Matt Hackmann

The Internet and the Importance of Being Seen

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Many years ago, right before I graduated, some of my fellow graduates and myself were asked to impart any knowledge we'd gleaned from the previous two years upon a class full of freshmen. I said something to the following effect:

The Internet. If you make something, put in on the Internet. I don't care where, I don't care how. Get yourself and your work out there. Spam it on Facebook, announce it on twitter. Make as much noise as you can because you never know who might be looking.

My reasoning for such a bold statement is that twice during my tenure at Full Sail, I had been noticed by entirely random people for various personal projects I had done. One was from the head of the Madden series at EA when he ran across my Rock Band drums thing, another from a company in Chicago who had run across my deviantArt profile (I actually made money off of that one). The point being, by making public everything I worked on, I was (almost) passively setting up a portfolio of work that could be stumbled across by anybody in the world at any time.

And if you think I stopped after I got my job, then you obviously don't know me or follow me on any of the various social media avenues. Even if I make something that isn't necessarily portfolio worthy, if I've done something mildly interesting, it finds a home here, on my GitHub profile, or where ever might be a fitting spot. I even dig up and post past projects, because it can give a frame of reference from where I've come and how my abilities have evolved.

Of course, just uploading things by itself only gets a person so far. You have to advertise it somewhere. These days, my most vocal platforms are Facebook and reddit, especially reddit, or /r/awwnime in particular. There's actually a method to that madness beyond making a life of posting cute anime artwork simpler; namely, engaging directly with an audience to gauge need and resolve issues.

My work on awwnime is not the first time I've done this. There are quite a few projects of mine that started out as just something to entertain me or make my life simpler in some way, generally pretty niche projects. But, I would then find an audience for these things. A good instance would be my Tetris Attack game back in 2005. I wanted to ensure that I was being as accurate as I could and also squashing as many bugs as possible. The person writing the code is the worst one to do debugging, generally. So I tossed this out to the guys at the tetrisattack.net forums and got way more response than I could have imagined. This has happened time and again. Animal Crossing Pattern Designer, MP Skin Studio, all the various YPN engine incarnations, all projects that eventually got to the masses and various levels of "acclaim". Without even really trying, I was building a public history that could prove that I at least know something about my craft while at the same time building my ability to work with people and resolve issues.

Fast forward to the present where I'm on the cusp of working for a major player in the Internet sector, and I know that all those years of tossing stupid projects to the masses, spamming the shit out of this blog on twitter and Facebook, keeping all my social profiles up to date, and just engaging with a larger audience be it relevant to anything at all has lead me to where I am today. You never know who is going to be looking at this stuff.

Make it public, make it awesome.

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