A long time ago, I read this quote on a “web blog” called Metafilter that said “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” While I’m not sure if I completely I agree with that statement, I understand where they’re coming from. At the time I was all, “What the wha…?” Basically, it boils down to this: Websites like Facebook, Reddit, and even WordPress that have free content make their money through us (the non-consumer) because we bring traffic to their sites through our use. So even though we’re not paying for their services we are utilizing what they offer us and through that usage we become the product because we bring other people to their websites and therefore eyes to their advertising. I think that’s it in a nutshell. But the question remains… do we, as either the consumer or the product, have a voice in their decisions when they do things like change the layout? After all, we’re not paying for the services. We’re basically cogs in their machines. But even cogs are necessary to make the machine run. Individually, we’re easily replaced, but ultimately we’re a finite resource. Run out of cogs, and the machine stops running — Look at My Space, which is gasping to stay alive and America Online (America’s first “social media”), gone like it never existed. So do we have a say when, out of the blue the powers that be decide they want to make sweeping changes to the product that we’re using… basically for free?
That’s a matter for debate. Me? I don’t really think so. I may not like some of the changes that Facebook or WordPress implements, but it’s their company. I’m using their service. I’m not paying for it. I just go with the flow. Now, if I were paying for it, I might say, “Um, yeah, your user interface is kinda sucky and you might want to look at that or I’ll take my money elsewhere.” But since I don’t have money to take elsewhere… I work with what I’ve got. Some things are implemented via user suggestions, I mean people have been asking Facebook for a love and “dislike” button for years and years. Now they have one, but according to the article I linked in the picture up there, Facebook is using these buttons to track what their users “like” and “dislike” to funnel certain posts and ads to that user’s page. Again, we are both the consumer and the product. So, the consumers had their say, but what they got isn’t exactly what they asked for either.
Which brings me to the article I read this morning in the Washington Post which talks about artists and the fading line between the creator of art and the consumers of art. Remember when Deadpool came out and the big hullabaloo about how it was rated R? There was a huge movement to get the producers to put out a PG-13 version of this movie before it ever hit the theaters. There was even a petition… The petitioners had no idea what they were asking for. All they knew is that the movie was one their kid couldn’t see, and they wanted a movie their kid could see. But, as the star, Ryan Reynolds said: “That would be a very short movie. It’s almost a commercial at that point.” My point is, I think it’s particularly weird that fans think they can petition the creators to take their product and make something different out of it to cater to the whims of the consumer. That it’s perfectly acceptable for them to do so. They don’t seem to fathom the amount of time, effort and money involved in their demands. Just cut out a few scenes or edit them and make it a PG 13 movie, what’s so hard about that? They want it a particular way, and dammit! the artists involved need to make it a certain way. To hell with how much trouble it would be for the artists to do it.
Which is why even if I do complete my dungeon for Skyrim, I’ll be cautious about sharing it on the Nexus. Every day I go on the Nexus to see what’s what, and I read posts attached to mods that I’ve downloaded or am considering downloading (because critical discussion is helpful). And, holy shit are people demanding. Hey, I love your mod, but can you change it in [this] way? is the number one flavor of stupid comment on the Nexus. No, I’m sorry, the Is your mod compatible with [one of other more than 48,000] mods? is the number one stupid flavor. Because mod authors should know and be familiar with every mod out there and know if they are compatible with them (that’s sarcasm). There are several simple ways to check and see if a mod is compatible, but people don’t want to educate themselves. Or, Hey, great mod, thanks of for making it, but it doesn’t work with [this] mod, can you make a patch? Which always gets my goat. Do people not even realize how much time these modders spend making these mods? Sometimes years (you read right… years!) of their free time to create a mod. These are not professional game makers, they are gamers who want to make something and share it with other gamers, and people just shit on what they made by asking them to change it. I swear, every time I see that, I want to punch something. In the short time I’ve been on the Nexus, I’ve seen mod creators just disappear and/or pull their creations off the site because of the insensitivity of idiots. Maybe I’m thin skinned when it comes to things like this. I dunno.
But this fading line that the Washington Post article talks about is also why I don’t sell anything anymore. I can’t deal with people asking for my work in different colors, or with additions, or (my favorite) giving me helpful suggestions on how to improve my art. What gives them the gall to do that? This is my art, my vision. I put my blood, sweat, and tears into this product. If they want to make it better or different, they are welcome to do that, but they don’t have to tell me how to make my own art. Don’t get me wrong, I’m open to constructive criticism. Like if I make a shawl and forgot to tuck in an end somewhere and someone notices, I can totally fix that. Or if the pattern of the stitches doesn’t quite match the style or texture of the yarn (variegated yarn drowns out the pattern — it can happen) and it looks a little off, I can totally see someone pointing that out. I can be stubborn about finishing things once I start even if I know it looks weird. I made 23 of those squares in the picture before I admitted defeat. 🙂 I’m open to criticism. But if I make a shawl and someone doesn’t like the overall color — too bad, so sad, don’t buy it. But don’t bitch about it either. It’s not my problem if someone doesn’t like the color blue. Shawls take a long time to knit and/or crochet and I’m not going to spend months making one in every color to appease everyone. That’s just not going to happen. Sorry.
I don’t expect everyone to love my work, whether it’s my writing here, my crafting, or anything that I do. To expect that would be unrealistic. And I do expect people to criticize what I do whenever I do something. That’s par for the course. What I don’t like is this growing trend of people who expect artists — any artist — to change what they do and how they do it to conform to the consumer’s expectations. There are 7 billion people in this ever shrinking world of ours, and everyone has an opinion on how things should be done. Even me. But, opinions, as my dad used to say, are like noses, everyone has one, and they all smell (There’s a raunchier version to that). Anyway, an artist uses their art to express themselves through their chosen medium. By suggesting that they change that expression, the consumer is policing the the artist’s language of expression, and that, dear readers burns my butt. Because any policing of language is simply wrong, in my humble opinion. It’s two steps away from censorship, and censorship in any form is wrong. Just… wrong. Period. End of discussion.
To end on a lighter note… I give you Monty Python’s Why Michelangelo Didn’t Paint the Last Supper