advice on creating work for an audience

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I recently spotted this list of lessons learned from running an open-source project and found much of it relevant to creating any kind of work on an ongoing basis for an audience.

If you’re interested in software development, the original post is worth a read. But for those of you who write, podcast, or otherwise create work on an ongoing basis for your audience, allow me to “fork” the original advice (as the open-source people say):

  • Start a creative project if you want to learn all you can about planning, making, marketing, and delivering your work; enjoy technical challenges, administrative challenges, compromise, and will be satisfied hoping that someone out there is benefitting from your work. Do not start a creative project if you need praise, warmth, and love from your fellow human beings.

  • If you could draw a boundary between that which is already a part of your work, and that which is not, you would find that all the activity, discussion, and drama occurs at that boundary. Requests only nibble at the periphery. Bold changes originate elsewhere.

  • People will get excited about something that hasn’t happened yet. Deliver it, and they will get excited about the next thing.

  • If you make something well, you’ll never hear about it again.

  • There is a fine line between “comprehensive” and “overwhelming.” There may not be a line at all.

  • If you show two things, and talk about twenty more, people will still only know about the two. Visual demonstrations have far greater impact.

  • Every change will ruin someone’s day. They will be sure to tell you about it. The same change will improve someone’s day. You will not hear of this.

  • People will disguise constructive feedback as harsh criticism, which means either they consider a difference of opinion something to be “fixed,” or that they believe that calling a choice an error will force you to fix it to suit their preferences.

  • Some people find it very difficult to articulate what they want. It’s worth being patient and finding out what they need.

  • What you keep out of a project is just as important as what you allow in to a project.

  • Many new fans will submit feedback just to show that they are knowledgeable and clever. They don’t really want you to change anything; it’s just their way of saying they like what you’re doing.

  • Beware of suggestions from people who have only followed your work for a day or so. Equally, beware suggestions from people who have followed you for a long, long time.

  • People will threaten to not like or follow your creative project because it doesn’t have something they want, thereby mistaking themselves for paying customers.

  • Many believe that if a change is small, you should make it, regardless of whether it makes sense for it to be there.

  • People will pick a fight with you about all your incidental choices.