So, Is This Article Good?
Today, on the Original Impostor, I ramble on and on while pretending to know what I am saying.
Let’s talk about quality.
What is good quality? What makes a thing a good thing? There are so many different types of things and so many different ways in which things can be good or bad. The question: ‘What is good quality’ is significantly harder to answer than one might think (that’s if one is me). It requires having an idea of the metric that makes something good. Society has overtime formed many of such metrics for many different things. Depending on what the thing in question is, the metric might be organically formed or formally vetted by a team of experts who have trained many years to be able to judge whether or not something is good or not good.
Take drugs for instance. Depending on how you think about them, there are people who determine the quality status of a drug made by a pharmaceutical company. The standards used to determine that quality status can be one of two things.
The drug does the thing it is made to do and does it well. This quality for a drug to do this is usually determined by testing. Testing is a funny thing because you take a drug that can hypothetically do something and you see if it does do that thing by trying to use it to do that thing. When it does the thing, you proclaim that it is a good drug. The funny part is that drugs are tested to make sure they aren’t harmful but by testing them you run the risk of them actually doing some harm. A bit paradoxical. Another part of drugs doing their jobs well is side effects. You want to make sure they are doing more good than bad. A drug shouldn’t treat something small with the potential of leading to something worse and ideally, their side effects shouldn't include death. A special exception is generally made for cancer but that’s for obvious reasons.
The drug is being made by an authentic drug maker. This is sort of a big issue in the drug industry and it’s another way the quality of any drug sample is scored. A drug needs to have been certified good through Thing 1 above before it is sold. If a drug is somehow being sold under the guise of passing the accreditation in thing 1 but it hasn’t actually done that, then that drug is fake. Not bad, fake.
The two ideas of quality I have mentioned sort of feed into many other industries. The building industry for instance tests building materials to make sure they meet certain standards. Some people sell materials claiming that they meet those standards when they do not. These materials are not considered bad quality but instead, they are considered fake.
Another example of fake vs bad quality happens in Fashion. There is a widely popular practice where small scale manufacturers make products to imitate established brands. In many cases, they only imitate the branding (logo) of said product and not so much the quality which I find truly perplexing. Wouldn’t it be better to produce a good quality product with no brand association than a thing with a brand association that falls short of the quality? For one, now you are not only making something that’s bad but also something that’s fake. Doesn’t seem like anyone should want to be doing that but alas a lot of people are doing that. The reason? Consumers.
I think the identification of quality is most useful to the consumer of anything. You want to know that the thing you are paying for is good. Somehow we live in a world where that doesn’t seem to be the case and that encourages the makers of things to focus on fitting customer want rather than quality which is actually a perfectly logical course of action. Consumers of fashion seem to value brand association over quality. People want to be seen wearing something recognizable. Many arguments can be made for why that is, for one, you trust brands so therefore you buy what you trust. But when a brand is trusted, their distributors will usually also be trusted. These distributors are seldom shady individuals with aggressive marketing tactics.
Speaking of aggressive marketing. I remember that a couple of years ago, I went to Yaba open market to buy some stuff with my younger sister. A white shirt, white knickers and white shoes. It was for some school activity. We bought the white shirt and knickers first and had them in a clear nylon. One of these shady fellows with aggressive marketing saw us and went:
“Come and buy your white shoes here”
And I found that really funny. He saw our nylon, assumed a need and marketed to fit that need and in this case, he was right. I didn’t buy the shoe from him but I appreciated the fact that he had noticed what our potential need would be. I thought that his strategy was very good marketing.
Which brings me to the next point.
I think this concept is probably the most popular when it comes to how we consider quality and what actually defines it. Quality is in many cases perceived not determined by experts. At least in the ways that normal people come in contact with things, it is by perception. Cars, for example, have certain quality standards they are expected to meet but when buying a car, you don’t ask a seller how the car stacked up against the defined quality standard. You sit in the car and decide for yourself if it’s a good car or if it’s a car you like. There’s also the part where makers of a thing claim that it has a certain quality but then what we think about the quality is still up to our perception. Just thinking about this idea of how quality is a perceived quantity really begs somethings and actually makes the question of what makes a thing good really hard to answer.
iPhone 11 pro.
The good people at Apple thought they could put a third camera on an iPhone, give it the name pro and somehow convince people to spend too much money on it. It’s working. The thing about iPhones apart from the elitism owning one comes with, is the fact they have always boasted of some of the best cameras in the smartphone market and they do this without throwing big numbers around. This phone, the newest iPhone with the best cameras ever on an iphone has only 12-megapixel sensor cameras. You probably have no idea what megapixels really mean and neither do I for the most part but we both probably feel like the higher the megapixel count, the better the camera.
Take this phone for instance.
It also has three cameras but with one of them being 16 megapixels. It also claims to have the best camera in the smartphone market.
There is also this phone from a couple of years ago that came out and flexed a 41mp sensor camera on us.
Finally, there is the Google Pixel which also claims to have the best smartphone camera. Only it doesn't need three cameras to make the claim. It does this with a single 12.2mp sensor. It takes portrait pictures that other phones seem to need two cameras to do.
For a really long time, we determined the quality of a phone camera by how large the sensor was, then all of a sudden we realized we didn’t need to. Many people will tell you the Pixel has the best camera on any smartphone and many other people might tell you it’s the iPhone or Samsung.
Would you say that this is a case of perceived quality? Or would you call it something else? Like preference. Does it depend on what a person wants from a good picture?
This is a bad song.
This is a good one
This is a bad rapper
This is a good one
This a bad dj?
The thing about the “bad song vs good song” and “the bad rapper vs the good rapper” is the existence of hugely agreed upon opinions that those things are either good or bad. A good song is expected at the very least, to follow the expectations we have for music. Good music is well-organised notes played in an order that follows a pattern. People do this with instruments or their voices. When music doesn’t follow that pattern, we say it is bad. The bad song isn't sung in the pattern we have come to expect from good music. Same applies for the bad rapper. He doesn’t meet the standard that we have come to expect from rappers. Those cases are easy. But what about the questionably bad dj? She falls into the position of perception. She isn’t doing anything particular deviant from what we expect from the music type she makes. But a lot of people say she makes bad music. The thing about music is that at some point, it stops being an exact science and becomes more a thing of varying preference. For instance, hip hop music has evolved greatly since it first came into existence.
This is what hip hop used to sound like.
This is what it sounds like now
The definition of hip hop remains the same but the style has changed greatly, What this means is that people who thought 2pac and the likes made great hip hop don’t like Travis Scott and lil pump. While people who like Lil Yatchy find folks like Rakim and Notorious BIG boring. But objectively, it’s not like either of these groups of musicians is bad, it’s the perception of them. New question is, how can someone without the sentiment people attach to music decide what is good music?
Good music is usually popular music. If you googled the best songs right now. You will get this link. Billboard’s top 100 songs. Aka the most listened to songs right now. Musicians try to make songs that will be popular. It’s a very easy metric to aim for, although it is not very easy to know what will make something popular.
Metrics are unfortunately not a great way of always determining quality. For one, you might not perceive the same quality that most other people do. Also, metrics are hugely subjective. Once something reaches a particular point of popularity, the chances of it getting even more popular are greater. Old Town Road by Lil Nas X is a great example of this. It is the longest number 1 ranked song in history but it took a really long time to get there. The song itself was made at some point in time in 2018. After which the maker of the song, Lil Nas x, spent a really long time trying to make the song viral. He tweeted about the song every day and posted lyrics of the song on Reddit. Basically social media marketing. When the song eventually reached a particular level of popularity, the internet did the rest. I mean it’s a great song from the point of making but it’s also a great song from the point of ‘making the perception that it is a great song’. And the metrics support that.
Why I am writing about quality?
So over the last couple of months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the quality of work I want to do and more extensively the quality of creative products I want to make. Thinking of creating a quality product meant thinking of what even made a creative product good. What makes a book good? or a song? or anything for that matter.
“I think four things need to happen for me to do anything with high quality:”
Those four things are:
- I’m exposed to what good quality looks like.
- I understand the details of what I’m doing.
3. I can afford to spend resources e.g. time, money on it.
4. There’s an incentive for spending resources on it.
Of course, these criteria are coming from his personal introspection on quality and also fit most suitably into his use case as a designer. But think about the last good song that you listened to. Do you think it was made with these things ticked off?
These four things make sense cause they kind of put into consideration most of the things you might consider. 1 is sort of using a database of good things to decide what makes a thing good (the popular thing is a good thing). 2 is applying expertise. 3 is applying effort which I talk about next. And 4 is pretty obvious. Validation comes with making a good thing, especially when that thing meets popular standards.
Another way of defining quality is by being able to identify effort put into making the thing in question good. I noticed this when I started to consider the difference between podcasts that I think are good and those I think are bad. The difference is that with the good quality podcast (as I perceived it) I could tell that significantly more effort was invested in it as against the podcast I thought wasn't that great.
Can we now define quality by simply the effort put into making something good? Because someone took years to write a book, does that automatically make the book good?
I don’t know. But I think we should assign some sort of validation to that perceived level of effort. These days when I think of making a good thing, I am thinking of putting a perceivable level of effort into that thing being good so that even if people do not ‘like’ the thing I have created, they cannot deny the effort put into making it good.
So while I definitely, like anyone else, want to make something popular so i can use that metric as validation, I am not dependent on that being the only metric of quality.
So my question now is:
Is this a good article?
Thank you for reading all the way to the end.
Plug (Cool Thing On The Internet)
I think you should check out this video about how Lil Nas X made his song trend, thereby leading to it becoming the longest-running number 1 song in history.
Samir and Colin make good videos (as I perceive, based on the effort they put into making videos) so check out their other stuff.
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