Bring out yer dead

When it comes to cultural input/output I’m used to thinking in terms of ‘old media’ (print, tv, radio) and ‘new media’ (the web, various digital platforms). Recently I’ve begun seeing the web in terms of ‘old web’ and ‘new web’ (or Web 2.0) even though the web’s only been with us for 12 years or so.

I was given a highly contrasting example of the difference between old and new web the other day when I tried to engage with a British wildlife site to get help identifying some fungi I’d photographed.

I posted a request for help with a link to my flickr fungus set. I was fairly soon pulled up for not posting pics on the site’s gallery, so that I’m “contributing to the site and not just taking from it”. I replied that I was working through my pics and the site gallery and was intending to post pics when I had identified them and avoiding duplicates (of which there are many on the site).

Soon after I had a private message from a moderator telling me to post in their ‘unidentified’ gallery in future, as “Unfortunately, as soon as you stop using flickr (or any other external site), the thread with your images becomes useless and all others posts are wasted.”

What a load of bollocks. Stop using flickr? It’s become an essential web tool for anyone who’s ever used it, I can’t imagine not using it. What this wildlife site is concerned with is control over its content – a prime example of ‘old web’. (A moderator even edited my forum post to remove the word ‘flickr’ from the post header and the text of the post!)

‘Old web’ is typified by a proprietorial, inward looking, standalone attitude, akin to the ‘copyright’ obsessions of old cinema, tv and recording moguls. Their aim is to build a community and hold on to it, control it, within their own site.

(There are always exceptions, of course. I vividly remember Jake Rivera, founder of Stiff Records and later Radar Records in the late ’70s, being asked what he thought of the scare campaign “Home Taping Is Killing Music”. His reply? “I don’t give a fuck about lost revenue.” Later, after Graham Parker had left Stiff for, I think, Polydor, Rivera saw that Polydor were not putting much if any resources into publicising Parker’s latest release, so he mounted an advertising campaign for Parker’s Polydor album out of Stiff’s money. This man cared about music, not property and capital.)

‘Web 2.0’ is typified by a sense of open community, links between sites, encouraging open source software and, indeed, information. Their aim is to build and enhance global communities across the web, with no agenda of ‘ownership’.

Flickr is a good example of “web 2.0”, encouraging users to connect to flickr from other sites. I can, for example, use a flickr pic in a blog post and actually post to the blog from within flickr. The flickr API is freely available to programmers and developers to create their own flickr related tools, such as flickeur . Anyone can include a ‘flickr badge’ on their website showing a selection of their pics.

This is sounding like free publicity for flickr, when in fact I’m whingeing about ‘old media’ attitudes being brought to the web and slowing down its development.

Plenty of other examples out there – most recently vox another social networking site which could (maybe should) easily replace MySpace, but Murdoch has such a huge userbase now (most of them using it for free advertising) that people are as likely to stop using MySpace as they are to stop reading “The Sun” (or any other shitty Murdoch tabloid).

The final outcome of the original story is that the wildlife site’s proprietorial attitude has lost me as a contributor, when originally I was looking forward to being a part of it. I did, however get positive response from a couple of their users, most notably Fungalpunk .

Not enough to drag me down to the site’s outmoded level, though.

God, I do go on sometimes.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Bring out yer dead

  1. ninepence

    Wanting to control your little bit of the web is annoying, and pops up everywhere. Why start a site that people can join and then try to control access to it? You might as well just have a standard website… but then there’d be no ego boost (“people are joining my site, therefore somebody likes me”). So Flickr have the right attitude (even though I’m on photobucket – they let you have bigger pictures).

    Personally I’m glad I handed over control of a Yahoo group I offered to run. I appointed six people as moderators (from different places so they couldn’t meet up and form a clique) and handed ownership to A N Other (well, rebelfilms actually).

    The web might be new technology (“new” for me means anything after about 1988) but it’s the same old Homo Sapiens running the show.

    • Re: ninepence

      Good points, Martin – especially the getting-friends-by-proxy thing. That happens on Flickr, too – one guy wanted to be my “friend” or “contact” or whatever and I couldn’t see any connection between his photos and mine…..then I saw that he had over 5,000 “friends” on Flickr! It’s as if they’re harvesting souls or something. (Mind you, it’s even worse on MySpace)

      • Myspace

        Tell me about it. As soon as I joined I got offers to join “modelling” groups, some get-rich-quick scam, and of course the usual our-band-is-realy-cool-please-add-us. If they were cool they wouldn’t be so desperate.

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