Decentralize It (Don’t Criticize It)

Image Credit: Adam Aladdin

For any of you looking for something on Buttcon/Craptocurrency – move along. Although to be honest, we will be taking a few pointers the Technorati left on the Cutting Room floor… So let us begin.

Dumping Leon Skum’s (h/t c.reider) Springfield Tire Fire for The Fediverse is one of the best things to happen to my Social Media experience in years. I really love my Little Village over at Mastodon – wonderfully kind and sharing human beings who just want together out their thoughts and ideas and help where they can. Reminds me of what the Interwebz® used to be like decades ago. But it’s the fact that I can stay in that Little Village if I like, or grab the binoculars and peek out past the trees and over the horizon to see what’s going on in the bigger world that’s very appealing. I’m not fed a firehose of garbage every time I check in. I’m in control here. I make the rules for what I want to see and read. It’s very liberating.

This post was inspired by thinking about the Decentralized nature of The Fediverse as a whole, Cory Doctorow’s piece on Social Quitting, and most recently this video from Benn Jordan of the problems with Streaming Services and the Artists (Musicians in his case) they claim to help.

It was after watching Benn’s video that the light from the heavens came from above, I heard angelic choirs singing, and I realized that the last piece of the ‘DIY Puzzle’ was laid bare – we need a ‘Napster’ not for File Sharing, but to connect the ‘Stores’ of Labels and Independent Artists to a common Database. 

It would be stupidly simple:

1) Since this is really nothing more than a Database, it should be simple to create and maintain.

2) Accounts are nothing more than ‘Creators’ (those who have something to listen to and sell). The ‘Users’ (people who want to look for tracks) just hit the website and search. No information should be needed from Users (period!) and the Creators will obviously need to add their sales address (web and perhaps even physical) and being able to access/update Metadata (Tags, most likely) about their works. Nothing more please – this is a service, not a another way to mine data for nefarious purposes.

3) Since this site holds nothing more than Metadata and Links, Creators will need to host their wares on their own site, or by a dedicated service (and one would hope something that doesn’t take usury fees for doing so.) As to whether the ‘Big Labels’ can play along is a question that will need to be addressed. My feeling is that as long as the playing field is level for all players (can’t ‘SEO’ the results, can’t buy favorable placement) than why not? But I’m sure there are many more factors than those two and smarter people than me can figure this out.

I’m not Coder, so I know there are potential problems with this proposal. I am also confident that these can be addressed simply and humanely. I also have no idea on how the maker(s) of said site would be compensated for their work other than a small percentage of sales generated by it. And although I said ‘stupidly simple’ it may be much more of a complicated ordeal for small artists wanting to hawk their wares. But I still think the idea is valid, and dare I say ‘needed’. Perhaps the ‘Mastodon Ethic’ of a Non-Profit Enterprise is the key here, but that requires developers willing to take the challenge and the growing pains that come with it…

The ARPANet proposal that became our Weird Wide Web was built on Decentralization as a premise. That lack of a ‘Central Point of Failure’ was the key to ensuring that the thing could keep running even if a major communications line (or multiples of) was disabled.

As that idea spawned into the Internet we take for granted today, only Universities and researchers could afford and utilize the tools required to use the nascent Network and it took ventures like Compuserve, Genie, and AOL to convert that into the idea of a Centralized structure. Users flocked to them because it was the easiest way of seeing what all the fuss was about without having to invest a small fortune into hardware and backend (the rise of affordable PC’s certainly didn’t hurt here either). Decades later we now know what fuss is about and what it’s doing to us individually and collectively and it seems to me that a lot of us are getting tired of how it’s entrenched in every single tiny aspect of our lives. As I’ve said before: “Unless you’re fine with playing the game by someone else’s rules, run in the opposite direction.”

Our history is littered with artists and music genres made by those who don’t play by the rules. They influence scores of subsequent artists and musicians, some of whom will eventually stumble onto something that gets codified and standardized and marketed and profited from. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

My travels over the past few years tell me collectively we’re reaching back to our past to unravel the mess we’ve collectively made. The Internet (yeah, spelled correctly for this usage) is still (in my humble opinion) a vast resource full of information that has been increasingly co-opted by the Technorati for power, corruption, and lies. It’s time to take back that resource. It’s also imperative that we heed the past Decades of what actually happened to keep History from repeating itself here as Cory’s post so eloquently documents. 

The ‘Bait and Switch’ tactics of the Streaming Services (and one has to wonder what Epic Games really wants with Bandcamp under their control) is a Zero-Sum Fools’ Errand. Capitalism demands to be fed by Shareholders demanding Returns. Costs will always be reduced to make this happen and I think we all know who will bear the brunt of that… We need a modern equivalent to the ‘Indie Record Distributors’ so prevalent in the past – the Local or Regional collectors of Artists’ wares that could be then accessed by the Record Shops to stock or order. Artists and Bands still created and had the product produced (vinyl, cassette, etc), and then either sold them directly and/or sent them to said Distributors for wider (well…) distribution. This is the idea I’m proposing here, just using the ‘modern’ tools at our disposal.

As I finish this, I realize that it looks like I’m proposing a Centralized Service here. Not at all! Remember that Napster was the first file sharing service to gain notorietythere had been others before them and they also inspired dozens of competitors. There is no ‘One Size Fits All’ in Art, and there is no reason to think that a single point of failure (I mean Service) is the answer – and besides, it opens the door to the kind of Monopolistic Fetishism that Capitalism requires. The whole idea here is Decentralization – multiple sites cataloging and catering to specific tastes or genres (personal or general), and most importantly, doing it with an end goal of community over capital. 

Yeah, it’s head-in-the-clouds, optimistic utopian blue-sky thinking with a healthy dose of a lot of unanswered questions. But it’s worth pondering about, and I believe well worthy of trying for those with the ability to create such a thing while being helped by those looking to peel away from the clenched fist of ‘The Financialization of Everything’. 

Until next time…

Life Slips By (and I Want You)

(Image Credit)

Hi everyone – still here, still extraordinarily busy with EduCorp®, and still (mostly) doing well with the M1 Macs. Waiting on Monterey to drop before the next TNSS post so I can give you an idea of how everything is jacked up yet again. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I wanted to drop a few things from the past week I found significant.

The passing of Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire/Sandoz/too many other Projects to list here was the kicker for me last week. Kirk has been a long-time influence on art, music, and music technology for me since I started dabbling with it in the early 80’s. So although I’ve spent the last few days reminiscing by listening to a bunch of his tracks, about all I can say is thanks for the influence Sir and you’ll be very much missed in my little world.

High point for the week: I have no idea how I’ve missed this for so long, but I just discovered it Friday and now you should too.

For the uninitiated, Martyn was the founder of The Human League back in the late 70’s before being tossed out. He and HL bandmate Ian Craig Marsh went on to form the British Electric Foundation and eventually to notoriety with Heaven 17

I’ve been pouring through the interviews, and they are just addicting. Yes, there’s a lot of music geekery in there (tech heads rejoice!) but there’s also a lot of history about the early electronic music scene and behind-the-scenes of who did what and how and where and when. Hearing Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson (both original CabVolt founders) wax on about early days and current affairs riveting listening, and although Martyn says he wanted to but never got to interview Richard Kirk, I have a feeling that Kirk’s penchant for solitude would have amounted to nothing ever being recorded anyway. 🙂

This is one of those ‘must listen’ audiocasts, even if you were just a fan of the music and care nothing for the business or tech behind it. He’s up to 57 episodes as of this writing, so get cracking… 

Until next time…

If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention…

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation

– ‘Ball Of Confusion’ by The Temptations

Hello everyone, we’re still alive here in APITEland – hope all of you are staying safe too.

I haven’t posted in a while for a couple of reasons:

1) I wanted the interview with Evan to keep ‘top billing’ for a while.

2) Since posting the above a lot has been going on in the world that I didn’t want to detract from.

But I need to get something out, so will keep it short.

There’s a lot of justifiable anger out there right now. From Black Lives Matter, to the fiasco that is the United States’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis, to Millions of Unemployed, to the whole (quoting literal) Ball Of Confusion we’ve been living in for decades continually bubbling up to the surface from every direction as of late. 

Trying to make the best out of our collective nightmare I’ve been catching up on reading during my off-time from EduCorp®. I just finished Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth, and I highly recommend that you put this on your reading shortlist.

It’s timely, short, engaging, and enlightening, putting into perspective a lot about what is going on with the ‘Average Jane and Joe’ right now. Eric and Mark delineate the differences between Tribal Anger and Public Anger (Echo Chamber vs. Moral Outrage, if you will), and how to tell which is which out there in our firehose of media inundation – and if you are being manipulated by confusing the two by the unscrupulous. Although the book deals with the (as derived from the title) Economic side of things, it really shows that decades of economic inequality is the root of evil for these problems and countless more besides. 

Unlike many other books I’ve dug into lately it doesn’t just say ‘well, that’s why people are pissed off and good luck doing anything about it.’ Lonergan and Blyth present in their final dialog three real-world solutions to our blinding financial inequity that could level the playing field for everyone. They even play by the ‘current rules’ with them – as you would expect a Hedge Fund Manager and an Economist (Lonergan and Blyth respectively) to do. Even if it just gets people talking about these ideas as a launchpad, it’s a welcome change to see them added here. 

You can buy the book from the usual Interwebz® suspects in physical or digital if you must. Buy from Bookshop.org if you want to support your local business. If your local library has it, request it and get it sdelivered if possible. If they support Libby (or other online lenders) you can find it there. But do check it out. It might make you a bit more angry once you finish, but that anger will be tempered towards the ‘Public Good’ rather than ‘Business As Usual’. Because a society is only as free as the least free person in it, and only as wealthy as the poorest soul.

Stay safe, wear a face mask if you go out, and help out however you can out there. Until next time…

Keep YouTube Weird

My dear friend and former studio/label partner Michael Donaldson has a better (and much shorter) version of this tirade over at his 8-Sided Blog. You can find it here.

I have two Tube of Yous accounts. One I created to put up odd Logic Pro tricks and tips as I found them. Since I’ve pretty much switched to Reaper on my desk- and laptops and moved to all flavors of audio and sequencing madness on iOS I don’t put much there anymore. (Although I really should upload what I’m doing now…) My second account is for what I watch and subscribe to. I watch a lot of YouTube. I absolutely love it.

Yeah, there’s a whole lotta hot garbage to be found there, and YouTube’s algorithm does everything it can to point you to it to make $$$$. But even having to dodge that insanity I’m convinced that for the masses it’s the best way to find new things and to learn things too. It’s even become one of the places everyone goes for music and music videos.

And about every few months I hear someone complaining about YouTube on YouTube. I usually unsubscribe or stop watching them after that…

But before I get deeper into why, let’s refresh ourselves about what YouTube is first.

YT is owned by Google. It’s one of its subsidiaries.

Google amasses a lot of information, and makes applications, software, and even hardware to leverage that info. But at its heart it’s in the business of selling ads and providing said information to advertisers so they can better target you for what they want to sell to you.

Always remember this. You can’t make billions of dollars a Quarter and employ thousands of people by giving everything away for free.

So how does YouTube make the money it needs to spend on infrastructure, storage (videos eat up a lot of drive space), and paying its contributors? By constantly going to Mom (Google) and asking for an allowance? Well, sometimes. But the goal is to teach independence. And much like children, you hope they’ll not only be able to snag on their own, but can also contribute to the family coffers in the future as well.

So Mother Google has them deliver ads. Lots and lots of ads. Or if you prefer, you can pony up for YouTube Red (or Premium, or whatever they’re calling it this week) and give them $120 a year or so to get rid of said advertisements for you.

But they also gather a lot of information about what you watch, how long you watch it for, what you comment, your scrolling through lists, and even where your cursor is hovering. All of this info is sucked into Mommy Dearest’s machinery for analytics and the advertisers who pay the bills. (that’s part of that contribution thing mentioned above…)

Got it? Excellent. 🙂

So all of this BS about ‘Oh noes! YouTube is manipulating their algorithm again and we’re all in big trouble!’ Is missing the point. If a socially unacceptable video goes viral and the public at large reacts negatively (advertisers can do this too), YT in a panic of losing revenue (and favorability with Mom) also reacts (or overreacts) and fiddles with their settings to ‘fix’ the problem because no feasible quantity of man and/or machine can realistically check hundreds of hours of video uploaded every single minute to their platform. YouTube is not alone here – this happens in every other industry when something goes wrong in the age of Social Media. How many times have you seen Twiddler® or Farcebook® explode because of an advertisement or a CEO’s political ramblings and now everyone is asked to boycott said product or service? Money talks and the big kids on the playground don’t want to lose their speech.

Makes sense, yes? 

So what is this (latest) ‘Creator Adpocalypse’ all about?

Simply put, Putting all of your eggs in one basket. And let’s be honest here – it actually putting your eggs in someone else’s basket hoping that they will pay you forever and in ever-increasing amounts as long as you continue to provide eggs into said basket.

In other words, the people complaining the most are the ones who’ve boldly decided to make YouTube videos their career.

Everything has a lifespan. People are born, do stuff, and slip off the mortal coil. Everything created has a finite amount of time as well.

Not everyone who writes a hit song can expect their career to last forever. Nor can anyone making television shows, movies, hairstyles, furniture, wallpaper, or fidget spinners. Tastes change, times change, and the public is almost always chasing the new and shiny.  

Enjoy the run while it lasts, but you’d better have (or find) a contingency plan in case it’s shorter that you think. Brian May of Queen got his freakin’ PhD in Astrophysics for cryin’ out loud…

I’m not trying to be flippant here, nor am I trying to say you can’t be a success at what you want to do. But if you want to play in someone else’s Egg Basket, you’re going to have to play by their rules. If this is your choice you can’t suddenly cry that the sky is falling (see what I did there?) when those rules change.

YouTube is a Private service. They make the rules for their service. They can change these rules any time they want to. You don’t have to use their service if you don’t like their rules.

And that is what is happening here with this latest ‘Apocalypse’. YT moved the cheese again, and those who have made it their sole (or major) source of income now have to make changes or perish. You’ll hear about it when it happens again in the future too. In fact, you’ll hear about this many times until the shouts finally fall upon deaf ears…

Why? Let’s think about this:

So you had an idea for a YT Channel and due to your content, delivery, or even dumb luck it’s become a booming success and you’re suddenly making money. A pretty surprising amount of money… Fabulous! You’ve beaten the system!

For now.

But what are you going to have to do to keep both your fans and the parent company (um, that would be YouTube and its Advertising Patrons) happy?

Do you continue to make great content like what your current following enjoys and consider the windfalls a bonus for doing something you love?

Or do you get stars in your eyes, think you can do no wrong, and start playing to the machine to get more subscribers, more likes, more notification and ultimately capitulate to the powers that be and test and modify and change Thumbnails and Titles and Descriptions and Zinger Comments and Polls and…oh just stop already!

You know the right answer here.

And trust me that we, your viewers can see right through it. This is why I personally unsub after hearing a ‘Creator’ complain about this, because I know they’ve lost the plot.

I’m betting I’m not alone here either.

If we want content created by committee and filtered through focus groups and sanitized for our protection then there are still lots and lots of networks that produce them and run them (with commercial sponsorship as well) on a nightly or weekly basis. Maybe you should take your ideas there if this is really want you want to do. You could also make your own Network using the power of The Interwebz® and keep all that control to yourself if it’s good enough.

The Tube of Yous is television by and for weirdos like you and me. If you want to learn Underwater Basket Weaving, there is someone who will teach you how to do it. If you want to find funny videos of cats or pranks or cats doing pranks or pranks on cats there are bajillions. If you want to see what life is like outside of your little bubble of the planet or how to learn the language of those people you just found outside your bubble there’s that too. Yes, you’ll have to sort through some dumpster fires to find the good stuff you want to watch, but you’ll be amazed at what’s there if you take some time to look. 

And they’re doing it because they love to. Not because they want to be an ‘Influencer’ or ‘YT Superstar’ or a Network Executive – they just want to share. They don’t care about revenue or rankings or optimization. This is not a job for them, this is a hobby with a community of like-minded weirdos. This is fun

So Keep YouTube Weird please. If you outgrow it there are better places to put your wares. We’ll still come watch if your content speaks to us…

-Until next time…