Living in happy obscurity vs building in public

Published on Nov 10, 2020

Building in public is something of an indie maker credo. Almost every maker on Twitter I follow are doing it. It has its benefits – building social capital, growing an audience, building-as-marketing, thought leadership, influence. It's the maker equivalent of being a social media influencer, basically. When you cross a certain number of followers threshold, things get easier. More people buy whatever you're launching. Your followers are your word-of-mouth marketing agents to amplify your message/product. 

But some things probably get harder too. You're constantly under the public gaze, being watched and policed by your followers, since your little slice of fame really is conferred by them. As a result you might get swayed by it, become influenced instead of doing the influencing. You lose (some) independence. 

I tried building in public before, but never really enjoyed it. I always preferred to live in obscurity, and do my own thing. If I do meet people and make connections, it's a bonus. But I do observe that if I don't take the effort to be public about my work in some way, my products will suffer. That would defeat the purpose of making it – after all I made it because I want people to use it!

You want to be rich and anonymous, not poor and famous. ~ @naval

So I'd always felt conflicted about building in public vs living in happy obscurity. What's the right approach to take for someone like me who doesn't care much about the emotional or self-esteem aspects of fame or status, but more the pragmatic benefits from having social capital? Is it about finding the moderate path, a balance? Or it is about choosing a side and be at peace with it? Or is there a happy best-of-both-worlds scenario where you can be well connected as a result of being independent and quiet?

I always imagine the traditional craftsmen in Kyoto, Japan, who practise and work in relative quiet obscurity, yet people and customers flock to them for the quality of their craft. 

Now that, would be the dream.