Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scott Adams on... web design?

Scott Adams is a geek, so should we be surprised that he has taken to the Web better than any other cartoonist? I've long read his blog not only for its general hilarity, but also for the candid insights into a famous cartoonist's life. Recently he has been running the blog version of a reality show, where he mentors a wannabe cartoonist to make it big. This has been fascinating stuff and I liked today's more than ever.

The Dilbert Blog: Basic Instructions, Part 6:
There are only about a hundred jokes in the universe. All humorists recycle them with their own twists and characters. In this case, you’re seeing a variation of “advice that makes things worse.” Scott’s twist on it is great because doing a bad job calming a child is naturally worse than doing a bad job at most other things. His setup does half of the work. That’s how he can find four separate humor points on one setup.

I took that same excellent setup and put it in an office setting. By featuring Dilbert, there’s a lot I don’t have to explain to the reader. You already know Dilbert has no skill in dealing with people, much less children. And you know his impulse for honesty and quantifying things causes him trouble. I don’t need words to describe any of that.

Click to enlarge How_to_calm_child

Using familiar characters, in familiar situations, makes humor work more easily.
Wow, is that class A instruction or what? He whipped up an illustrative example on the spot to demonstrate the point, awesome. So I'm not a cartoonist, but I like his punchline, "familiar characters in familiar situations makes humor work more easily," because it applies to many other processes that have nothing to do with comic strips or humor. Think about this in the context of building a successful web site: once you've established a familiar context with your users, what advantages do you accrue?

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