From 1966 to 1968, Adam West and Burt Ward played Batman and Robin in the very campy, and very popular series 'Batman' for ABC. The series portrayed Batman and Robin as being very cartoonish, and often as inept as the villains they were chasing. DC Comics took its lead from the success of the ABC series, and began publishing stories in its Batman comics that were similar in stance and tone to the very funny and satirical shows being shown in the Batman television series.
About a year or so after the Batman series ended, a writer named Denny O'Neil and an artist named Neal Adams began collaborating on new Batman comics. At this point the Batman comics were still taking their lead from the campiness of the Batman series, and the writers and artists that worked on Batman comics were encouraged to do so as well. O'Neil and Adams not only didn't agree with this stance, they thought it was ridiculous. They wanted to see Batman return to his roots as a brooding force that fought evil from the darkness and shadows, not a campy superhero that fought in tights.
So bit by bit, Adams and O'Neil began to make subtle changes to way Batman was written and drawn. If a script called for Batman to appear in broad daylight, Adams would change it to a night scene. They made Batman more menacing to criminals, more violent, but at the same time, he became more cerebral, going from being bumbling in the TV series, to 'the world's greatest detective'.
Slowly, O'Neil and Adams took the idea of what and who the Batman was, and made it their own. Most fans consider the O'Neil and Adams work on Batman in the early 70s to be one of the greatest collaborations in comics history. In fact, much of the present image you see of Batman, in movies such as The Dark Knight, is heavily influenced by the work of Adams and O'Neil, four decades ago.
So what does this have to do with social media?
One of the complaints you hear often in this space is that there are no new ideas. We are all simply rehashing the same ideas over and over. We've become an echo chamber.
To a large degree, that's correct. But instead of simply looking for new ideas, sometimes it's just as effective to take an old idea, and make it your own.
Twitter launched in the summer of 2006, and from Day One, users of the site were suggesting to their friends who they should be following. We all did this, but Micah Baldwin was the first to take this idea and make it his own, with the creation of #followfriday early last year.
How often do you see someone promoting a post or work they have done in a blog comment? Many people do this, and many more people probably would LIKE to do this, but don't want to seem too self-promotional. Becky McCray created the Brag Basket on her blog, and solved this problem. She took an existing idea, and made it her own.
For as long as there have been blogs, there have been bloggers wanting other bloggers to link to them. We all want more links, and we all want to be found by more readers. This is why I started The Z-List in late 2006. The idea was simple, you highlight any blogs that you think others should be reading, and link to them. I took an existing idea (linking to other blogs, asking for blog links), and made it my own.
The point is, instead of chasing 'new ideas', how can you take an existing idea, or an existing activity, and add more value? How can you take that idea, and make it your own? Sometimes improving the wheel makes more sense than trying to re-invent it.
Pic via Cover Browser