Feedback and testing

I wrote about Thorsten’s Physic or Surgery beta a while back, not least because I was struck with the guts of putting a work in progress like that out. The ‘ashcan’ edition of his comic was a neat way of establishing a world, and he appeared to filter feedback into his first issue proper incredibly quickly.

Well the second part of his story is up now, and I’m no less impressed. I think it moves beautifully – essential when his characters flit about the city in the way they do – and his willingness to learn in public is an excellent reflection of that motion. It upsets my notions of fully-forming things before taking them public wonderfully.

It’s the productive counterpart to the emotional confessions in the backmatter (think DVD extras) that accompanied Matt Fraction’s Casanova comic when it was released as a single issues. Fraction (and a bunch of others) also linked to Dan Harmon’s similarly gut-wrenching episode-by-episode walkthrough of the second series of TV show Community over at The A.V. Club last week which does a similar job of airing something more than just dirty laundry.

Fraction and Harmon’s public retrospection becomes a promise – a contract – that they’ll be better. That they won’t just improve, they will demand you set benchmarks for their improvement. I really admire that, and I certainly threaten to exhibit that tendency from time to time, but I much prefer Thorsten’s take on it. Iterations; direction; guidance; a promise that he’ll listen to what you have to say without giving you the right to demand anything of him or his work.

That’s not something I think I can apply to, say, Paper Science, and it’s not something I’m natural at initiating. But I’d like to. I can think of at least one narrative-driven project I want to start later this summer that would benefit from that kind of process.

On a sidenote, Physic or Surgery also hammers home some of the restricted sensations that life in connected cities is starting to generate.

In light of Tom Armitage’s recent troubles with @TowerBridge, and Warren Ellis note of caution in his Cognitive Cities talk earlier this year (“Cognitive cities require the approval and collaboration of city authorities. The same people who make flyposting illegal.”), it’s something I’m thinking about a bit.

Again I’m not sure this is directly applicable to much of my current work, but as I start thinking about hacks and hackability of products, services and experiences it’s worth bearing in mind that ownership of what you’re grafting on is challenged in new and exciting ways every week. I don’t think learning in public hurts that in the ways we used to think it did.

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