Navigating the Comment Gallery

Navigating the Comment Gallery

I love listening to Seth Godin's podcast. Here are the highlights I noted from the "Shun the Non-Believer" Episode. 

You Tube sees 300 hours of uploaded every minute. (Since you found this post and decided to read it, 5 new hours just downloaded for consumption). Anyway you do the math they have got to have more than a half a billion videos and lots of them have reviews. Reviews are everywhere. Amazon reviews everything. 

Now, when we do work, when we do something to place out in the world, other people are going to comment on it, sometimes not so nicely. There is a methodology that you should push for reviews, again and again, as if something magical will happen once you hit a thousand or two thousand or who knows how many. Reviews are all over the map. So how are we supposed to learn from them? 

The reviews tell us a lot about the person who wrote the review, but what does it tell us about the person or companies magnificent work of art? As I read through the varying reviews, now I am even more confused. What should this creator do? What should she do when she reads these reviews? What should each of us do when the work we create is put into the world and somebody we didn't make it for hates it? One thing we can do is organize our fans and write something that doesn't get any negative reviews. 

My real concern for somebody who is working to do something that is going to go into the world.  I am worried that you will sensor your work, you will change your work before it hits the market because you are afraid of the person who isn't going to get the joke. That what you are going to do is dumb it down, average it out, make it mediocre, because that is the definition of mediocre after all, so that someone won't hate it. But I would like to argue that someone hating it is really important. It is really important that someone hates it because it means that you made it for someone else. Someone specific, and all the great work that we are capable of doing now is for someone specific not general but specific, precise, someone who wants this, believes this, dreams of that. That work, that work of showing up in a way to say "here, I made this and it might not be for you", is fundamentally different than the work of this is gonna be sold at the cash register of every Walmart or Macy's, so I better make something that everyone is going to like. There are very few slots left to make something that everyone is going to like. Pleasing everyone ... that is a fool's game. The alternative is to please someone, not just to please them but delight them in a over the top way - to push them to the point where they are delighted you took them somewhere. 

So, when someone says my work is insufferable, when someone says that they violently disagree with a point I am making, I can say to them, "Thank you, thank you for taking the time to listen to this, thank you for taking the time to care enough to work your way through it, thank you especially for choosing to speak up in a way that I am sure you thought would be helpful." Then I am not going to listen to it. Because if I do, I'll make something else. 

So here is the thing, we have a two pronged situation, all of us, everyone of us, did not wake up hoping to be inundated with negative feedback, with bad reviews, with cutting criticism, from anonymous people, none of us. What do we do?  Some of us will respond by hiding, by not showing up with our full selves, by not putting it out there, by not shipping the work. By hiding behind a wall so that we can't be criticized, so that when we are criticized it can't possibly be personal, because after all we didn't expose our emotional labor we didn't do our best work. That's one path.  

The other path, that is so tempting is to dumb it down, average it out, make it more for everyone, not just deniability, but setting ourselves up to try to please anyone who could encounter us, who might walk into our shop or a meeting room, or encounter something we wrote or cooked or produced. The problem with that is - the market doesn't need more average stuff for average people, that blends in, it's invisible, a commodity, it is a race to the bottom.

So what is the alternative? Shun unbelievers, to address the smallest viable audience.  Viable, because if it is not big enough or eager enough it is not worth the journey, but smallest because if we act like we only can serve a few people, it will require us to focus obsessively on those people, the people who want to go where we are going, the people who want to do what we are doing, who want to do it with us. If we make something for them, for the fans, for the people who are yearning for the next, and they don't like it, we better listen to them, because we've got to make it better. But if we make something for them and 'others' don't like it - well then "thank you, but it is not for you, thank you checking this out, I am sorry it is not for you. It's not defective, inferior or wrong, it is simply not for you".  Shun the non believer. The number of people pushing you to be magic for everyone is very small - mostly you. It is mostly a side effect of trying to fit in, to not get that negative review.  

The alternative is to do work you are proud of, that matters, work that we would miss if you hadn't created it. Shun the non-believers. The people you seek to serve, that smallest viable audience, they can't wait! 

Here is a link to the podcast: