“I like your website. What software did you use?”
I get questions like this occasionally. Sometimes they’re about a website, a video or some other webby thing I had a hand in creating. Oddly, nobody asked that question about our book or the play I wrote a couple of years ago: “I liked that comedy you wrote. What software did you use?” And I rarely hear anybody remark to a city employee, “hey, that’s a nice ditch you dug. What shovel did you use?”
I’d imagine that people who spend all their time being creative with new tools–web designers, animators and so forth–get asked this question all the time. I’m guilty of doing it myself. I remember, for example, asking Rob about his process in creating his Noise to Signal comics.
I was just curious more than anything. A lot of times, I think people are asking the “what software did you use?” question so that they can replicate your efforts. It may be subconscious, but they think “if I had that software, I could do that too”. And maybe they could.
In creative enterprises–from a pencil sketch to a feature film–the tool is the thing that matters least. What matters is that weird combination of skill, clever decisions, intuition, good fortune and the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s blessing that makes for a successful creative project. For example, Jorge Colombo drew this week’s New Yorker cover using Brushes, an iPhone app.
In thinking about this topic, I’m reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”. Most of us don’t understand the in’s and out’s of how you create a website or a digitally-animated short. As such, we tend to ascribe the ‘magic’ of the creation to the tool, as opposed to the creators.
What do you think? Do you ever get asked this question?