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There is a term in the online world commonly known as “dogfooding” or “eating your own dog food”. It refers to the practice of using the same tools, software, elements that you’ve built for your users. The theory goes that if you don’t use your own tools/elements then why would you expect your users too? Or, put another way: You need to practice what you preach.
When the approval chain becomes too cumbersome a few things happen. The first, is that people get frustrated. When every little creative detail has to be approved by many different people, it can weigh a Creative down in quite a hurry. That’s especially true when there are outsiders who are deemed “non-creatives” weighing in on the process. But hey, that’s life and we all know it’s going to happen.
But the second detail that occurs when the approval chain becomes convoluted is more subtle. People start to find ways around it. They’ll still take the larger, more prominent items through the proper channels; but all those little details that go along with the project, they’ll be done on the sly, in the shadows.
This second effect can have one of two consequences. If you have a wonderful team in place that you trust and can perform well, those little details will be just fine. But what happens when you don’t? When you’re alone? All those little details are taken care of by “outsiders” - those people who are attached to the project yet aren’t the main creative driving force. When the approval chain is an issue these project members will simply “get things done” and the Creative might never know about them. This can lead to an inconsistent vision and missed opportunities.
I’m not sure what the answer is exactly, but I know it has to involve trust and respect. If your team doesn’t trust and respect the lead Creative, the whole project will be rocky from start to finish.
I’m often asked to comment on designs that have already been finished or are in the final phases of being finished. These are usually projects that are happening on the periphery of the network or by a company or firm that is mostly out of our control. But none the less, as the Art Director, I’m asked my opinion.
Often these designs are not what I’d like to see or what I would have done had I been involved in the process much earlier. So, providing feedback can be difficult. It’s very hard to correct a design that has wildly steered off course and evolved into something that I don’t personally see as “good design”. It requires a long list of “this doesn’t work” or “try this, then that” and it’s usually better to simply start over if possible. In fact, in trying to correct this type of design a person may actually be seen as “hard to work with” or “a difficult person to please”. But starting over is usually not an option so a Director is left to try and correct or steer the remaining design bits into a direction that is palatable.
Until now, it’s been very hard for me to communicate to outside groups who aren’t designers why I feel it’s usually better to start over. They tend to have a visceral reaction. After all, I just attacked their project - their baby. And we all know that design is a very personal & emotional process. But I think I finally have an answer to this type of situation.
This article has been sitting in my “Works in Progress” folder for about 6 mos. now as I have been debating putting this idea out into the ether for discussion. But in that time, I’ve noticed a few more people starting to notice this same problem and I thought it was time to make it public.
For awhile now, the trend in app development has been to house all a user’s content but provide links for sharing. It’s an idea that’s worked very well. Instagram is a great example of this trend. It’s a great iOS app that allows you to take a picture and post it to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Posterous, Tumblr, and even Foursquare (which also checks you in to that location using your mobile device’s GPS).
When the app first launched, I thought this was brilliant. I could take photos and then share them with all my friends on all the different social platforms I use. It was my one-stop photography app. But once I started to think about it, the idea began to not make sense.
Follow me here:
- Step 1) Take picture
- Step 2) Apply filters, etc.
- Step 3) Post to my blogs, Twitter, and facebook to share
My friends on Twitter could see the photo inline if they were using Twitter.com or they’d be taken to Instagram’s website and the picture could be viewed there. My friends on facebook got the same treatment - they were taken to Instagram’s website where the picture could be viewed. So, no one was visiting my blog. In fact, Instagram was getting all this free traffic that I sent their way because every photo posted using their app, provided a link back to their site. And what about when a new camera “app-of-the-week” came along - in this case, Camera+? Now I had some photos on Instagram’s site, plus new photo’s being posted to Camera+’s site. Both sites provided links on Twitter or Facebook for people to view, but what if tomorrow I decided I wanted to switch over to Flickr or any one of a hundred other photo sharing apps? I’d have my life strung out over many different sites and services.
What seemed like a simple idea is now starting to dawn on more people as they use different services. Any link or photo I post should come back to one central site that I control. The flow of content should be outward and in one direction - “Post Out, Not In". Otherwise, I was getting very fragmented. Sure, I could use all these great apps to post content everywhere and then collect them all later, but that’s a lot of work and I’d always be wondering what app do I use for this occasion.
With this idea in mind, I started weening myself off of a lot of the various apps I was using and began to find ways to only use my blog to absorb content. Photos are collected in iPhoto first and then posted to posted to various sites. Mobile snapshots are first sent to my blog where a link is generated and sent out to other various sites. And now, with the rights issues of TwitPic coming into question lately, I’ve even been thinking about watermarking my photos as well. Articles I want to comment on and share, music I find interesting, and many other things are first posted to my blog. There are still many thoughts or ideas that I publish first through Twitter of Facebook, but for the most part I try to keep everything of importance to me housed in one place. This is how my blog became my diary which I’ve covered in a previous post.
It’s an idea that for many is too much work - I understand that. And some people only need or want to participate in limited capacities online. Those people may only need to post a photo every so often and don’t really care about who houses that content. But one day, when they least expect it and they happen to capture a fantastic moment, they shouldn’t be surprised when they have no control over what happens next
With the announcement of the Apple TV and then the new Hulu Plus this fall, I (like many others) had grand visions of what is commonly called "cutting the cord". Meaning, that I wanted to get out of my expensive cable contract and watch all my TV shows using only online media. After all, Apple was now touting HD $.99 rentals and Hulu Plus had just arrived with an $8/month price tag. Those two outlets, plus my current subscription with Netflix and I was sure I could now cut that expensive cable chord. Boy was I wrong.
Disclosure: For what it's worth, I work in the TV industry and have worked at major cable networks.