Jack and I couldn’t shift the site into archive/hibernation mode without putting together one last post. When we announced the decision, we heard from so many in the community about what the site has meant to you over the years. We hope you’ll forgive a little self-indulgence as we look back on what the site has meant to us, because it…and all of you…have had a big impact on our lives.
SF: So how were you first introduced to the site?
JM: Hard to pinpoint when I was introduced to DS. It has always been a presence in the online community. Ever since I had been pursuing game audio as a career, I have seen DesignignSound.org articles get posted and discussed in Twitter and on forums. I would assume it was ’08 or so? Back when DesigningSound even had a video section!
SF: It sounds like you found the site earlier than I did, and early on for the site too. I confirmed with Miguel. He started it in 2008.
I didn’t stumble across it until sometime in the back half of 2009. Someone sent me a link to an article, and I fell down the rabbit hole. I joined Social Sound Design around that time, too, because of DS. It felt like the community was exploding out of nowhere back then. You joined the site after Varun, Peter [Albrechtsen] and myself though. Was there a reason you didn’t join in that first round of recruitment?
JM: I don’t think I was aware of the recruitment! 08/09! I was still in college and still doing a lot of online research and trying to figure out a way to break into game audio while living in North Carolina. It might have even been later than that when I really encountered DS? Had I been aware of the recruitment at the time I am sure I would not have been confident enough to try to get involved. And certainly wouldn’t have had the bandwidth or experience to contribute meaningfully.
When you first got involved in the site you were still in D.C. correct? I assume like me you were also juggling work, building your career, as well as being a part the community?
SF: I think his first recruitment call was in 2010/2011. You joined the same year we did, it just happened to be a few months later, when he was stepping away. That’s why I asked; it was so close time-wise. If you were still in school though, that would make sense. I think you joined in June or July, if I’m remembering correctly.
Yeah. I was still in the D.C. area. I had gotten a good start on my career, but was worried about my job prospects if I decided I ever wanted to leave the company I was working for…or if the thing went under. That’s why I got so involved in the community. The more conversations I had with people, the more confident I got in my skills. Partly from seeing people agree with me, but more from the feedback and responses I got to the things I was putting out there. I had been running that monthly sound design challenge when Miguel asked the community for help. I specifically remembered you had entered a few times, because of your logo. So when you joined the site, I felt like I at least had some idea of who you were already. You really owe Vanessa for that one. lol
The site kind of unraveled for a little while when Miguel left. When we eventually gave it some direction again, I just kind of kept using it the way I had been using the community to begin with: exploring topics I was interested in, and sharing what I knew or was finding out in the process. Did you ever feel a little overwhelmed by the weight the site had in the community, especially in that first year on the site?
JM: “Unraveled” may be a strong term. I’d prefer “directionless” due to lack of onboarding. When I was given the keys I didn’t also get the built up relationships, contacts, or communication that had been there before. I didn’t necessarily feel overwhelmed but I felt like I wasn’t playing with a full deck. I wasn’t even entirely aware of anyone else’s regular involvement in the site like yourself until you pinged me to let me know you were there to help.
I do owe Vanessa for my avatar at the time allowing me to have a bit of online recognition. And we owe her for the glossy black and white DesigningSound logo refresh we had for most of our tenure. My current diamond logo (and tattoo designs) are also from her.
The monthly sound design challenge is something I wanted to chat about. That was a pretty big deal in the online community when it was around. Social was always abuzz about it, as there were always interesting prompts and prizes. What spurred you setting that up and running it (so successfully) for a good while? I was appreciative of it. As you mentioned, I entered for the Wwise project one with ambiences. That was my first time digging into Wwise (which I still use every day) and I recall entering that one along with some heavy hitters like good friend and former Contributing Editor Luca Fusi.
SF: The sound design challenge was triggered by something similar a friend of mine was participating in. He’s a 3D animator, and some forum he was on regularly said, “take this audio clip and animate something against it.” The first one I saw him do was some Chris Tucker line from Rush Hour. That’s really all it was, just one line. Creating something from scratch in software like Maya is pretty labor intensive…and it was REALLY time consuming to output even something short back then. Another big component was that he got to see how other people approached it as well.
I started looking for anything similar to that competition in the sound design community and found nothing. So, really, I started it because it was something I wanted to be able to participate in. I wanted it as part of the community. I had also been looking for a unique way to contribute to the community. It just seemed like the right way to do it. DS was the community hub, so it made perfect sense to move the competition over to the site when I joined. I ultimately stopped running it, because it started taking away from the time I wanted to devote to my own development. The thing that was always special about this community, was that you could easily find inspiration from your peers to go do more.
I guess the arching theme across this and my previous response was that I felt a bit isolated in my career, and felt I had little basis for comparison because of it. I didn’t really feel like I could accurately gauge how good I was at my job. And here was this site that I could go to, where people I respected were talking about all aspects of their work. I’d learn things from it, but I’d also find plenty of instances where I’d say, “Hey, I do that too!” And the site wasn’t just featuring the big names only. There were people who were a little more obscure, and they were doing awesome work too. So I found that basis for comparison in the community, and I got a lot more confident. Everyone inspired me to take more creative risks, and I gained a drive for the work that I don’t think I could have developed without being surrounded by all of these other people.
How did this community shape you in our early tenure here?
JM: Isolation is definitely something I felt in North Carolina. Where I lived was an over 2 hour drive from any other sound designers. So I would only get to chat with them for an occasional lunch I would set up. The online community helped focus me and teach me what I needed to become a working professional. I went to college for piano performance which has proven minimally useful in my professional career, so my real education was from resources like DesigningSound.org, #gameaudio on Twitter, podcasts like the Game Audio Podcast and Tonebenders among many others. So many individual people were inspirational and helpful to me as well. This article would fill pages if I named all of them.
Engaging in online community also helps in what I’ve called “education through affirmation.” The same benefit comes from local meetups and conventions like Gave Developers Conference but being able to easily ask someone else: “How do you do X?” and turns out they do it similarly to you; now you have one less thing to worry about. “Cool, this person I respect does this thing the way I do it. So I’m probably doing it alright.”
I think working on the site early in my career also helped build some wonderful friendships; like with yourself and Varun. I was able to break the ice with those I respected and start dialogues I would have been too nervous to do otherwise. And again, being in the middle of nowhere I had few in person options for meetups and networking.
You in linear and me in interactive still have interestingly similar career paths, from East Coast to West Coast over the past few years to where we are now!
SF: We’ve had some truly wonderful people involved with the site; both as regular “staff” and guest contributors. They’ve come from all corners of the globe too! I’ve gotten to know some better than others, and I’m really thankful to everyone who’s made this site special over the years. They’ve all contributed to some pretty amazing moments that the site has had over the years. What’s one of your favorite things that’s happened with the community here?
JM: I think the GDC meetups you and Richard put together were pretty special. Unfortunately I was only able to go to the first, but it was pretty great to see and chat with a bunch of readers on one place. I also wish I could have made it to the meetup last year at the museum [Vintage Synth Museum in Oakland, CA]. That looked like a lot of work for you all, and am glad those who went got to experience it.
One of my favorite things that has happened with the community – and I think is inherent to it – is how open we all are with tips, tricks, techniques, and tactics. Before DesigningSound.org and long after, there has been a sense of openness and communication that is pretty special. I am glad to have been a part of that on the site, and will continue to do so for a long time going forward. Just in less of a structured capacity.
What about you? What are some things in the community that you are happy with, or proud of?
SF: Pretty similar actually. The thing that always made me feel proud about the site was how wide of a reach it had. My first experience with that was trying to organize a real-time community web chat about the sound work in Cast Away. I posted about it to get the thing organized, and then Randy Thom left a comment that he was going to join in. Needless to say, I had to change my plan for what that thing was going to be. It was also the start of my conversations with Randy, which eventually led to my current employment.
We always had amazingly generous people willing to contribute, and I’m particularly proud of how we’ve mined the community to bring in perspectives from around the globe. We’ve had staff contributors from Brazil, Turkey, Australia and India. Its founder lives in Colombia. We’ve had guest contributions from Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, and all parts of Europe (staff from that region too, obviously). People have contacted us, asking for permission to translate articles into their native languages. Above all, looking at the traffic history of the site, we’ve had visitors to the site from nearly every country on the planet. I’m positive some of those are bots, but it’s still a humbling statistic. We put in effort to be representative of the whole sound community, and that caught peoples’ attention. It brought them to the site, and inspired some to contribute their experiences. I’m just glad I had the chance to be a part of it.
So I want to say, “Thank you!” to our community of readers who have made this a special place over the last 10 years. I also want to thank all of the people who have given back to the community, and are contributing in their own ways at this very moment. The resources available to the community are much broader now than they were even 4 years ago. Their work makes me feel a little less guilty about stepping back. I know there are other people who will carry the community forward.
JM: I want to echo Shaun’s sentiments in thanking our community, contributors, guests, and everyone who has given to the sound community in any way. Being involved with this site and this community has been an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience. I hope to still see all of you and engage in discussion at meetups, conventions, and online for many years to come.