Every now and again it helps to pull back from the academic thought processes and even the intellectual ones. As I’ve grown over the last two years, and watched Asylum growing, I’ve recognized a pattern that emerges, I’m sure, in the development of anything with appeal: the suggestions of others. Now, there are two types of suggestions that matter: those that don’t work, and those that do. No one wants to implement a practice in the public sphere that will cost them time and possibly respect. It corrodes the influence that you have worked hard for, and possibly your own esteem. Although every mistake is a potential lesson, and lessons are necessary, it works so much better when those lessons are learned as a result of your own tinkering, and not peer pressure.
With the internet busting at the seams with grandiose schemes and standards of operation, it becomes easy for those that don’t finance or recieve a direct tangible benefit from your work to disseminate ideas about your work. People are actually paid to critique the works of others. It is when those that are offering advice and suggestions haven’t fully researched what works for you that the problems begin. My audience is mine because of me. Even to the degree of bending, and sometimes completely shrugging off standards in design, programming and writing. With respect to those crafts, I still have to present a package that authentically me.
As I am something of a writer that focuses their attention on social issues from a first hand perspective, Asylum attracts those that are concerned about the social. This spans from those that wish everyone were sitting in the lotus position raising their kundalina to the crown chakra, to those knocking door to door organizing people for survival classes. What that implies here is that I get a lot of email and dms(direct messages, which are private messages on twitter, for my non-twitterati) bearing very appreciated advice about the direction I should be taking Asylum. Being that I am influential in certain spheres of what has affectionately, and possibly derogatorily, become known as “Black Twitter”, I am able to take note of what corners certain advice and ideas spring from. It doesn’t take much investigation to alleviate suspicions when a psychology student with no background in the arts or design begins offering you consultation about your typography. It caresses the ego a bit knowing that people are discussing Asylum outside of my immediate reach, but it is a reflection of someone’s campaign, with intent or not, for influence over your decision making staff. And as with most things conversational, I never get the answer to the questions I ask when I solicit advice, but I’ll get everyone’s opinion on fifty other things I’m not surveying for.
Good advice is seldom known before the grade is giving. Asylum has a brilliant readership. This can be quite dangerous when I’m at the whiteboard building up a creative map of new implementations. And although I write theory, I’m not theoretical on the ground. I’m am more tactician than strategist. More action than planning. And even in the creative stages, the measuring stick I have to evaluate an idea’s outcome is experience. Which means I have to balance most of the ideas I receive with questions like:
Have we tried this already?
Will this mesh well with other ideas we plan to implement?
How will Asylum readership respond?
Do I have the time to implement it?
Ultimately, the one question that presents it Self to me as the deal breaker is whether or not the idea reflects standards that are simply common practice, or standards that speak to Asylum excellence. I have no problem lowering the bar, or reducing expectations with regard to a return of investment. I don’t. My goal is to get the thoughts out to those that can benefit most from them, while explaining my purview in a manner that is witty, insightful, and intelligent. Due to the media by which Asylum was established, I have to consider my craft as a web designer and developer. I have to also take note of my presence as an avatar in the jungles of social media. If an idea allows me to strengthen my ability to communicate, I don’t mind losing money or time. I don’t expect that altering my title’s header design will affect my bounce rate(people coming to the page but leaving within seconds), but it could. Does it allow my to communicate better, in some ways, yes. So, that is a go. As you already may have noticed. A very small detail, but so are the various light reflections on our eyes when looking at the skin’s reaction to melanin in the larger scheme of things.
The endgame for Asylum is the community of loyal readers. Hits are necessary, but exposure is more important. Even more important than exposure is reader retention, which we’ve been quite successful with over the years. Suggestions that reflect that are usually held in higher regard than those that are more geared toward someone’s personal aesthetic or sensibilities. Content can be nudged in one direction or the other, but I also don’t want to be just another blogger blogging about blogging. Asylum was always a personal recording of my thoughts and I don’t want to stray too far from that core mission. My ego aside; Asylum readership wants to read my angle on particular topics when they come to me. Without distancing my Self from my more conventional journalist allies, ambulance chasing and narrowcasting would only limit the potential of my work here. I can afford the label of ‘dilettante’ if it means I’m producing at a consistent enough level to float this volume of work in the space of saturated content and damaged attention spans. You have to figure, most of my post are one thousand words are better, and my readers imbibe every letter of that. That’s not a shabby accomplishment.
My appreciation showers those that have written and offered me their advice. I’m always open to new ideas. It also has to be mentioned that Asylum is my life works thus far. I live an extremely dynamic life, and Asylum has come to reflect that. Any thoughts regarding this work is akin to shifting the direction of a moving vehicle accelerating at higher speeds per second. The most minute alteration can be wrought with complaints in such a space. Please be considerate of that.
Thank you. Suggestions are welcome in the comment box….