Spoiler Alert / Video and Music Journal

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October 12th, 2012

01:00 pm - Tearing the shrinkwrap

In case you were wondering ... Yes, this is a continuation of an earlier blog that live elsewhere, very briefly - for one post, to be exact. This is what I wrote on Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM which, as it turned out, would be briefly before I had to move. That post, like this one, had the title "tearing the shrinkwrap"

Might as well jot something down, just to get started.

"Spoiler Alert" is a blog, a site and a few supporting pages (this one included) that I post to about movies and television programs I've watched, with a few other subjects sprinkled in. In the course of writing it, I'll take part in a few discussions. Some of those discussions will be best forgotten, because this in the Internet. Some will be interesting, though, and some of the interesting ones will take place on (name of network deleted).

I'll be discussing some of those discussions, here. "Along with other topics". But, of course.

It was not to be. This is what happened:

When I first encountered this network, which I will leave unnamed, I noticed something that was sort of good - I could play a lot of free music on it - and something that seemed a little odd - there was practically no writing to speak of on the network, even though it was a blogging host as well as being a social network, and had discussion groups, as well. There was, however, a central user discussion forum that was seeing some serious use, at least for a while, because of a drama that was unfolding on it, a drama that I didn't completely understand at the time, though I thought I did.

Streaming free music is an expensive proposition. The network reported that it had been unable to get advertisers in any but a handful of national markets, so it would be discontinuing free music streaming in all but that handful of markets. People in the affected countries would still be able to blog for free, upload their own music for free, use the discussion groups for free - do everything one would expect to be able to do on a social network for free. One just wouldn't be getting free music streamed to one's computer if one was living in Poland, for example. As you shall see, that example was not chosen at random.

A lot of screaming followed that announcement, coming from people who I thought and said had an overly well developed sense of entitlement. I loved the fact that I was getting free music, but I certainly didn't feel entitled to it, and the shift from being completely free to being mostly free wasn't going to cost anybody any of his creative work, or force anybody to relocate his content, so I didn't see what the issue was. When those screaming started demanding that the users in the US and the other countries that would still see streaming be assessed a fee in order to subsidize the users on the European continent who wanted cheap music, I started getting really annoyed, and argued against that. One of my allies, at the time, was a volunteer mod who we'll call Tabitha - not her real name. At the time, she seemed well spoken and reasonable, and I had thought of friending her. That would have been a misstep.

What I did not know at the time was why the network wasn't getting European advertisers. The company had hosted a number of neonazi groups and not only failed to take action against the hate groups that were making their homes on its diskspace, but took aggressive action against the critics of said hate groups. As it turns out, the nazis are less than completely popular in Europe, which is where Poland enters into this picture. The Poles, during World War Two, were one of the groups targeted for genocide by the nazis, so really, one can hardly be surprised at the depth of anger that greeted the network's stance on this issue in Poland. This cast everything in a completely new light.

"Complain about our nazis, will you? No more music for you, untermensch!"

I could understand the reaction, now, but I didn't know about any of this, until a strange experience of my own led me to do some searching for pages about the moderation on the network. All of this had happened before I had even heard of the network, and the drama had, briefly, died down a few months before I joined, only to flame back up after I was there.

At present, I offer Twitter as an option for those who wish to follow my postings, and I really try to push people in that direction, but when I was initially setting up, I offered subscriptions using Feedburner. Feedburner is not at all like Twitter. On Twitter, you click to subscribe while on the site, you are told that you succeeded, and then you go with your browsing. Feedburner notifies people of updates by e-mail. One goes to the form, leaves off one's email address and then closes the window, and there's the problem. There is no address bar on the subscription form, which is a page in its own right. This means that your subscribers can't use the back arrow to get back to where they were, because the backarrow doesn't appear, and I, as a user, can't put a link on the form to let people go back to where they were. If I don't have the link to the form open in a new window, all that my new subscriber can do is close the window, and then go back through his page history, trying to find a link to the page he was on. It's a lousy thing to do to a visitor, a real nuisance, so I did something about it.

What I did was set up an interstitial page on Googlesites explaining the problem to the visitor, and giving him a link to the form which did open in a new window. This was the only way that I could do this, because the network didn't allow us to have the outbound links we had posted on our pages on its space to open in any but the same window. The functionality to allow this just didn't exist. I set up the subscription option, started testing the links on my profile to make sure that they all worked and, to my disgust and amazement, found that instead of taking one of my visitors to that interstitial page, the link from my profile would take him to a page on which the network posted a warning accusing me of running an attack site! Which, by the way, is something that I've never done and never will do, and wouldn't, even if I knew how.

I went into the forums to say something about this, and I said it civilly. "Tabitha", the moderator, then insisted that I wasn't the one being accused of running an attack site, Google was, because spammers had used its services - if I recall her words correctly. I went to point out that if one read the phrasing of the warning, that wasn't what it said, and certainly, that wasn't how it would be taken - and also that Google wasn't doing any such thing, either. Googlesites is a guaranteed malware-free experience, because all javascript is stripped from one's code by the system - one just doesn't have the functionality one would need to construct an attack site there - and being a spammer and being a malware distributor aren't the same thing, anyway. Offenses are not interchangeable - it isn't legitimate to accuse something of something he did not do, just because he did something else, and certainly not because somebody else did something while visiting his home. I would have said this, but I could not, because Tabitha had locked the discussion before I had a chance to post a rebuttal. I dropped by her page and left a message expressing my disappointment, writing

"I thought you were better than this. I'm sorry to see that I was wrong."

and she responded by abusing her power as a moderator once more, and banning my account. I created a new account, posted about the incident in the groups created for the discussion of censorship and abuse of moderatorial authority on the network, sending a private message to each of the staff members asking for a little justice. The company responded by banning me from their site, and sending me a letter in which they lied to me - one of the people who'd been around for this - about what happened, claiming that I had been spamming the network. Really? How had I been doing that, one might ask, given that in the entire time I've been online, as of the time of this writing, I've never tried to sell anything to anybody. But there was no need to ask, for they volunteered an answer of their own without prompting. You might notice that I have a cluster of pages that interlink. On this basis, they declared that I was just using their network to advertise my other sites, as if I hadn't linked to my pages on that network from those other sites, and that I had never posted any material to their site, even though, in fact, I had. The letter writer, who stayed anonymous, then went on to claim that Tabitha had warned me to stop spamming, apparently by soft soaping me and telling me that the defamatory warning page wasn't directed against me, and that I had responded by turning abusive, which I guess would be their spin on the comment you see quoted above.

"I thought you were better than that."

Such awful language, isn't it? In other words, they just made up their own facts. Then, for good measure, they tried to destroy the evidence by deleting the forum discussions that they had just gotten done lying about, not knowing, I guess, that I had already screenshotted them, and posted the screenshots. This did not make them look good. I got curious, so I started looking up pages about moderator abuse and censorship on that social network, came across the neonazi story, and couldn't believe that I had ever defended these people. No, I didn't know the backstory at the time, but some things are just distressing.

It's embarrassing, standing up for a company and finding out that it was like that, and one can't help but wonder how that looks. Also, I and both of the founders of Google have something in common - we're all Jewish, all three of us, and none of us exactly try to hide the fact. In my case, why would I? I'm proud of it, and that's how people should try to live in general, I think - being proud of what they are - but being this way does bring me a little trouble. Antisemites know that I'm a Jew, when we meet, but I don't know that they're antisemites, so I get blindsided a lot. I'd like to say that one at least can get used to it and learn to let it roll of one, but that is a lie. What comes, after a while, is a kind of fatigue.

An antisemitic management used its system as a tool of defamation against its targets of choice, and then unsuccessfully tried to falsify the record afterwards. That's terrible. It was also unsuccessful, because these people were incredibly bad at what they did, and I was able to gain access to their site any time I wanted to do so. It wasn't difficult, and that is why I can tell you about what happened after my banning.

The banning did not stick. After about a year, the ban was lifted, without any notification of this being sent my way. Why they did this, I could only guess. Perhaps they were hoping to keep me from screenshotting the notice I was seeing, in which the company, in such a very professional way, taunted me about the fact that I could no longer visit their site? But if so, I still had their letter. More likely, however, it was because hosting writing is a money making proposition for a social network, and streaming music tends to be a money losing proposition. "We love nazis and fight for them" doesn't really sell very well on this site of the Atlantic, either. Maybe they thought I'd come crawling back to them, and give them some of that content that their other users haven't been giving them? If so, they're in for a disappointment. I'm thinking of what would be needed to get me to return to such a place, and all I can say is that is would be a lot, and even given a lot, I doubt I'd agree, and no, I'm not talking about money. I'm talking about concessions to common decency, a real attempt on their part to make things right. How does one come back from doing what they did, and earn the trust of those that they betrayed? I don't know that they could.

What I do know is that when I did a search under Scribbld and censorship, I came across no incidents like the one I just described. It seems like a friendly little place, and that's what I'm looking for, and always was.

Current Mood: [mood icon] aggravated


October 9th, 2012

01:58 pm - Hi. Not much to be said.

One of Scribbld's virtues is that one can embed almost any kind of video on it, which is a wonderfully time strength for it to have, because the profiles on the video hosting services are getting worse as time goes on. Forced usage of grey backgrounds on Youtube? What is the point of that?

The main blog for Spoiler Alert, a cluster of pages of which this blog is a part, frequently focuses on the movies I've seen or the TV shows I watch, when I watch TV, which isn't often. I'll study some of those movies, writing more about what I found interesting in them than about how interesting I think you should find them, and from time to time, play around with a little videomaking of my own, posting the shamelessly amateurish results here, embedded in blog posts. You might also see some videos of musical performances and signs of an interest in Japanese culture though, I admit, few if any signs of expertise on that subject.

I told you that there wasn't much to say and I've spent two paragraphs saying it, so I guess I'll stop.

Current Mood: [mood icon] relaxed


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