Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Real artists ship

Amidst the (mostly negative) news surrounding Facebook's IPO, there are still many things to be learnt from the social media company.  Their culture and overall philosophy is one of application with speed.  It's almost a do-first-ask-questions-later approach and this ethos has been a huge factor in their fast growth.

Move fast and break things is the most famous catchphrase at Facebook that you are probably familiar with.  That arcane line is probably something only a programmer can understand.

One saying that's easier to understand though is a simple poster in their HQ proclaiming: Real artists ship.  This means:

• There is more to being an artist than just doing what you're passionate about.  Merely doing something you like and not sharing/selling it to the world makes you a hobbyist, not an artist.  Real artists disseminate their work.

• An artist believes her work provides real value.  Therefore, a real artist has no hesitation in charging money for her work and making a living from it.  When something adds value to someone's life, it warrants (albeit not demands) an exchange of money.

• An artist knows that the only real determinant of whether their work is great or not is their own internal compass.  A true artist is critical enough of his own work to let the opinions of others matter too much.   Artists look beyond the criticism (and praise) of those that comment, knowing that many who do like their work don't end up giving a compliment.  People are more inclined to feedback when they don't like something. (Look at the comments section of any news site.)  

• An artist defines an end point and completes her work/project to this point.  Thereafter she stops, releases it to the world and starts something else.  A real artist doesn't work on the same piece for an endless period of time, realising that there is no such thing as perfection and there comes a point where little is to be gained from working on something that is for all intents and purposes, complete.  

People insert some useless additives into normal tap water, pour it into a bottle and call it sparkling spring water.  Then they sell it for money.  Others are proud to bill customers $60 for a basic haircut.  Stranger things than your work have sold at more outrageous prices than you dare to charge.  Completing your work is one hurdle, but shipping it is the final and most telling sign of how much you believe in your work.

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