Process and Execution

2009-02-16 19:00:00 -0500

As I wrote last week, I’m really interested in any piece of reading where artists discuss methods of process, or simply getting around to doing their work. Most of the challenge is actually sitting down and setting about doing what you intend without knowing how it’s going to turn out necessarily, and being okay with that.

That’s not quite how it works in programming, but sometimes it is! Sometimes here at Zetetic we set out to find a way to do something without knowing what we’ll find. In fact, new challenges and new ideas always push you in this direction, so it happens pretty often, and like sitting down to create something in the context of art (wherein you see yourself, maybe, as an “artist” or a “poet”), you have to be okay with not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out, and trusting yourself to make decisions as you create.

There’s an article on the 37Signals blog today, titled, “The moment of truth is a real audience,” and here you find where the lines of art and entertainment cross-over in ways that are challenging to deal with for the artist, but it’s very straight forward for someone who sees himself as an entertainer, a producer, or a manufacturer of software. The article quotes playwright Matt Hart:

[Fellow playwright George S.] Kaufman did not hold with the theory or the practice of having run-throughs for his friends or friends of the cast, or even for people whose judgment he respected and trusted. He held firmly to the idea that no one person or collection of persons, no matter how wise in the ways of the theatre, could ever be as sound in their reactions as a regulation audience that had planked down their money at the box-office window, and in the main I think he was correct.

For the artist, acceptance and understanding of his work is not always in the bag, and the understandable fear of a lack of understanding or acceptance can be debilitating (whether the artist has ever gone out on that limb or not!) For the programmer, I think things are a lot simpler: you made something that does what you intended it to do, or you didn’t. It’s useful to people, or it’s not. But it’s still pretty disappointing when your software fails to gain wide appeal, when it doesn’t quite make the cut of your intended audience.

So, I think the trial by fire of a paying audience is a good thing. Even if you don’t get the acceptance and the understanding you hoped for. Maybe people aren’t ready for your cool idea, or maybe you need to build on your means of expression. YET, I think it’s crucial here to understand that with art, you can perfect your means and reach all your goals and never get critical acceptance, and you can’t expect to. I wonder if you can’t expect to with software either?

Speaking of trial-by-fire, great progress continues with Strip for the iPhone and we should be ready to beta the application very soon. Have you signed up for the beta mailing list? Scroll to the bottom of this page if you haven’t, and sign up! We’ll announce details on beta participation there within the next couple of weeks.

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