Fuck content, it’s how it’s presented that matters

Last Saturday we had to spend the day in the city. My daughter was doing her first (and probably her last, she doesn’t want to continue) ballet show and rehearsals were in the morning and the show itself after lunch. So, me, my wife and my three year old son wandered Dublin city for a few hours.

The city used to be my second home before we had kids. And it was lovely to spend the day with no real purpose there. Everything’s changed but it’s still the same. Different shops, same streets. It was on Grafton St. where a busker was performing. A puppeteer. We stopped and watched for a while as the “silly statue” (as my son called it), interacted with the small crowd that gathered. The puppet itself looked old like a ragged classic jester but the puppeteer played loud modern dance music. A weird mix as this puppet made modern poses to the music while pretending to “steal” passerby’s shopping. It was quite obvious the skill and art the puppeteer had in bring his puppet to life.

I explained to my son that if you enjoyed a busker’s performance you should give them some money as a thank you but he was much too shy to come near the puppet.

I’ve wrote a little about my experiences on creating something for fun and my thoughts on creating as a product. But I also think how you present and frame your outpourings is as important, if not more important, than the thing itself.

For some reason, after I saw that puppeteer performing I thought of this article where a world famous violinist decided to busk in a subway station instead of a $150 per ticket concert hall. He dressed in ordinary clothes and just played his violin. Barely anyone noticed. By any definition or expert opinion, the music would be among the best in the world.

The article kinda makes some point about people rushing too much, not slowing down to listen and other such things. But I’m not surprised either. Any urban dweller learns to tune out things, “chuggers”, buskers, blaring music, glaring advertisements, smells from rubbish trucks and restaurants, etc. Sometimes something catches your eye and sometimes, like last Saturday, you don’t mind being distracted.

The puppeteer picked a street that’s popular for busking, on a weekend when people are browsing and willing to be entertained. The street is also popular for tourists to the city. He interacted with anyone who did stop. He framed his performance. His presentation was nearly more important than his actual act: he choose the best location, time and how to engage his audience. He stood on a box so he marked himself as not someone else on the street. If, like the violinist, he had chosen to perform in a busy train station, early on work day and refused to interact with his audience, do you think he’d have gotten the crowd we saw on Saturday?

And it’s like that with the internet. People prefer short blog posts than long winding slow-to-the-point ones. The internet is so full of spam, adverts, attention-whores, me-toos, trolls, re-posts, etc. that any good internet citizen, like any urban dweller, learns to tune out these things. Normal. Though we always slow down for certain voices (like specific friends or authoritative personas, reputations), certain trends (cats) and so on.

Producing a good or great work and putting it online means nothing without promoting it and sharing it in the right places and presenting it in a way that doesn’t automatically turn people off (like say presenting it as a “wall-of-text” or as a Word document instead of a webpage).

I remember arguing years ago that putting something, like say a free RPG online, was pointless because no-one would attribute any value to it. If they had to pay for it, they’d sit up a bit more (but also expect more). To be honest, that was a terrible simplistic view point. But “free” does have it’s own value indicators.

Which brings me all the way around to me being a moany git really. My frustration at my lack of ability to better present stuff I make. It’s not about validation. Going back to my previous blog posts on “making it for fun” or “making a product”, there is some thing to be said in treating the “making it for fun” as “making it a product for fun”. Which is a whole package of skills, that make introverts like myself don’t have by default.

What say you? How much does the way something, like a free RPG or fan-fiction, is presented/packaged (artwork, layout and other media) or how it’s framed (it’s relation to other similar things, it’s author’s profile, interaction with the audience, etc.) determine how you perceive it?

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