Shedding some Armor

When I was growing up back east, I had a very hard time accepting feedback from other people, especially my parents. I was particularly defensive when it came to my ideas, which was probably to compensate for how emotionally fragile I was. Over the years, I have dialed back this defense mechanism since it turns out that other peoples ideas can be valuable. By which I mean, worth money. For example, Garbage Pail Kids was not an idea I came up with, and that guy was laughing his way to the bank when I was 8 (and deeply defensive).

I’m currently nearing the end of my second paternity leave. This was very different then round 1, since Jasper has developed into a little dude and we have a nanny 3 days a week. Knowing full well that I was going to have some time to work on projects during this leave, I tried to come up with a challenging computer project that would force me to learn some new mad nerd skillz.

The initial idea came to me when I was last in Newton, and I attempted to explain it to my dad. He had some feedback, which I initially rejected. I later mulled over his words and happened upon some shiny useful nuggets which somewhat reshaped my initial idea. This is a hard learned technique I picked up from surviving a long term relationship. More over, I realized I could get more nuggety goodness by sharing my project idea with lots of other people and seeing what they had to say. So for the first time in my life, I actively solicited lots feedback from tech savvy people. The rewards for this approach have been bountiful (in terms of  insightful ideas, not cash). The trick was to be open to all feedback, and take my time evaluating what people had to say. I believe this to be the most valuable thing I’ve learned during developing this web application, which has nothing to do with all the intentional computer learning that I set myself up for.

Now that I’m finished the first pass at this app, I’m really interested in the feedback that my beta testers have to give. Instead of being bruised by negative feedback, I’d like to see if I could use any of this  information to improve the app.

The basic idea behind the app is a general fuzz song unlocker, where people earn the right to unlock bonus songs by promoting my music. It’s  a little ironic to spend so much time and energy building something that I know my fans will actively dislike. Almost all my previous music was free to download before – how could I have the nerve to make people jump through hoops to get new stuff? This is the advantage of being slightly more established then I was a decade ago – there are at least ten people across the globe who are willing to do a little more then nothing to hear unreleased tracks.

I had a relevant conversation with Stina at dinner. She was talking about how amazing our friends wedding website was. When I asked, she admitted that she hasn’t taken the 5 seconds to write them an email telling them how much she liked it. We consume, and rarely provide feedback to those who produce. I’ve already fully come to terms with this behavior. Therefore, I’m trying to incentivize people to take that easy extra step.   It’s an interesting idea which may not work at all. If nothing else, I had a really fun time building the app (I had almost forgotten that I actually enjoy programming), it’s a very solid piece of code that I can add to my resume, and I’ve internalized a valuable life lesson.  That is, money is good.



4 comments

Ethan » 3 Dec 2010 » Reply

Too true. Thank you for the brilliant work you do, and thank you for making it free. My days are significantly better and elevated because I can listen to your songs. I think they help me code better too.

Vlad Alexa » 7 Dec 2010 » Reply

“We consume, and rarely provide feedback to those who produce” so true

Patrick » 7 Dec 2010 » Reply

I think most people do not really feel the value of something as deeply if it’s free. Your true true fans will be willing to help promote your music and the rest well, they will continue to leech. Just my opinion. Thanks for sharing your talent and music.

Darren Clark » 7 Dec 2010 » Reply

I’m just going to throw a few of my personal thoughts out to you. I love music that it from the heart, personal, and intellectual. Your music so moved me that you were the first musician that I ever gave any feedback to (blog: Number Five is Alive, and probably some e-mails too). I do a lot of open-source development and I appreciate feedback too, both good and constructively bad. The constructively bad just helps me improve myself, the stupid bad ends up in the trash. My all-time favorite feedback is the unexpected (and unsolicited) donation that just shows up in my PayPal account (By the way, thank for the groovy magnet cards you sent with the CD). I have to agree with Patrick (message above), “Your true true fans will be willing to help promote your music”. I’ve exposed almost everybody I’ve worked with to your music, and the people that like it get pointed to your web site.

The music unlocker is a neat idea, but not something that I’m likely to use. It turns me from someone that has freely promoted your work into a sales guy. Maybe it’s just me, or all in my head, but telling someone about you and your work is like giving a gift. A free gift to that person so that they may also enjoy what you have done and hopefully support you and spread the word. Now that I “earn points” for referring you, it cheapens the interaction. I’d rather just tell someone about you and not expect some type of payment, or personal gain. These are just my thoughts, add some salt or Sriracha if necessary.

P.S. congratulations to you and the wife on the baby.

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