quality control

by s.

Every person is blessed with great faults. These are the things that make us absolutely unsufferable to a percentage of the population, merely tolerable to another, and wholly endearing to the small section of people who end up becoming to us the Ones Who Matter. I’d wager that my greatest fault lies within that very subsection and my painful, obvious tendency to play favorites. To an embarrassing degree, my love for you very probably hinges on your ability to tell me something new about the world or about myself, and if you are unable to do that I will probably disappear.

It feels like an impossible standard, but it happens on some level to most of us. We curate our best people in the same way that we curate the rest of our life content. I had a conversation about this the other day with someone I’m still getting to know, a key example of someone I will favorite-play every chance that I get. He mentioned the tension that happens when you’ve known people for a long time but have no real sustaining interest in being near them. I realized sometime afterward that it’s possible, sometimes, that people are adopting you back. They might need you as much as you need them.

I have many, many conversations daily about quality control and what to do about it. It starts in the workplace, like many things do: editing is a natural, obvious part of the publishing world, and it easily becomes part of the conversation as we talk about things like recipe testing and best practices for digital metadata (the latter of which is a conversation I’ve been having for so many years that I continue to wonder why we still call it “new” media.) It comes up in real life conversations when writers for ESPN use racial slurs with reckless abandon and someone somewhere lets it happen; it occurs every time we see the work of someone with questionable talent promoted while the people who are good (the people we love, the people by whom we usually mean ourselves) continue on, unrecognized.

The future, as I see it, relies on a comprehensive understanding of quality control and a series of checklists put into place to best manage it. Studies emerge, slowly, about customer feedback and satisfaction, about the correlation between good metadata and sales, about the importance not just of content marketing, but of good content marketing. Businesses tend to panic about these kinds of things, but I think it’s exciting. If we, as a world, are in a position where a brand essentially needs to have its own journalist to be successful, doesn’t this blow the door wide open for editors across the board? Now, practically, maybe not. In the future, I believe it will have to.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this future, because my vision of it is the most optimistic I will ever be. This future for me looks somewhat adorably like a TED talk; it is a place where the value of people who understand and execute the basics is recognized, and a place where people who create real, beautiful content are actually rewarded for it. It feels like a pipe dream but at the same time, I see no other way. I’ve seen companies fall apart without the abilities to put best practices and quality control measures in place; I’ve seen others suddenly regain millions of dollars in profit after one person who knew what to look for took over the reins on the backend. It is all about having the right editing processes, at the end of the day.

I am willing to bet that the people who are the best at these levels of editing are also the people best poised to tell us something new about the world, or about ourselves. These are the people I will so shamelessly play favorites with every time. These are the people you want on your side when the tides start to turn and you find that the people worth being around, the people worth hiring, are good at what they do and they understand how to edit not just words, but processes.

I’m currently working on a short list of questions for an interview project with a friend, primarily geared towards the idea of creation and editing and how similar those two roles can be even when dealing with different mediums. It’s meant to be a short piece, but in my head it’s already grown into a larger conversation. There is a sense in which every project we undertake should simply be an excuse to get “under the hood” of other people’s minds and see what remarkable things are happening in there. I would like to think that, in my glorious imagined future, that will be the call-to-action that propels us all into a world bolstered by quality control.