letter to animJuly 13, 2007
The following is a letter to Anim5 of International Detective Dragon’s from Outer Space, a podcast that I contribute to often. Stop by that podcast. I highly recommend it!
I want to start by pointing out that this junk piece of “journalism” is so biased it’s as if John-Paul Flintoff (who penned the article) is a pseudonym for Andrew Keen (who complains about the internet in said article). Last I checked, opinion pieces didn’t go in the “Tech & Web” section of any paper. In short, this article is worthless in its credibility.
I’ve read the article three times now. The first time, I was a little confused. Then, came outrage, then, thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness leads to wordiness, and wordiness leads to the dark side. That said, I present…my itemized opinion. *trumpet fanfare*
User-created content: There is no such thing is non-user created content. All people who submit any work of anything to the “tubes” are users of that content and the methods by which it was submitted. While I’m convinced that a vast amount of user content is either song lyrics or youtube videos, this doesn’t automatically qualify the majority as crap. To say so supports an elitist attitude that only those educated enough to be writers and film directors and musicians and the like should be. Think of your favorite songwriter or singer. Most of them did not receive collegiate level training in their craft. This does not discredit their ability to perform or the level at which they do. More importantly, just because there isn’t a $1,000+ camera involved, leaving the picture a bit grainy, or just because the script is a little rough, doesn’t make it crap either. The majority of us would praise all of Beethoven’s works, but that’s because of who he is. Not all his works can be genius.
Mr. Keen implies that user-created content is different from ‘expert’ created content, which is a lie, and that nothing good will come of a system that allows people a medium by which they can create and be known. Largely, a lot of useless websites exist, but there are diamonds in the rough. I present three examples to prove this:
Bob Kilgore’s “Cloudburst”
Joshua Young covering Hide and Seek by Imogen Heep
“Blue, Brown, Green Eyes” by Cuban
Blogs: It is said that blogs are unchecked, and often wrong. That would the law of averages working, I suppose. Mr. Keen addressed that a mere blogger would never have the ability to launch a full-scale operation. There simply aren’t the funds for such projects. This argument is flawed. If a blogger, one serious about news-blogging and reporting, were to be given the funds necessary, oh my but what a wonderfully accurate blog it would be. But they wouldn’t be a blogger anymore, they would be a journalist, and quickly sucked up by corporate media organizations.
I blog, but I don’t blog the news. I blog my life, and I like to think that I’m well-written enough to not be a total slouch who’s only making the internet dumber (please visit my blog: https://eatsbugs.wordpress.com). I even have engaged in a project with a friend called PaganQuill (http://paganquill.com) that seeks to spotlight only the best writing from pagans everywhere. Being part of the blogging world, I have found that poorly written blogs never get serious credit, and even the best written blogs take a lot of work to get impressive readership. I know people that have blogged for almost three years and still only average a couple hundred readers a day. That would be bankruptcy to newspapers, who must operate in the thousands or tens of thousands to just stay abreast of the tides. Aside from that, life blogging is another evolution of the time-honored tradition of journal keeping, which has proved to be a wonderful tool for historians and telling the stories of the past. Thus, blogs equal autobiographies.
Mr. Keen suggested that newspapers and TV stations are going out of business because the journalism world is dying to the invention of blogging and other methods of presenting the news cheaply, if not freely. This is not true either. Newspapers die because most people can get syndicated news services online, as well as access to major news corporations. People are moving more and more to the internet, so companies are simply keeping up. The problem is we are stuck in a middle space where we aren’t really paying for site access, but still paying for paper copies or cable. Eventually, this will change, because the antiquated forms of information dispersal will become obsolete. Even in the library where I work, more and more scholarly journals are being scanned into electronic databases so that it is becoming quickly useless to even step foot into a library.
Book publishing is at its height, as most anyone can publish and sell. Granted, the pie is smaller on the whole for all parties, but the opportunity is bigger than ever to publish through a major company. It is only a matter of time before models like Podiobooks.com and Escape Artists, Inc. become the way publishing is done. Web 2.0 isn’t killing news organizations. Blogs aren’t killing news organizations and established methods of learning. Dying models of operation are staggering in the face of processes that offer free access to quality content. Such successful models will eventually die when the big wigs decide to catch up to trends and still want to make money.
Podcasts: I’ll go ahead and support what everyone is going to say: If it weren’t for the theory behind Web 2.0, there would be no IDDFOS, and no way for me to rant in this manner. However, I will also point to some of my favorite programs, like This American Life on NPR and Astronomy Cast to show that, big or small, podcasting has given me access to information that I would not necessarily have otherwise. Gaming podcasts included. In fact, if I had never been advised to check out Wicked Podcast, I would have never downloaded iTunes and found Dragon’s Landing, thus also not finding IDDFOS. Those three podcasts, while similar in a way, contain three different sets of content not accessible without the idea of Web 2.0.
Podcasts, together with Vidcasts, have taken the community element of the internet into a new realm because they are more fully immersive. Without the ability to call in on Odeo or to talk over forums about the show, we’d just be more casual bystanders in a time where BBS’s are defunct.
Also, without the home-grown podcasting “movement,” no company would have developed products expressly for podcasting, and no school would have access to such products that they might provide lessons for students that can be downloaded from home to more efficiently use the ever-shrinking school curriculum.
Net Neutrality: I draw from Mr. Keen that the amount of creations on the internet is in part due to the growing ability to access anything faster and faster each day. Technology allows us to see more at a time and do more than ever before as individuals. Putting two and two together, it would seem that Mr. Keen supports the idea of a monitored internet. Here are some quick ideas about net neutrality, in case you aren’t familiar:
“Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.
Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.”
This means that if corporations/governments decide to monitor the flow of internet production, much like they do food or pharmaceuticals, then we will not have the freedom of access we once had, and then we get this Big Brother-ish internet hall monitor that says what’s a “good” website or not. To simplify, if Web 2.0 is curbed, it will be through larger, more legally binding methods where one might have to earn a license to submit content. Goodbye, most of the internet.
Navigating the Mess: In concession, a good portion of the internet is crap. There are dead webpages everywhere, and since it is very difficult for a domain name selling company to simply turn them off after a period of time (because there are so many), we have a veritable lake to wade through to find good content. Also, some of the active content on the web, youtube or otherwise, is of less than stellar quality. It is important that people be given the ability to create at will, but it is terribly unethical to put out such crap at such growing rate. However, the same can be said of major publications, like People Magazine, or Fox news, that Mr. Keen says are more credible and intellectually honest than the common blog.
However, in light of how unseemly it would be to allow the mounting pile of junk to accumulate more, there are now scuba divers equipped to help you navigate the mess. Check out Mahalo.com. Chris Miller of House of the Harping Monkey, Unquiet Desperation, and Podiobooks.com, works in this human-powered search engine that is dedicated to providing useful search results on any and all topics they can manage. It’s a little slower than Google; it’s a hell of a lot better than Google.