campuses in the USA (and even Africa), to housewives reading the Little Red Book together back in Mao’s China.
At DenseLayers, we want to enable group-study of and collaboration over breakthrough STEM research, on a species-wide scale.
I read back to how Quincy grew FCC:
- He started with a tiny prototype (a list of good external resources with a checklist).
- He also set up a HipChat/Slack group for members to hang out together.
- On the content/marketing front, they grew by him tweeting a lot, live-coding, writing lots of articles and answering questions on Quora, and posting videos on YouTube with other members of the community.
- His hiring approach was to simply pick active people from the FCC community itself. (I too have always intended that I’ll only hire people from the DenseLayers community — it’s a no-brainer.)
- He also setup a publication to which other people could contribute content/tutorials.
The amazing thing is how capital-efficient they are. With only $350K or so in annual spending, they could deliver 2 billion hours of learning in that year.