The webcomics blog about webcomics

Chaos Abounds

Upheaval! Unanticipated change! Things getting all weird before our eyes without any warning! And also, news from webcomics.

  • Speaking of chaos, there’s a lot of noise in the infosphere about Patreon changing its terms; this time, it’s to shift some fees from creators to supporters. The intent appears to be to give creators a more predictable level of support, but it may throw a lot of supporter’s calculations about how much they’re giving to creators into the realm of higher mathematics¹.

    Right now, all I’ve got to go on is secondhand reports from creators (who were tipped off by email today); supporters are said to be notified tomorrow. Although, as Matt Boyd observed re: the we’re telling supporters tomorrow announcement:

    My dudes, you notified them today, just secondhand.

    Speaking strictly as an outsider, I see two forces grappling with each other at Patreon right now: the need to perfect things (this change is framed as benefitting creators; the earlier changes regarding adult content), coupled with a reluctance to get buy-in from affected constituencies. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t heard about Patreon surveying creators or supporters about possible changes, soliciting feedback, or communicating in a fashion that would get people on board well in advance of changes.

    And this is not a problem unique to Patreon; every company that blows up from little idea to Big Deal has to transition from a pure expression of Founder’s Vision to something with institutional structure and professional change management. Effective communications are one of the hardest things to develop (and honestly, in a platform that stresses connection between creator and supporter, who could possibly think that making separate announcements would work?), and their lack results in situations like we’ve seen in the past few months, where Patreon appears (rightly or wrongly) to be flailing.

    This is not a knock on Jack Conte and cofounder Sam Yarn; very few startups succeed into Big Deal status with the same people in charge, because the skills needed for Founder’s Vision and the skills need for institutional structure and professional change management are very, very different, and almost nobody starts out good at both².

    I suspect that within a year, Patreon will be a smaller operation (particularly in light of Kickstarter’s Patreon-alike, Drip; terrible name, but KS are much, much better at their change management and communications) as further impromptu (or at least, seemingly-impromptu-from-the-outside) policy shifts pisses off the less-invested users. Either that, or Conte and Yarn and the other idea-type folks will step back to an advisory role, and the more mangement-inclined will be in charge. Answers on a postcard.

  • I am not going to spoil today’s … you know, I’m not sure what it is. John Allison’s webcomic has run at Scary Go Round dot com since 2002, it’s been the home of Bad Machinery since 2009, as well as various shorts, the first iteration of Giant Days, several throwback and current catch-ups of Bobbins, Destroy History, and probably more that I’m missing. The onetime plan to wrap up the Tacklefordverse was running from the points of view of several of those projects in an overlapping fashion, but heck if I know that it has a single name at the moment. The story arc title is Hard Yards, so let’s go with that.

    I am not going to spoil today’s Hard Yards, but oh man, you need to see it. John Allison has dropped in a single panel that explains goings-on from across the history of Bobbins/Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery, and confirmed what we probably all knew down deep in our hearts — his entire fictional universe has revolved around Shelley Winters, and there’s a reason for everything that’s happened to her.

    If he were to put up a post that this had been his plan all along for the past two decades, I’d be forced to believe him. It explains (in that loopy, logic and causality be damned manner that seems to define Tackleford and the surrounding environs) everything so perfectly. If he were to put up a post that this occurred to him as a neat way to tie everything up and it worked by coincidence, I’d also be forced to believe that; quite frankly, I’m not sure which would be the more impressive creative feat — playing a loooong game, or finding a completely (internally, at least) logical payoff for a bunch of different plots that occurred at many different times³.

    Bravo, Mr Allison, and bravo in advance for Giant Days issue #33, which I will be obtaining and reading later today, but which I am willing to preemptively praise as a matter of faith.

Spam of the day:
Naturally You here is transferred I’d have picked up … but it’s you
I’m going to chalk some of this nonsensicality up to the translation from Russian, but only some.

¹ And that’s discounting, as one Patreonista pointed out on the Twitters, European supporters who already pay VAT on their pledges.

² Or, alternately, can transition from one to the other. See also: Twitter flailing as @jack’s purity of vision runs up against people willing to exploit structural weaknesses for their own agenda. At some point, purity of vision costs you goodwill.

³ Honestly, it’s like if somebody had come to a conclusion for Lost or Battlestar Galactica that tied everything together in a perfect little bow.

Well, everything except for The Captain Beefheart Story. That one will always stand on its own.

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