Monday, February 06, 2006

Step One

So how does one set about becoming a toymaker in these modern times? I'm no master carpenter; my skills with injection molding are haphazard at best, and that's leaving my sewing 'skills' entirely unmentioned.

Being a nerd helps. Following the resounding lack of wider interest that was 'Raptor Crunch' (coming soon to a crappy java game site near you) the SoupCrew decided to take a different approach. To fully understand this approach, I think it's necessary to form some sort of appreciation of 'Napes'...

Now, 'Napes' or Napier St was not something you could call unique. It was a house dwelled in by two (then later three) uni students. As such, one could expect certain things. Couches on the front verandah. A dead garden. The slightly odd smell that never seemed to go (and was there when we arrived, we swear). 7 meals in 8 cooked on the BBQ (in our case, the mighty 'Beff Baron'). A student house. A place where everyone knows your name. A drop in house of late night imbibery.

They say cleanliness is next to godliness. We were directly across the road from a church. Whether that qualifies us as 'clean' I dread to think, but there you go. (Someone 'liberated' the flag from the church at one of our more.... elongated... parties one evening. I kinda feel bad about that, but it wasn't me, so hey.)

But I'm sure you know the place. You went there a million times during your time at uni. Maybe you picked up your cigarette butts and maybe you didn't. I'm not here to judge. What Napes was though, was a place where ideas could get a good discussion. We had a tradition with some good mates in the Napes days... that of the curry night. Tuesday nights (before we declared Tuesday a freeloader on the 'week') were often a night where a goodly group of us would congregate, eat a curry prepared by one or more of the attendees, and several relaxing ales were taken alongside extensive discussion of our beloved nerdly industry.

Ideas for sharing networks, quiz shows, top five ratings systems and many many more were bandied around at these evenings. Do you know why Pixar invests so much time in storyboarding? It's because one person with a pencil can draw a shot from a film in 20 seconds, and from that sketch, it can be determined whether it's worth letting the other 40 people who have to work on that shot, frame by frame, to get it to the big screen. 20 seconds from one person is a hell of a lot cheaper than a day or a week from 40 others, and even if that person has to draw that shot 600 times, you still wind up with a better product. That's what curry nights were at Napes (and Railway; and Jimbo's; I'm just making a long-winded point here). They were test-beds for ideas.

Some ideas stick.

Others insinuate themselves into your head and kick around there. But the point is, it's easier to shoot down lots of ideas with intelligent and informed mates, than it is to take an idea and try and prove it yourself. Discussion is the storyboard of the startup. I know you've got friends. Cook them a curry. Tell them to bring beer. Talk about what you're thinking of. If an idea deserves to die a cold, heartless death in the idea wasteland, it will soon get shot down.

Just don't be afraid of your ideas shrivelling under that process. One of the hardest things to reassure yourself about is that you WILL have more ideas. Some will be crap. Some will be fantastic. Just don't stop throwing them out there when one does get shot down. This is what the curry and alcohol is for. It both cushions the fall of bad ideas, and encourages... well... abstract thought about the good ideas. Don't worry though - more ideas WILL come.

I'm sure I've said it before, but we have a rule at Souptoys: "All ideas MUST be stated." If you have a bad idea in your head, and you don't tell anyone, it's taking up room for good ideas in that noggin' of yours. Get it out there. We're fortunate in that we're essentially a few mates, and we take the bad ideas with the good; if you have to work a little harder at making an environment where bad ideas aren't used against their originator, so be it. I swear it'll be beneficial.

So when we hit on the idea for toys on your computer, you can rest assured that we attacked the problem from many angles, before any fingers hit keyboards.

So that's Step One. Have an idea and try to kill it with discussion.

No comments: