from the maybe-it's-time-to-think-a-little-differently? dept
I've been having this discussion on Twitter and a few other places over the past few days, so it seemed only right to put it into a blog post. For all the ridiculous talk with politicians grandstanding and using the attacks in Paris last week as an excuse to expand surveillance powers, it seems worth noting that France actually expanded its surveillance state powers twice in the last year -- and the first time it didn't stop the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the second time obviously failed to stop the attacks last week. Already, before all of this, French intelligence had powers that were so similar to the NSA's that it was obvious that there had been some coordination. Then, late last year (actually on Christmas Eve), France quietly enacted a new surveillance law relating to data retention and requiring internet companies to cough up info on users.
That went into effect just shortly before the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And, of course, with that new law failing to prevent those attacks, the French government did the kneejerk thing and expanded its surveillance powers even more, claiming it needed to do so to protect against the next attack. That law, which allowed authorities to monitor communications of suspected terrorrists without a judge's approval, went into effect in July, with supporters, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls declaring: "France now has a secure framework against terrorism." Yeah, how did that work out?
Maybe, instead of calling for greater and greater surveillance, we should take a step back and think if there isn't a better approach that doesn't involve continually tossing civil liberties in the trash, for no clear benefit.
If you were alive yesterday and opened up a web browser, you likely saw the story of how the NYPD attempted to build some social media buzz and found that attempt turned around on its ass. The police force that has previously done a decent job at connecting with people on Twitter decided to run a campaign asking the public to share photos of themselves with police officers. They probably thought most of the pictures would be of smiling and appreciative citizens and local beat cops. Let's just say their expectations were slightly off the mark.
Almost immediately after the call went out from the department's official Twitter account, storms of users took the opportunity to instead attach some of the most unfavorable images of New York City officers that could be found on the Internet. And judging by the output on Tuesday, there are quite a few. Officers holding down a photographer on the pavement and a white-shirted supervisor twisting an arm, among scores taken during Occupy Wall Street protests. An officer knocking a bicyclist to the ground during a Critical Mass protest ride, and another dancing provocatively with a barely clad paradegoer. A dog being shot. Officers on trial, or sleeping in uniform on a subway train.
Oops. But this probably should have been expected in response to a police force that has had some very serious public relations problems revolving around some serious policy decisions. Stop and frisk, waste and fraud, and an apparent distaste for citizen journalists were on everyone's mind and the backlash was as severe as described above. Having found their campaign being turned into a PR nightmare, you might think the NYPD would react angrily to yesterday's mishap. It turns out they were prepared to be adults.
A spokeswoman for the department, Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster, said in a two-sentence statement Tuesday evening that the department was “creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community” and that Twitter provided “an open forum for an uncensored exchange” that is “good for our city.”
The experience will not stop the department from pushing forward with social media endeavors, its top spokesman, Stephen Davis, said. “You take the good with the bad,” he said.
Look, I realize that praising Royster's statement in light of the larger problems the NYPD has in interacting with their own citizenry may seem strange, but the fact is that both spokespeople are absolutely correct. The entire point of social media is about engagement. If that engagement doesn't go exactly as they expected, and it certainly didn't, that doesn't mean there isn't value in it. Choosing to respond in an adult way means the trolling doesn't get any worse and may actually provide an avenue for dialog that results in real change. It may be a small thing, but it's still a good thing.
I guess I can't say for sure how I would react to a negative review (besides reading some Techdirt comments directed at me), but I'd like to think that I have thick enough skin not to make a complete ass out of myself. That's why it always surprises me to see companies that should know better poop their pants over what customers (or non-customers) say on sites like Yelp and Reddit. Whether it's suing customers or issuing DMCA notices, I simply fail to see the logic in pissing off even more people with that kind of behavior. If someone posted a negative review of one of my books for instance, even petulantly, I'd prefer to look at it as an opportunity to both learn from the negative review and appreciate the fact that someone out there cared enough to write something about it at all.
Or, if you're Amy's Baking Company, you can write off all the complaints as coming from "haters" and then make a complete ass of yourself on your company's Facebook page. That restaurant has an interesting history of poor service, garnering poor reviews on Yelp, and even cursing at customers and tossing them out of their establishment for complaining. The woman who runs the place (you'll never guess what her name is) appears to have the business sense of a drunken chimpanzee. In one of the all-time worst decisions of anything ever, they decided to bring in Gordon Ramsay's show Kitchen Nightmares for the stated purpose of proving to their customers that their food is crazy good and the haters are all idiots. Those that have watched the show in the past can probably already hear the freight train of doom headed Amy's way.
On Friday night's episode of Kitchen Nightmares, shouty chef Gordon Ramsay quit for the first time ever in the show's 82-episode history. Amy and Samy Bouzaglo — owners of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona — blamed everyone for their troubles, including "haters" and "bloggers," but not themselves. The owners did not give service staff tips (pocketing the money instead) and admitted to having fired over 100 employees. Said Ramsay: "After about 100 Kitchen Nightmares, I met two owners I could not help, it is because they are incapable of listening."
I'm not normally one for reality shows, but go watch this. Seriously. The level of crazy in Amy and her husband Samy is as epic as it is entertaining. Right off the bat, Amy breathlessly rails against "haters" and "bloggers" who are apparently to blame for her serving variously under-prepared and over-prepared food, wait times that are measured in hours for customers, and food combinations that would make even an amatuer cook blow their brains out in dismay.
Still, the whole point of the show is to help failing restaurants turn things around, right? So obviously things went poorly on the show, the public reacted, and Amy and Samy learned their lesson and got their shitake mushrooms together.
Of course they didn't. Instead, their Facebook page went at times all-caps nuclear, with some of the greatest combinations of religiosity, anger, and cursing I've ever witnessed. Some treasures of highlights for you to enjoy.
"We will not bend to the will of these haters and sinners."
"I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO RESELL THINGS WALMART DOES NOT MAKE THEIR ELECTRONICS OR TOYS SO LAY OFF!!!!"
"I am keeping note of all names here. We will be pursuing action against you legaly, and against reddit and yelp, for this plot you have come together on. you are all just punks."
"WE ARE NOT FREAKING OUT. WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT A "WITCH HUNT" I AM NOT A WITCH. I AM GODS CHILD. PISS OFF ALL OF YOU. FUCK REDDITS, FUCK YELP AND FUCK ALL OF YOU. BRING IT. WE WILL FIGHT BACK."
Now, it should be noted that Amy and Samy have since claimed that someone hacked their Facebook page. Reading the above posts, which have since been deleted, you may be inclined to think that level of crazy is obviously the work of troublemakers. To that I suggest again watching the episode. Either someone is doing an immensely accurate impression of these two, or it was them and they aren't enjoying the blowback that comes with pissing off everyone.
So, what's the lesson that should be learned here? Is it that you shouldn't treat your customers like garbage? Is it that you shouldn't lash out about poor reviews online, regardless of whether you agree with them or not? Is it that you shouldn't seek out Gordon Ramsay as a way to vindicate yourself? Or is that reacting to bad press from all the above by blowing an o-ring on your company Facebook page and then crying hack only makes you look petty?
None of the above. The lesson here is that you shouldn't go to Amy's Baking Company, because if the food doesn't kill you, I think there's at least a chance Amy will.
I've been noticing a trend lately of content creators who discover unauthorized copies of their works are being shared actually responding somewhat reasonably to it. In almost every case, the story starts out with a claim of how they were upset and annoyed at first... but quickly got over that. In the past few days, I've come across two more such examples. The first, from the LA Times, involves the producer of the movie Unthinkable, starring Samuel Jackson. Apparently, due to the studio that financed the flick going under, the film suddenly was without domestic US distribution rights, and couldn't find any fast enough. So it went direct to DVD. But... before the DVD came out, the film leaked, and it's now one of the most talked about films on IMDB, even though it hasn't even been released!
The producer notes that he had very mixed feelings about the whole thing:
"I've been unbelievably torn over the whole thing," says [producer Cotty] Chubb, best known for having produced such films as "Eve's Bayou," "Dark Blue" and "To Sleep with Anger." "It's tremendous to go on IMDB and see that our user rating is 7.3, which is the highest rating of any movies in the current Top 10 there -- you have to go down to 'Iron Man 2' to find a higher rating. But on the other hand, while everyone is debating all these important moral questions, I want to ask them another important question -- hey, guys, what about the morality of watching this movie on the Internet for free?"
Of course, rather than freak out, or threaten to sue, Chubb just asked people exactly what he wanted to ask. He posted a comment himself, politely asking those who had seen the movie directly on IMDB about what their feelings on downloading the film were, and whether or not there was a price they would pay for it, while also noting that he was quite "grateful" for all of the attention the movie was getting due to the downloads.
After tons of people responded -- almost all of whom saying that there's nothing wrong with downloading a film -- Chubb didn't freak out, but recognized the onus is on himself and the industry to respond:
"We've got to come up with a new model, because the old one just isn't working anymore," says Chubb. "You just can't fight against a model where the movie is available for free. People clearly want to download movies online, so it's time we figured out how to get some money out of it."
My initial reaction was shock - how dare someone rip off something that I put so much work into? For a moment, I completely understood Lars Ulrich, the Metallica drummer who years ago became the poster boy for the anti-file-sharing establishment when he and his bandmates sued Napster.
Fear not, though - my anger was short-lived, and not just because I'd like to avoid becoming a self-important douche like Lars at all costs. I'm certainly not the first author to get pirated, and I won't be the last. It's an inevitable reality that everyone today must face. And no, I don't think any number of Draconian copyright laws are going to change this. Technology has let the cat out of the bag, permanently.
As someone who has partaken of the occasional Torrent, it would be hard (and thoroughly hypocritical) for me to be angry. I'm also not of the mind that file-sharing necessarily hurts the artist or creator. In my experience, most people who download something for free weren't going to buy it anyway, or they already have and just want a digital copy, so it's not exactly a lost sale. Moreover, if they like the product they've downloaded, they may recommend it to someone else, who in turn may actually choose to buy it. In a way, the so-called "pirate" can become a good sales advocate.
In fact, he then notes that there are plenty of examples of authors using such publicity to their advantage, while also realizing that some of the problem is that his book doesn't have an official ebook version yet, though he's now working hard to make that happen as soon as possible.
I think it's completely normal and natural for people to have that initial negative reaction -- especially if they don't follow some of the details of what's happening and how such file sharing has helped some do much better than they would have otherwise. But it's especially nice to see more and more content creators get over that initial shock, and then start to logically look at the situation, and realize that what consumers really want is something different than is being provided, and the responsibility is on the content creator to better provide consumers what they want.