Although this is an article about posting art, comics and/or stories online, I’m going to have to start by talking about computer games for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.
A day or two before I originally wrote this article, I happened to see this interesting video about the difficulty of reviewing modern computer games, due to the fact that they’re constantly being updated. Likewise, after posting a review of a set of fan-made levels for the original “Doom” (that I’d written several months in advance), I learnt that the levels I’d reviewed were now obsolete because there was a new version available.
This naturally made me think about the subject of updates and updating, and whether this modern approach to updating things is a good thing or not.
I mean, on the surface, it seems that it would be a good thing – after all, it means that the audience is constantly getting the newest and best versions of something. It also means that any flaws or problems can be solved dynamically too. For computer games at least, I can just about see the logic behind it.
Likewise, there is nothing worse than suddenly spotting a major flaw or a major problem in something that you’ve made after you’ve made it. The ability to retroactively alter and update things online is, of course, a good way to solve these problems.
And, yet, I have a rather paradoxical attitude towards updating. I like the idea that the version of something that is published is the final version. I don’t like the idea that something that I’ve enjoyed reading, playing or looking at could suddenly change, without any recourse to the original version. It makes things seem fundamentally unreliable if they can change at a moment’s notice if someone else decides that they “need” to be changed.
The very worst examples of this sort of thing can be seen on some websites (thankfully not the site this blog is on though, since it still allows bloggers to use the practical and reliable old HTML-style editor, rather than the new “word processor”-style editor) that radically change their design and functionality with no prior warning and no way to reverse the changes.
So, whether to update the things you post online or not is kind of a competition between providing your audience with better quality stuff and eroding their trust in the reliability and permanence of the things that they enjoy.
With a few small and infrequent exceptions (eg: rarely making small corrections, adding additional notes, maintaining dynamic pages like this one, or changing the background image of the site once in a blue moon), I take a rather traditionalist attitude towards updating the things that I post online, and yet I still manage to get many of the benefits of regular updating.
How do I do this? Simple. I make almost all of my art, comics, articles etc… very far in advance. Although this approach has a number of problems (eg: especially with regard to topical things), the benefits in terms of updating things are absolutely brilliant.
Since it can sometimes take me a while to spot major flaws in the things that I’ve made, having a large buffer of time to make those changes before publication usually means that the version of something that I post online is just that, the version. Not “one version”, the version!
So, making things far in advance of publication is one way to get “the best of both worlds”. You can carry out lots of updates before something is published, and yet also have the permanence of only having one published version of something.
I think that half of the problem with modern update culture is that people have lost sight of the idea that something should be finished before it’s been posted online. After all, if something can be updated easily then there’s no incentive to make sure that it’s entirely finished before it goes out.
Whilst this is a good thing in some ways, since the audience don’t have to wait ages for new stuff, it also means that everything is in a constant, confusing state of change. Likewise, learning ways to deal with the “I must show it off RIGHT NOW!” feeling that you get after creating something can be something of a challenge, so I can see why update culture appeals to a lot of creative people.
But, yes, updating things is a good thing – provided that it’s done before publication!
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂