One thing that I love about the Internet is that it allows voices to be heard in a way never possible before. If a product or service completely misses the mark, it will be all over the ‘net the very day it launches. If a customer service rep sends insulting emails to a customer, we’ll hear about it. If an effort to boost sales from girls results in more gender limitations, well, you get where I’m going. And, for those of us creating or making anything at all, it makes it much easier to get a sense of how we’re doing. It gives us information which can inform all our future decisions.
Feedback is fast and loud on the Internet.
It’s very powerful. It’s democracy.
But it can also be like picking up your pitchforks and torches and storming a castle.
Last week, CBeebies launched a new format for Waybuloo, the meditating children’s show, during its bedtime hour. They cut it down to about ten minutes and added a narrator. The Internet did not like it. No sir, the Internet didn’t like it one bit. An outcry made its way around Twitter, with mail addresses to those in CBeebies being distributed so those voices could be heard.
And those voices were heard.
CBeebies made the decision to revert to the older format of Waybuloo. All was back to normality, the CBeebies bedtime hour was restored to its former glory and we could all sleep peacefully again.
I don’t see much of Waybuloo and I didn’t catch the new version. From what I read, the narrator went against its peaceful, gentle feel. So that could have been a bad move and, if so, it’s easy to see why it might upset fans of the show. And I give credit to CBeebies for listening to their audience and being willing to drop the new version even if that meant letting go of many decisions and a lot of work. But then I think about how many episodes of that new format aired…
When a show is well-established, and Waybuloo is, change will always be difficult to its fans. We fear change. That’s our thing, it’s what we do. But give something a chance and maybe, just maybe, some merit will be revealed. I can’t think of the amount of comedy shows, for example, that I dismissed after one episode only to find them grow on me and find myself really clicking with the humour. Sometimes it takes a while for us to get past simply the notion that this is new.
I remember some years ago Sesame Street aired a few episodes without the Elmo’s World sequences. Apparently they didn’t go down well and children were asking, ‘Where’s Elmo’s World?!’ So they put it back. But I couldn’t help think, you have aired this show with Elmo’s World for the entire lifetime of that audience. Of course they’re going to ask where it is if you take it out. I could throw a rotten fish head at a child for a year and then, one day, walk by without doing it and the child would shout, ‘Hey! Where’s my fish head?!’ The first reaction will always be, hey, this is different!
It’s what happens when we get over that that counts.
So I don’t know about Waybuloo and what way that should have gone. But I do know that feedback on the Internet is fast and loud and, very often, we react to change simply for being change. Feedback is immensely valuable. But mob rule..? How can we tell one from the other? Perhaps there are times we should take a moment to consider before reaching for our pitchforks and torches, just to let things settle. And, if we’re the one in that castle being stormed, yes we need to do what is best for our audience but maybe, just maybe, we need to build better defenses to give ourselves time to work out exactly what ‘best’ is.