Tag: Internet (page 1 of 2)

The Internet’s Not Just For Porn

Courtesy andrebarcinski.blogfolha.uol.com.br

I’ve spun up a new project, since I’m still stymied in my attempt to write a YA fantasy novel with a female protagonist that doesn’t entirely suck. I’m something of a perfectionist, to the point that I am extremely hard on myself when I do not live up to my own standards. I need more test readers but am hesitant to have my worst fears confirmed: that I am too male and out-of-touch to get this important job done.

So I’m keeping that on the shelf while I try my hand at something new, different, and downright scary, but in a different way.

To do the research I need to complete this new work, I turn to the Internet. And getting lost down rabbit holes of character analyses and Star Trek essays, I was struck with a realization.

Considering what it is and can become, it’s easy to forget what the Internet was intended to be in the first place, and still is if you use it a certain way.

From it’s inception, the Internet’s purpose is a repository of data and knowledge. Try as you might, you can’t burn down the Internet. At this point, the data is so wide-spread, so diverse, and so cataloged that to destroy it and the knowledge it contains is a fool’s errand. You can’t accidentally touch of a conflagration in the Rare Webpages Section; there will be no Library of Alexandria repeat here. And thank the stars for that — so much knowledge was lost in that time, and in some circles, we’re still reeling from the losses. (Personal aside: so much of the Work I am doing away from screens and data streams may remain unfinished because there is simply a lack of resources upon which I can rely.)

Moreso than it was when I first encountered it, the Internet is extensively cataloged and searchable. There are multiple engines to do so — perhaps foolishly, I still rely upon Google to do my fetching, among other things. A few cursory searches brought me a plethora of resources for my projects, old and new, and also linked me to undiscovered essays, new treatises, and authors whose voices resonate with my own, individuals with whom I’d love to sit down, away from the constant barrage of distractions, and just have an eye-to-eye chat about our art, the world, and what’s to come.

In the meantime, I follow them on social media, and hope they’ll follow me back.

This turns my thoughts to social media, and how the Internet becomes sorely abused.

Instead of using it for data and enlightenment, so many individuals choose to use the Internet as sounding boards, echo chambers, and podiums to espouse their personal points of view as if they’re gospel. I’ve been guilty of this, myself — on more than one occasion, I’ve pontificated on our political climate from my perspective and bemoaned the nature of my illness. I’ve shown how hard I am on myself, and how I’ve abused myself; this in turn has given others implicit permission to use and abuse me.

Beyond my personal traumatic experiences, so many people use the Internet as forums to spew bile and hatred upon those just struggling to survive. They twist and mold the world as they see it to shove their supposed superiority and righteous indignation into the faces of the populace, like thunderbolts raining down from Olympus. It sickens me to see so much arrogant presumption, so much faux righteousness, so many smug miscarriages of justice. I just want to grab people by their collective collars, shake them until their eyes wobble (not to be violent but to get their damn attention), and say “NO, YOU ARE BEING MYOPIC, YOU DO NOT GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT THE FACTS ARE.

It’s people who shit on fundamentalists who pick and choose parts of holy writ that support their viewpoints, then turn around and pick and choose the narratives that support their viewpoints, that truly piss me off.

The truth is a complex, multi-faceted thing. Like perfection, it is something deeply desired, but we can only chase after the truth; catching it is a monumental task. We have to be honest with ourselves and the role we play in constructing our narratives, and imagine the other perspectives that confirm that narrative, or run counter to it. Sticking to the facts is difficult when the facts may reveal parts of ourselves that we don’t like — our human frailties, our capacity for making bad decisions, our actions that hurt one another.

When we see one another as people with hearts and minds, rather than things made of straw and bad wiring, it becomes much harder to push one another out of the light and into the shadows, to shove those who deserve love, support, and trust into an oubliette to the cheers of enablers and potential lovers.

The Internet can be the biggest enabler of all.

For months I stayed away from the Internet, both loathing what people used it to do to me and fearing what I might say or do in response. But allowing fear and self-loathing to keep me in the dark was not only unhealthy for my own sake but succumbing to the will of the zeitgeist, kowtowing to people who pretend to be rebels but represent a new establishment. We only tolerate what we feel we deserve; we serve as screens for others to project upon us only as long as we allow it. And I finally got to a place where I dropped the curtain on the screen I was (and perhaps still am) and decided it was past time to re-define my Persona and unearth my true Self. And the Internet helped me do that.

The Internet is, at once, a potent tool and a potentially deadly weapon. It’s all in how one chooses to use it. How will you use the Internet today? How will you leverage its articles, the discussions that take place, your presence and impact in social media? Will you build one another up, to stand against those who refuse to do the same? Or will you tear one another down so you can push your Persona to new heights? The power to both help and harm is at your very fingertips. I hope you choose wisely.

Thursdays are for talking tech.

(N.B. I was in flight on Tuesday so I’m telling a bit of my story, here, in case you couldn’t tell.)

500 Words on Trolls

Courtesy Bewytchme.com

Yes. They’re real. They’re disgusting. They think they’re always right. But they don’t live under bridges; they live on the Internet.

‘Trolls’ is modern shorthand for people who use the broadcasting power and, occasionally, anonymity of the Internet to spew their opinions at people. No matter how ignorant or misinformed those opinions might be, these people like nothing better than to put themselves out into the world as experts in their fields. There are times when you can’t grok the context or tone of plain text when presented, but in the case of these folks, there’s almost always an air of smugness and faux superiority. I don’t know how they do it; but they do.

As succinct as ‘trolls’ is as a descriptor, I feel like a better, more descriptive one already exists. Guttersnipes. Think about it. It fits perfectly. People take aim at a topic or comment they wish to inflict themselves upon, and fire off idiotic rounds of so-called ‘knowledge’ into an unsuspecting crowd that had neither the desire nor the need to hear what they have to say. That covers the ‘snipe’ part – the ‘gutter’ part comes from the fact that it’s one of the best places to live when you surround yourself in shit. Much like pigs.

The thing about the perspective of a pig, is that they likely see things around them in the context of pigdom. When the farmer comes by, unless the pig is Babe or a MENSA member, pigs likely belive it’s just a bigger pig who happens to walk upright and always carry a slop bucket. When you’re a pig, all you see is other pigs. Pigs, however, are better than trolls.

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Winston Churchill

Trolls don’t see you as equals. Like cats, but without the benefit of cuddly fur or attractive purring, they look down on us. They think they’re better than us, more enligthened, better informed. Let’s overlook the fact that a lot of their opinions tend to come from FOX News, or hate groups like GamerGate, or some place even more idiotic like 8chan. Any intelligent creature can expose themselves to this sort of hateful, ignorant, inflammatory dross and recognize it for what it is. It takes a particularly loathsome human being to simply parrot those things.

The worst ones are the ones that backpedal. When they get called on their bullshit, they start to take up a less controversial position. They will make a racist remark, and then when called on it, will say something like “I’m colorblind”. That way, they maintain their supposed moral superiority and can accuse their accuser of being overly sensitive. It’s bullshit, and these people live in it.

How do we deal with them? Don’t feed them. If you engage them, you will find their positions intractable and their smugness insufferable. They may consider silence a victory. Some fights, we just can’t win.

Image courtesy Bewytchme.com & GU Comics

Let’s Talk Net Neutrality

I love the Internet. I love all the things a free flow of data can do. It’s how I’ve met some of the most important people in my life. It’s how I not only got to PAX but became an Enforcer. It’s how people bought my writing for the first time. The Internet is awesome!

There are those, unfortunately, who want to make it less so.

Comcast Tower. A big glass dick.

This is the Comcast building, just down the river from me in Philadelphia. It’s a titanic construct. It’s an interesting architectural design.

It’s a massive middle finger to fair business practices and net neutrality.

Let’s leave aside how Comcast muscles out smaller potential ISPs, and how atrocious their customer support can be. Our focus has to be on how this powerhouse of a provider wants to deal with ‘net neutrality’, a term that encapsulates the idea of all data on the Internet being treated equally the way electricity and phone calls and telegraphed messages have been treated in their wires for decades.

Basically, Comcast wants to eliminate this concept so it can make more money.

Along with Time Warner Cable and others, Comcast has been working to create a two-tier system of Internet service in the United States. They call it “fast lane” or something. It’s a woefully inaccurate moniker: in essence, what they would do is put speed bumps all over the current lanes, and the un-bumped parts become faster by comparison. And if you’re trying something new in a field they don’t want any competition in, they will slow down your data so much that your idea will fail before it even gets off of the ground. And even if you’re an established brand – like, for example, Netflix – an ISP in this situation will have every right to throttle your data’s speeds, especially if the service does not pay the premiums. Comcast has already done this once to Netflix, and if the initiative to preserve net neutrality fails, it’ll happen over and over again.

Don’t believe me? Think this seems far-fetched? Operating under the belief that United States anti-trust laws limit evil, ruthless, throat-cutting monopolies to game boards with little metal tokens?

Try this video on for size.

Or this one.

The icing on the cake, though, is here.

This is the link. You can click the Proceeding number (14-28) and leave a comment on why this issue is important to you. I’ll send you there with two caveats:

Don’t be intimidated. The form is unfriendly to users and demands your name and address. Don’t worry about that. These systems are in place to prevent you from posting. They want to have people leaving as few comments as possible so they can ramble on without oversight from the people. Don’t let it stop you.

If you can’t get through, keep trying. Unlike other things I’ve said, this is unsubstantiated: a rumor is going around that TWC and Comcast are slowing down connections from their users to the FCC website. This is (a) a massive pile of bullshit that clearly illustrates why this is a bad thing, and (b) what a character in Blazing Saddles called “the last act of a desperate man.” Keep trying. Keep posting until your comment is taken. Let your voice be heard!

I’ve left a comment. I’ve given a finger right back to Comcast. Won’t you do the same?

An Open Letter to Online Gaming Fans

Dear Mr. or Ms. Online Gamer:

I’m writing to express my disappointment in your behavior towards games journalists and reviewers. How you behave within your games is your business; if I object to how people are treated within a game, chances are I won’t play that game, unless I find it really compelling on its own or several friends of mine play. However, how you behave outside of games is something that needs to be addressed, especially when it comes to people trying to inform and protect you.

Let me be perfectly clear. Yes, games journalists and some very fortunate reviewers do, in fact, get paid. They get paid to report on games, to discuss them and inform you of their merits and flaws. And 95-99% of games have both: few and far between are truly peerless games like Portal or true ludonarrative abortions like Ride to Hell: Retribution.

The crux of this letter is, however, the following:

Video game journalists are not paid by video game companies to write particular reviews.

There are a lot of reasons a particular feature is not mentioned in a review. The review could have been rushed. It could have been based on an early build of the game. The feature in question, for example the number of maps in the game or the available customization options, might not have factored into the reviewer’s reasoning and therefore was excluded from the review. You know what none of these things indicate? Greased palms.

Roger Ebert never got a payout from MGM for a positive review of a film. Rolling Stone doesn’t get sacks of cash from record companies or bands to talk up a particular album. Amazon reviewers aren’t given gift cards for five star reviews. I could go on.

Games journalists do have privileged positions. Nobody would deny that. Press passes and junkets do exist, and in some instances, companies will hold events or parties to try and ingratiate themselves. That’s part of business. But direct payouts between companies and journalists rarely, if ever, happens. And when these incidents do occur, any journalist worth their ink would scoff at the offer and stick to their wordy guns. I think you can look at the back history of any games journalist out there to see evidence of said journalist’s integrity.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a few of the people in this industry. I can tell you first hand that they work hard. They often have to work uphill against public opinion to discuss the truth. And as much as fat sacks of industry cash would make paying their bills easier, the ones I know wouldn’t take it. Their dedication isn’t to making money. Their dedication is to the truth, and to you, the video gamer at home, and whether or not your cash is going to be well-spent on a particular game.

Shame on you. Shame on your inflammatory words and questions of journalistic integrity. Stop being blinded by your loyalty to a particular game, and look at the situation objectively. Remove your inflated ego from the equation and realize that not everyone is going to share your opinion. There are other, more positive ways to get the attention you are clearly seeking, and all you do when you accuse an establish games journalist of this sort of unscrupulous behavior is come off looking like an absolute prat at best, and a bullying cretin at worst.

You can do better than that. And you should.

Best wishes, etc.

Constructive Communication

Art courtesy mitchclem.com

Given the debacles of the last week or so, and the ways I’ve seen back-and-forth going on several issues, it is past time for me to voice a gripe I have with certain behaviors people exhibit here in the wilds of the Internet. I will avoid naming names, but since without context I may as well be pissing in the wind, here’s an example of what I’m on about.

In the process of a competition, someone said something that, intentional or no, could be misconstrued as insulting, belittling, perhaps even bullying. Hindsight being what it is, and seeing as the source was representing a group directly linked to the competition, the source went about finding a way to make amends. The recipient, on the other hand, took umbrage. While this is a reasonable response, what followed was a very public tirade, a multi-tiered response that looks from the outside to be a very vehement and unwarranted counter-attack, and a great deal of self-victimization, blowing the initial incident far out of proportion.

Now, what was initially said probably should not have been said. That is a point agreed upon all around. But this was like responding to the accidental shooting of a civilian with an all-out, nationwide nuclear assault. “Kill one of my people, will you? Well, how about I kill a billion of yours!” Not exactly an appropriate means of conflict resolution.

What irks me is the passive-aggressive way this and several other conflicts have evolved. If someone is causing you grief, or you take issue with what they said, why not confront the person directly? It wasn’t myself personally who was involved with this, so I really have no stake or cause in naming names, but come on. Didn’t Malcolm Reynolds say “The next time you stab me in the back, have the courage to do it to my face”? Where’s the courage, here? Where’s the balls?

If all you do in response to an insult, perceived or actual, is make yourself out to be the wounded party in public, rather than confronting the source and ensuring intent and communication were clear, you come off as whiny. Needy. You don’t take responsibility for what’s going on, simply letting others either take the blame or come to your rescue. Sure, you might get a few new Twitter followers out of the deal, but is a bunch of half-cocked white-knight anonymous types really the kind of people you want being aware of your every move? Think about that.

It’s the same thing that bugs me about people who post on forums with the clever closing line “I’ll just leave this here”. No. Don’t just leave it there. Explain yourself. Make your case. Don’t hide behind a gif image or someone else’s rhetoric. I hate that shit. Yeah, sure, I thought it was cute and clever a while back, but you know what? It isn’t. It’s too easy. It’s cowardly. And it needs to stop.

I know it may seem hypocritical to not name names or cite any other specific instances, but this is not an instance of going after person A or sticking up for person B. This is just general, well-intentioned outrage at a mode of behavior that is becoming way too prevalent. Coded messages on Facebook, rhetorical questions asked over Twitter, stonewalling actual inroads for discussion… it’s like this sort of passive-aggressive baiting is becoming the lingua fraca of the Internet.

Remember the whole “Be polite, be efficient, be prepared to kill everyone you meet” thing from the Iraq invasion some time ago? Or, if you prefer, the SOP of the Sniper from Team Fortress 2? That still applies. Be polite when you approach someone you feel has offended you. You never know, they might have spoken out of turn or did not think their words could be hurtful. Is it so difficult to give someone the benefit of the doubt? Also, don’t mince words. Get to the point, and make your case. You’ll be much more broadly and well received if you behave like an adult instead of a petulant, whiny child. And as for the last? It goes with not mincing words. Say what you mean, and if something pisses you off, say so. Stand by your feelings, but don’t let them run the conversation. It’s like the aging man with the shitty tattoos at the top of this post says:

“Either have your phasers set on KILL, or motherfucker, don’t show up.”

Passive-aggressive bullshit is the STUN setting. It’s lightweight, kindergarten playground bullshit. It’s not constructive communication. It isn’t mature. It’s getting fucking disgusting.

Knock it off.

Thank you.

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