Monday, March 04, 2013

Now Then, Now Then

The Internet - it isn't any good for you, honest
I sit here and seethe a lot. About it and because I can't talk about it.

I stay objective though, unlike others who I'd like to believe have less time than me.

Facebook might be a lot of things but each of us is reasonably well protected from the freaks and psychos. If nothing else, Facebook allows you, to a certain degree, to choose your audience and as a consequence 'flames' and 'trolls' have all but disappeared. The same cannot be said for platforms that are more accessible to everyone. Take Amazon for instance; you don't think of Amazon as a social networking site, do you? That's because it isn't, but it does allow an enormous amount of interaction between 'customers' and unlike sites like the BBC or You Tube which have sections specifically for interaction, Amazon's is a feedback forum and whatever screening process that applies to the rest of the world possibly doesn't here. Amazon reviews are a number of things and helpful, is, amazingly, among those things. In many respects, the reviews on Amazon are more truthful; they're written 50% of the time by people who care enough to make an opinion and while that's exactly what it is, an opinion, it has led me to purchase things, on spec, that I might never have bought. I bought a Nitin Sawney album on the strength of a recommendation in another review - so it does work and I kinda have more respect for a fan who writes a review than someone who is obviously doing it for some strangely ungratifying reason. Some reviewers seem to take it all too seriously and while there's nothing wrong with having pride in your work - hell, pride is missing far too much everywhere else - some reviewers almost treat it like it's their job (and who knows, it might be).

Take my current musical bette noir - Steven Wilson's The Raven that blah blah blah and my decision to post my blog review of that album onto Amazon - because, you know, I've literally got nothing better to do - and my belief that it would be largely ignored. It hasn't and while it isn't garnering as many responses as the other negative review (which may well have been posted first and people probably think I jumped on his/her bandwagon) it has upset a few people. What I find remarkable with this is that it's obvious who have read the review and who have read my rating; those that disagreed with my review have at least tried to explain to me the error of my ways, a couple of others just got arsey with me and one in particular accused me of an awful lot based on my own humble opinion. The thing is I could almost feel his resentment and dislike seeping through the screen; it stunk of 'you disagree with me therefore you are shit on my shoe' and I opted, for once, to take the moral high ground (and because it was there to take).

This trend of being vilified in a really defensive way by passive aggressive objectors has become rife over recent years. Where it was once the confines of the private forums and groups it is now prevalent everywhere and because it is written in a distinctive way it allows the person - not a troll by any stretch of the imagination - permission to goad the detractor to the point where, because of their reaction, they can then take that 'hang on a minute, it's you who's swearing/getting angry, not me' approach, in public, that suddenly tars an otherwise reasonable view into that of a fanatic. Plus, having been on the receiving end of that more than once, if, like me, you rise to the bait more often than is good for you, there is the possibility that your initial reasoned argument/negative comment will be forgotten completely because you suddenly stop using smileys.

The Internet has always been a bit like that, but usually you knew that we're talking about minorities of people, nowadays, with so many people using the Internet, it could be anyone with an opinion that makes you foam at the mouth. I'm amazed that the world is not just one big slanging match between those who like things and those who dislike them. I suppose that's the good thing about diversity, there's too many things to be diverse about so you can always avoid the loony who disagrees with your belief that Star Wars is just a homoerotic advertisement for animal sex and incest.

The weird thing about the Amazon forum at the moment is that I have taken the moral high ground - which is unusual for me - because one or two of my detractors have been naughty and nasty. The thing is I could see the red mist descending as I was reading one of the replies to one of my replies to an earlier point, but suddenly, very lucidly, I thought, 'This is designed to ignite. This comment is designed specifically to draw the worst possible response and prove that my review has no validity because I am volatile and incendiary.' So I instead twisted his comment round and threw it back at him and took that, sensible, moral high ground

I remember going on the Guardian blogs during Andres Villas Boas's early days at my beloved Tottenham and being quite unnecessarily hostile about him. I say unnecessarily, but at the time I was absolutely incandescent with rage that my football team should have been defiled in such a way as to hire a failed Chelsea manager, etc etc. We also didn't look very good and it seems that everyone I was trying to convince couldn't remember all the good things about Spurs when Harry Redknapp was the manager. I was banging my drum and it was falling on deaf ears and that frustrated me even more. Very slowly, however, I realised that perhaps the manager wasn't the problem, so I admitted that I had been wrong and said as much on the forums.

Facebook isn't immune to it, despite what I said earlier. It's one of the places that generates its own controversies every time it decides to change something. Just recently, one of the Tech websites announced that the News Feed in your Facebook is going to change again. One of the people on this site's comment section said about the changes in Facebook: "Everybody will complain about the new layout just because people hate having to get used to something new, not because they actually hate the new layout. It's the same reason why everyone has complained about virtually every version of Windows since XP. It's not because the new OS was actually bad, it's because they don't like having to get used to new stuff. There's comfort in familiarity." 

I'd stick my neck out and say change was the biggest reason for a lot of unhappiness in the Internet - two million people (a drop in the ocean) moaning about some change Facebook has just made and probably those two million people are all over 30 (probably 40). People like me (but not necessarily me) need to understand that we're only being allowed to use these toys; we'll all be dead sooner than young people and they won't have to put up with our bitching and moaning about things they don't even blink at.

Change is a necessity because we are hurtling towards a time when what I'm doing - sitting at a PC - will only be done by people... like me and everybody else will be on the 'Net via their phones, Xboxes, tablets, iClouds or whatever the Japanese are currently developing for the 2020s.

I can't, for the life of me, understand a lot of the changes that are implemented. It appears that old adage 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' no longer applies in the real world. I'm sure the only way a developer makes money now is to come up with something different based on somebody else's different and then it is ephemeral - throwaway.

But I don't matter; the same as my opinion doesn't really matter, especially if it doesn't conform to the norm. The net is really all about inclusion and the safest way for it to go forward is for us all to accept everything and never moan about it, because one day we'll realise that it isn't worth the effort.

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