During this past week I was on vacation and started reading Seth Godin’s latest book “Linchpin“. One particular passage was very apropos to what I’ve been harping on about recently and I thought it would make sense to quote it here. In Linchpin, Godin defines art as a “personal gift that changes the recipient”, and based on this definition, art can encompass all sorts of design work, visual or otherwise. He also states that “most of the time, most of us make our art for an audience.”. He then goes on to give two reasons why it’s vital to know who that audience is:
The first is that understanding your audience allows you to target your work and to get feedback that will help you do it better next time.
The other reason? Because it tells you whom to ignore.
It’s impossible to make art for everyone. There are too many conflicting goals and there’s far too much noise. Art for everyone is mediocre, bland and ineffective.
If you don’t pinpoint your audience, you end up making your art for the loudest, crankiest critics. And that’s a waste. Instead, focus on the audience that you choose, and listen to them, to the exclusion of all others. Go ahead and make this sort of customer happy, and the other guys can go pound sand.
I thought that advice was spot on for so much that goes on in libre software land. We have a tendency to want to please everybody, even when the power of Free Software is built on the concept of being able to tailor software to a specific need. By taking the risk and focusing on an audience, the result is bound to be stronger for it.