Friday, March 02, 2012

The laxity of the Web environment as it evolved: does it impart "bad karma, sweetie"?


Just a note to open the month. Over 15 years ago I entered the world of self-publishing about controversial topics, first in book form and then on the Web, primarily in the Web 1.0 environment that was predicated on the “passive” networking (quite effective in practice) generated by search engines, even as they operated in the late 1990s. 

I found I was indeed effective in attracting attention and “keeping ‘em honest” (to borrow Anderson Cooper’s favorite “trademark”), with very little capital.  I do think that my reporting for fifteen years did play a role in pressuring the end of “don’t ask don’t tell”.

I did have other income and did not have to make a reportable operating profit by this activity alone (as many publishing operations must).  I did have to end-round at least one business conflict of interest in the 90s because I was working in a job associated with the military.

I have “depended”, however, on a system that requires little third party supervision, and therefore tends to invite others to abuse it with very little practical expectation that misusers will actually be held accountable (and that unintended victims will have redress).  The abuse includes defamation, sometimes cyberbullying, and piracy, although the real reach of the copyright infringement problem is indeed debatable. It also includes putting the personal information of some people at risk, mainly those unable to use computers heavily in private circumstances and upon whom other vulnerable people depend.  Indeed, I found when I was a substitute teacher that public exposure could be misinterpreted quickly, and when I was in an eldercare situation, I found that unwanted attention could be drawn to others. 

I did take a risk by doing this and staying in as long as I have.  My own model for “consolidating opposing viewpoints” became my own source of personal identity, a second career as my old IT career waned and took it’s cardiac arrest at the end of 2001, shortly after 9/11 (which is not a coincidence).

At times, others have tried to draw me away from this, convince me to give it up and pursue a “real job” where “real people” depend on me.  So it was risky to stay in the self-publishing area.  It depended on a legal environment that keeps downstream liability at bay for providers (that is, Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor) as well as spurns censorship (COPA, against which I was a successful litigant).  This lax environment is threatened all the time (most recently by SOPA and Protect-IP).  Service providers can not continue to support "user generated content" if they have to pre-screen it, and without some tracking, they have no business model.   So, as “EJ” told Sami on “Days of our Lives” yesterday, “you could have some bad karma, sweetie”. 

I also say that it would have been risky to leave and do “something else”.  Some of the “opportunities” floated in front of my nose (unsolicited) were scams.  Some were cheesy and smelled of hucksterism and personal manipulation for their own sakes.   (“Always be closing!”) Some were legitimate but a high practical probability of failure (life insurance agenting).  Some tested my personal reach and role modeling ability, in the face of my never having had a family (teaching).  Some involved physical risks or drawing personal ire through cold calling (census surveys, debt collection).  In any case, in any career where I have to "sell" for a living, the employer owns my online identity in this age of social media (I can no longer be "objective" in public.) So there’s no clear answer.

Why did my main career never resume?  Maybe I was too much into my “second career” by the time of my “retirement” (at age 58) for there to be any other real choice.  But younger generations will not be able to do exactly what I did.  Profitable work lives will have to last a half century.


Perhaps my choice of "second career" sounds like that of someone who doesn't expect to be around forever. Of course, it's possible that I can put the music and fictive elements together and come up with a real commercial, if iconoclastic, success.  I created content "for everyone" but not for the benefit of any one person or group in some specific need.  It may indeed prove to be a luxury to claim one can do that. 


Video: from MD gay marriage signing yesterday. The focus is OK once it plays. 

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