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Content Creation: The 80% Rule


There was an Italian economist by the name of Vilfredo Pareto that made an interesting discovery about where he lived: that 80% of all the real-estate was owned by 20% of the people, or the "elite". This became known as the "80/20 rule" or the "Pareto principle". Since Pareto was also an engineer, it also generated the axiom: "20% of your efforts generate 80% of your results." In business management, it's known as the client rule:

"80% of sales come from 20% of clients."



In fact, the Pareto principle seems to pop up so much that some even consider it a natural law. Mathematically, this is known as the Pareto distribution. Such things fall outside the scope of this little article though, so feel free to research that in your own time. Instead, we're going to see if the Pareto principle can be applied in order to create better creative content, and how it can be applied to get the cool things you make into the hands of more people.


A good thing to point out is that there is already a principle in place that came about when surfing through fan-fiction. It turns out, most fan-fiction floating through the internet is something that most fans of fan-fiction would consider heaping piles of garbage. This phenomenon became known as "Sturgeon's Law": "90% of everything is crap." Coined by Theodore Sturgeon, a sci-fi writer, he goes on to say, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud." In other words, only 10% of the content out there is worth checking out. As a corollary, some people say: "...But the remaining 10% is worth dying for."


But honestly, Sturgeon's law is based on the entire medium itself, not each item in the medium. The top 10% of sci-fi is good because the entire sci-fi book itself is good, not 10% of the book. That should make sense to us. How many people are really going to put forth the effort, or have the talent or ability, to really put out good content? When you think of it that way, it's amazing that even 10% of the content is good, especially when you consider indie works. So how did the top 10% get that good in the first place, when compared to all the other works in the medium?


It is my belief that when you sit down and create something, you have good days and bad days with it. Like any professional all-star baseball player stepping up to the plate, sometimes he's going to have nothing but strike-outs, and sometimes there's not a thing the pitcher can do from having each ball lobbed at the batter go into the stratosphere. I think that's true with anything we create. Sometimes, we're going to make golden content that just seeps with quality. Other times, it's going to be a discouraging mess that can't be fixed. When we put our heart into making this content, it can be hard to accept that as fact. This is especially true if we just spent hours making it. So what's the secret?


Enter the Pareto principle! You should be prepared to erase, edit out, or hold back roughly 20% of the content you make. No matter how talented you are, no matter how much time you've invested into the art, sometimes you're going to have a bad idea or a bad day. We can get very attached to our work, but letting go allows us to publish content with as much quality as possible.


When we write 10 pages, we should be prepared to toss out or completely re-write 2 of those pages during the revision process. If you are making a SMW romhack, you should take out 4 of the 20 levels you made. Your romhack will be so much better for it. In fact, playing through the SMW romhack "JUMP" is what prompted this article. Even professional video game makers throw out entire levels during beta testing in order to improve the quality of the entire product. When live-streaming, realize that 20% of your streams are not going to be your pride and joy. That's ok! As long as you are producing quality content, hitting 80% is something to be proud of. As content creators, we have to learn how to let go.


And yes, during research and revision, I threw out large chunks of this article! So hopefully, proof is in the pudding!


A lot of work went into this level. They can't all be winners!


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