If you’re following the evolution of Prosperity’s Kitchen, then you’ve already heard of The Johnny Project.

But in case you’re new to these parts, or if you’ve missed any of the game-changing explosions of late, The Johnny Project was an experiment in public accountability that happened back in 2009 between Johnny B. Truant (the mentee) and Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz.com (the mentor).

It’s a project that I personally missed out on, but heard about through various friends and colleagues. And it’s part of what got me started on the road to Prosperity’s Kitchen in the first place: Accountability. Implementation.

And where to find the missing key(s) to creating super engaging and effective online classes that get REAL results. Over the last few months, I’ve done quite a bit of research. I looked for the original Johnny Project blog posts, but they’ve since been taken down. So I reached out to both Johnny and Naomi (via email) to find out what they thought made that experiment work and what I might want to keep in mind if I did something even slightly similar. Johnny’s comments were included in the Prosperity’s Kitchen unveiling post.

Here’s what Naomi Dunford had to tell me:

As far as my perspective on public accountability projects goes, on one level, it can be quite fascinating and valuable for the reader. On another, whether it’s successful or not, it can also become a bit of a self-indulgent spectacle. It’s like if you’re minding your own business watching 60 Minutes, and all of a sudden they’re like, “Surprise! Change of plan! Every other episode, we’re doing 60 Minutes, Survivor Edition! Don’t you LOVE IT?!?!”

The other thing that I’ve noticed about the public accountability project is that it tended at times to become incredibly boring. The readers say they want to hear what the involvees do every day. On another, if you saw what I did every day you’d weep from boredom. And I have a pretty interesting life.

The average newbie’s day-to-day or week-to-week life is comprised of, ‘Schmooze with strangers in social media. Schmooze with strangers over email. Schmooze a bit. Wonder if it will work. Repeat.’

Johnny was interesting because Johnny is an incredibly gifted writer and performer. We have had probably — I don’t know, 100? 200? — people apply to be the next Johnny, but we’ve always politely declined because it takes a very special person to be Johnny. It wasn’t just the voyeurism and accountability that made it work. It’s voyeuristically spying on someone very interesting and very entertaining and very likely to succeed that makes it fun for the reader. [emphasis mine]

Sobering thoughts, no? And then along comes Zeus. (Yes, that’s his real name.)

Zeus Yiamouyiannis (say it with me: Yah-mehYAN-nis) is a man who loves learning. And he’s got a fledgling brand he calls Citizen Zeus.

I met this mythologically-named man in an online class called “Bootstrap Bootcamp” — a little something co-taught by Jon Morrow and Johnny Truant earlier this year. Over time, he and I got to talkin’ — in fact, I think it started with one of my infamous skype coffee invitations — and before you could say “sweet baby lettuce,” we were talking about making HIM my guinea pig mentee a la The Johnny Project. Here’s what Zeus has to say on this whole shindig:

I was drawn deeper to Tea’s website after signing up for her emails. I bought her book, Feed a Hungry Crowd (big $2.99, didn’t set me back too much). But I noticed something: Tea may be the most prolific learner in the business — and a pretty damn good teacher as well. I was intrigued.

How did she know all this stuff? How could she integrate it so well into her business? Surveys, coffee chats, Pinterest boards, incredible design, icons, autoresponders, and on and on.

She seemed at ease with literally hundreds of different web-related skills and still had time to treat her many clients in a very personal way. I thought, “I have got to meet that woman.” I wanted to learn how she did it all and then apply that learning to my website. I wanted to be mentored. But what could I offer in return? When I saw her blog post expressing a desire to further develop the teaching side of her business, it hit me: Bam! I’m a former teacher trainer with a Ph.D. in education and my own learning consultant business. I’ve helped folks with severe learning challenges perform at a high level.

Both Tea and I might be able to trade our crafts—her web/marketing expertise and my curriculum whisperer skills. Like many of you trying to develop a web business, I’m smart and motivated, but completely bewildered by the flood of options out there. What can I really do with all the random apps, free content, and webinars thrown at me online all day long?

There is no framework. It doesn’t help if the material is bundled, either. “Oh great, a bunch of vaguely related, somewhat outdated bag-‘o-skills in the same place. Thank you!” Gah! And the technical glitches? My time is disappearing. I need a person or a method that can teach me to connect the important things, decide what not to use, and help me make real progress. It reminds me of my frustration working for universities and other organizations.

Research rarely went beyond the classroom or the obscure academic journal. A think tank was interested only in discussions — not application — of ideas on the future of learning. Teaching in schools always seemed to be about preparation for some vague tomorrow (or simply managing behavior). Our work was totally disconnected from any effect it might have on the world. And a lot of what’s out there on the web is the same.

Big ideas and strategies, but no connection to the nitty gritty, “this-is-how-you-get-there” tactics. “Experts” rarely seem to understand both sides of that coin. In the institutional arena, someone else always takes that next step (after theory is developed). As an entrepreneur, I have to be the one to implement. 

So, here I am making that commitment and taking that next step — with The Zeus Experiment. Like Tea, I hope that it results in powerful new forms of entrepreneurial learning for programs like Prosperity’s Kitchen.

Yep, there you go. Zeus and I are going to do this thing. We’ll be meeting on a weekly basis, and blogging about the process so you can watch — in real time — how well I do as a mentor and how well he implements.

We’ll share the ups AND the downs. We’ll share the results (yes, the numbers!). And we’ll invite you to cheer and question every damn thing we do.

Our agreement is to trade consulting time. He’ll review the curriculum for Prosperity’s Kitchen and help Kim and I ensure it meets the highest of standards (in terms of YOUR success).

In return, I’ll help him get his little biz launched and moving in the right direction. At least that’s the plan.

What do you think? Is Naomi right? Is this a bad idea? Or would you find this experiment not only interesting, but helpful to your own efforts? Share your comments, questions and advice with us below.