Tag Archives: The Internets!

Navigating Being Online, Offline, and Increasingly In-Between

After Wednesday’s post that focused a great deal about how to curate one’s persona online, I was surprised that I hadn’t written at length about Jenny Odell and her efforts to help people curate their involvement in the “attention economy.”

I’ve found the article bears repeat reading, because there’s so many different ideas it raises and so much that you, personally, need to reflect on.

And yes, I mean need. At its core, and related to my Wednesday post (which was mainly for creative folk looking for fans) this article raises questions about you define your boundaries with engaging online. Being a luddite is probably not the answer for most people, though ignoring whole swaths of the Internet might be.

In other words, it’s about you taking agency for how you define “getting real.”

The Internet’s Altar of Umbrage

I’m working on some other posts related to fandom. One is a follow-up in the Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series (where I talk about fan involvement with Star Trek throughout, but specifically go into more here and here.) I’m also working on a longer piece about getting one’s own creative work out there and developing fans oneself.

One struggle I’ve had of late has been how much the Internet thrives on hate and outrage. I don’t just mean comments at the bottoms of articles which, by and large, are probably better left unread. I don’t even mean how social media discussion threads can go horribly hateful, though that’s certainly something to always be wary. I’m thinking more along the lines of every fun Internet series like Honest Trailers, there’s a more bile-infested series along the lines “Everything wrong with [Movie]” or “Why [Movie] Really Sucks” or so on. Pair that with all the ‘clickbaity’ article headlines of the “[Thing] will complete shock you” variety and, well, guess why some of those social media threads devolve?

I realize this is neither a new nor uniquely groundbreaking observation, but it’s been on my mind given the pieces I’ve been working on, with two articles particularly making me think about the course of events.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic back in January about how the Internet has eroded the ability for people to, well, essentially, curate their identity in different places. You still can, but the unification of self everywhere on every channel is problematic. The fact that this erosion is fueled by outrage does not help matters.

The other factor is how corporations are adopting this particular Internet flavor of umbrage as a standard advertising tactic, as Luke Winkie wrote today in Vox.

I guess I just don’t want anyone to feed the trolls even if they think they know how to use the trolls for their own ends. Don’t we have countless cautionary tales about how well that sort of thing turns out?

I, for one, don’t welcome our net ‘bot overlords…

Though from reading Max Read’s piece in New York magazine, it’s kind of moot whether I welcome them or not: a huge portion of the Internet is fake.

I mean, it’s not that it’s a huge surprise that the Internet is full of automation to simulate traffic for ad revenue purposes, engage people for some Machiavellian monetization motives, or otherwise amplify some ill-conceived echo chambers…

But it’s depressing to have it validated to such a hefty degree.

Perhaps you, like me, remember those days pre-Netscape Navigator, exploring the Internet universe via Gopher and the like. The possibilities seemed as vast as Pangea, which is an accurate extrapolation of how long ago it was in Internet terms.

Will we survive an inversion when ‘bots outnumber us all? I don’t know. I just know that, Even now, spam bots are getting ready to comment on this post.

My Social Media Strategy, Revealed

Not unlike business plans, it seems like one needs to have a “social media plan” these days. In the past year, many people I know have abandoned Twitter or left Facebook or joined Instagram. And I seem to be in the midst of that periodic flurry of people following me on Twitter or giving me a long treatise about why they want to connect with me on LinkedIn.

So for future edification, but mainly for my own amusement, here is my criteria for connecting with people on social media:

  • Facebook: I know who you are in the real world, either from schools or elsewhere, and want to keep up with your personal and professional exploits.
  • LinkedIn: I actually know who you are in the real world –even if only in passing– and also wouldn’t mind keeping up with your professional exploits.
  • Twitter: I may or may not know you in the real world, but I like the cut of your jib.
  • Google+: I can put you in one or more categories.
  • Instagram: I know it exists, but do not use it.
  • Tumblr: I know it still exists, and still do not use it.
  • Ello: I don’t know why it exists.
  • Pinterest: Who knows? I have insufficient pinterest.
  • Stage32: Meh, whatever. Sure.

If this does not make at least one social media maven’s head explode because of my lack of commitment to networking at all costs, I will be very disappointed.


Update: To answer some people’s angsty offline questions, no this isn’t a ranking of how great particular social media is or how valuable anyone and everyone might find it. Stage 32 has some great classes attached to it (seriously, if you’re a filmmaker, check some of their stuff out), but I see no need to curate my contacts to the same degree like I do on other sites. For example, on LinkedIn some recruiters clearly feel simply knowing your name is sufficient to connect… yet that connection is not valuable to me.

So yeah, see above. I am not disappointed.

Threat Alert Thursday: Consider a Password Manager

Last week’s Twitter kerfuffle led Vox to dust off its primer on password managers which, if you’ve been thinking about starting to use, you might want to check out.

Flash will not be Savior of the Internet Universe

Okay, this is old news for most of you. It should be noted that –despite what I’m sure at some point were Adobe’s (and Macromedia’s) intentions– Flash was never going to be the savior of the Internet universe.

Nevertheless, if you need some good news this Friday, be reminded that Flash is will be, as of 2020, not just merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Threat Alert Thursday: Cyber Attacks on Small Businesses

Since mentioning yesterday about creatives needing to put their marketing hat on and be the small businesses they are, it seemed like a good idea to share this article from The Hartford about various types of cyber attacks that can befall small businesses. Our creative endeavors often fall into this realm.

The article also links to a brief guide that, in order to get it, harvests your email (again, a reference to yesterday). It’s not a bad trade off in my mind, but relationship disclosure: I’ve used The Hartford for my general business liability insurance and found them great to work with. Therefore, I’m inclined to pay more attention to their articles and am already on their mailing list.

Russell Nohelty Wants to Help You Sell Your Soul

Last week, I pointed out an article about how to promote one’s film via social media. I like occasionally linking to pieces that are straightforward and give one practical tips for when you have to wear the marketing hat.

Because let’s be honest: I know I’m not the only creative who doesn’t love wearing that hat. Oftentimes, it seems to involve activities which are anything but creative and pushed by people who clearly want their photo as part of the dictionary definition of “unctuous.”

I worked for a while on search engine optimization (SEO) and related concerns in the early naughts as part of my job managing web projects. I decided to abandon getting better at it because of the prevalence of “black hat SEO” activities. In fact, many good practitioners of SEO appeared to be, at best, “Grey Hats” using purposely inscrutable, self-serving jargon to advocate strategies that would be outdated with the next tweak to Google’s search algorithm.

I do not consider myself a marketer.

However, I’m convinced that rejecting the marketing hat completely is going to damage my creative career in the long run. Since all of us have different comfort levels with selling ourselves and our work, I don’t want to be too prescriptive, but admitting you need to wear the marketing hat means several things to me.

It means I might not want to tune out everything a marketer has to say. Lord knows a disproportionate number of marketers talk at me, never asking about what my problems are because they’re so sure of the rehearsed solution they’re speechifying. But there are those marketers that listen and share the fruits of all their listening.

It means I might really want to harvest some emails. Yeah, I used ‘harvest’ on purpose. Does it make you feel like some insidious alien spreading sliminess into an unsuspecting populace? Me too. But the truth is that email marketing can be one of the best ways to engage your audience.

It means I need to Vulcan up and admit that my creative endeavors do constitute a business (assuming I want to make a living from my creative endeavors).

Storyteller Russell Nohelty is a lot less reluctant to wear the marketing hat, perhaps because he’s made the jump from writer to writer and publisher.

He’s created a Facebook group for fellow creatives to compare notes and note triumphs. He also does a podcast called The Business of Art that features some great interviews with creatives who are making it work. Finally, he has a forthcoming book called Sell Your Soul, which distills many of the insights he’s talked about via the Facebook group or the podcast (and, well, making his company a profitable concern).

It was reading the first part of his book (which you can do for free at the link above if you allow him to, yes, harvest your email address), that made me think about writing a post. Because, honestly, he shares a lot of great practical advice and resources — and a heck of a lot of it is free. So if you’re working on comics or writing or other creative endeavors, do yourself a favor and check some of it out.

You might find a marketing hat you’re comfortable wearing.

Promoting Your Film on Social Media

Indie producers always need to wear lots of hats — and one of them is often that of marketer. And since we don’t have the funds for a conventional ad buy…

Welcome to social media marketing.

No Film School has a post about promoting your film on social media — and while it has some nice tips and tricks throughout, I especially like the thought given to voice and what the different channels (e.g. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are good for.

For the producers among us who are also writers, the talk of “voice” can be a character, and the channel or platform can be a genre. And that’s something we can energetically explore.

A Monster for Every Taste!

As many of my fellow filmmakers know, I’m not overfond of most horror films (apologies to Lonnie and my other filmmaking colleagues who love ’em). At the same time, I do love “creature features.” This is probably due to two reasons.

First, like many kids of my generation, I enjoyed the steady stream of good, bad, and less-than-spectacular kaiju films played endlessly on TV on Saturday afternoons. In our case, it was good ol’ WDCA, Channel 20 that educated us as to Godzilla and his many foes.

Second, my dad loved sharing all sorts of 50s monster movies he grew up with, including Ray Harryhausen classics such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other seminal giant monster movies like Them!

And while I will happily check out just about any creature feature (hello, Mongolian Death Worm), it’s clear not all creature features are created equal.

In fact, I have to give my hat off to my dad for pointing out a critical difference most great creature features have over their unremarkable cousins: they make fighting the creature as interesting as discovering the creature — if not more so.

In the “meh” creature features, an undue importance is placed on the discovery of the creature. Characters can spend up to half the movie blundering about the ship, house, ancient temple, or whatever the setting is. Meanwhile, the viewer patiently waits for a solid reveal of the creature. For these underwhelming creature features, the main card up their sleeve is the monster itself. They know it… and so they stall playing that card as long as possible. After that, the only thing they can do to raise the stakes is have more gore, more peril, or possibly more monsters (which usually lead to more gore and more peril). The resulting stories seem invariably random and do not provide the characters little, if any, agency. (This is different from Godzilla or other kaiju moshing on plastic tanks, which is an esteemed tradition).

Contrast that approach to some of the great creature features I just mentioned.

In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, they

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In Them!, there’s a series of hints leading up to the fact

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In both these cases and others, it’s not only the discovery of the monster, but how to defeat the monster that’s interesting. Not only that, the humans’ efforts to defeat the monster have setbacks. People have incomplete knowledge and incomplete skills, just like in real life. We’re invested in how the characters can possibly win, not simply along for a monster mash ride. (And hint: it’s more exciting if the humans seem to be using what little knowledge they have rather than being complete idiots: I’m looking at you, DeepStar Six).

Now I know my dad isn’t the only one who’s come to this realization. Odds are, many a filmmaker has come to the same conclusion. And some of them have probably made some interesting creature features, dozens of which I have not yet seen.

So, it was with great delight that I discovered that Wikipedia, the modern analog to the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, has an entire page exhaustively listing just about every creature feature ever made.

Now, technically, they’re defining these as “natural horror” films, but let’s be real: many of these creatures are pure fantasy with just the thinnest veneer of science. For example, the list includes both the presumably possible danger of the great white shark in Jaws along with the ridiculous titular monster of Dinoshark.

In some ways, that makes me love them more.

So dig in, fellow cinemaniacs. Whether you want to see a film with deadly tree monsters, killer sheep, or simply a shark loose in a supermarket, I guarantee you’ll find something.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.