The ask

Written on May 30, 2018

The other night my family and I went to our favorite ice cream spot. The ice cream spot is located in a cute, little square, surrounded by local shops and restaurants. The weather was nice and there were a lot of people outside to take advantage of it.

Among the crowd, there was a father and son who had pulled up with a small speaker on a wagon and a pair of violins. After a few moments of setting up, there was classical music playing from the speaker while the father and son duo, complemented the music that was being played with their violins.

The songs that they would play were familiar tunes and definitely added to the experience of dining and eating ice cream outside in the nice weather.

While listening to the music, I began to think to myself wow, this is pretty cool that the dad and son are playing together. I had never seen a duo like this. I began to think that it must be the dad’s way of getting his kid to practice the violin, but to also teach him to not be afraid of playing for an audience.

I started to admire the dad for pushing his son to take part in this. Knowing that I’m an introvert, if I was asked as a kid to do something like this, I would have most definitely said no. I also thought, what lessons the kid could learn from an experience like this.

The ask

While I was eating ice cream and listening to the music, I failed to notice that the kid had grabbed a hat and crept up in front of my family with a huge smile. He then kindly proceeded to ask for a tip. Shocked and impressed, I reached into my pocket and gave him an euro.

What was impressive to me was that unlike other street performers, where usually a hat is placed first thing before they begin to perform, they concealed the fact that there were another street performer. Perhaps it was the fact that it was a father and son duo that threw me off.

What also impressed me was, after the kid left us, he then proceeded to go to an outdoor area of the nearby restaurant, where I estimate had about 40+ customers. Politely, one by one, he’d go by each table, smile and then proceed to ask for a tip. I’d say 90% of the customers gave a tip to the kid. The other 10%, while I assume would otherwise ignore or brush off other street performers, would smile back to the kid, say a few words and the kid would move on.

90%, I’d say that’s a lot of ice creams the kid and his dad could enjoy after wrapping up their performance.


This experience made me curious if a lesson could be learned and applied to the online world. Being a developer, I often run into other devs who have a huge amount of followers and a lot of contributions. The popular thing to do nowadays is to setup a digital tip jar of sorts using things like Patreon or Buy me a coffee. But seeing their profiles on the respective patronage-type sites, the conversions are often low. From my own experiment with a digital tip jar, the conversions were low and the conclusion that I came to was the results were based on a lack of rapport.

But seeing the dad and son duo, it made me wonder if the digital tip jar could be done differently so that rapport is built quicker or in this case the ask was done so differently and so discreetly, that it caught me completely off guard but I still gave a tip. I think I’ll run another digital tip jar experiment and see if I can get better results from what I’ve learned from the dad and son duo.

Have you ever come across someone online who did things differently or in a way that set them apart from others? Perhaps they sell a product, ask for a tip or simply ask for you to sign up to their newsletters to stay in touch. If so, who are they? I’d love to see what they are doing differently.

A couple of examples that comes to mind are Paul Jarvis and Amy Hoy. Paul’s newsletter sign up flow is awesome. He’s put much care into each step from signing up, to confirming the signup. Not to mention the amount of awesome quality content he puts out is amazing. Amy’s approach is great as well. She writes some of the longest articles I’ve seen on the Internet, but each of them keeps me captivated. Easily these two are the only email newsletters I have been following for years.

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