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"Content Creator", the alternative?
Once the GamerGate crowd got ahold of my "You Are Not A Content Creator" video, there was a lot of asinine, hateful comments to wade through, but there was one totally fair critique that popped up a few times:  That I didn't really offer up an alternative. I pointed to Patreon and Kickstarter as tech companies that seemed to respect artists, but ultimately didn't offer give a true vision of what I'd like to see in place of our "content-driven" online culture.


To quickly recap, I see the word content as meaning, to again paraphrase Tim Bray,

 

"Shit we don't actually care about but will drive traffic and get people to click on ads." 


We are at once the worker bees for giant tech companies and the product that they sell (by invading our privacy and selling ad space against us based on what they find.) Their first and last priority will always be their bottom line, and as artists we are little more than the dupes that create the fuel that drives that engine.


ANYWAY.


I keep thinking about this article in the Atlantic about the very first pop-up ad, which appeared in the mid-90s. The article is written by the man who wrote the actual code for the very first pop-up. He worked for Tripod.com, a sort of ur-tumblr, early social network. Read the article, it's fantastic. And it very clearly lays out what I think would be a much better path for the internet: Paying for stuff. People seem to think that our current model, with all of it's lack of privacy and the abundance of advertising, was inevitable. But it wasn't inevitable (as that article points out). It arose from a a very specific set of conditions. And it doesn't have to be this way. 


If Patreon had been around in 2009 when I started Song A Day, I very likely would have started the project on this platform rather than YouTube. On YouTube, you have to watch ads, and I get paid less than a penny for you watching that ad. It's dumb for both of us. Here on Patreon, you support me directly and not only is your support nourishing for me psychically, it also literally helps me pay the bills.


The web has always held the promise of making these kinds of direct connections. But because of the forces laid out in that article (specifically, the difficulty of selling a user-supported website to venture capital funds and the ease of selling them a site based on advertising), the web went down the wrong path. We're only recently seeing the great one-to-one connections that have long been the promise of the internet. 


I'm pretty hopeful though that with new payment technologies and more and more people clamoring for it, we're approaching a time when the word "content" just means the body of the work and artists of all kinds are celebrated and respected and compensated for the work they make that people love.



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