Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

I shifted my blog ‘life’ away from Google a while ago, deciding to come to WordPress where there was more of an opportunity to flex my creative muscles. Having now felt as if I’ve settled in, comes the realisation that for a number of years Blogger helped me live a lie. Though I know I did have a decent audience at the height of my gaming interest, a fair proportion of that did not exist. A lot of my traffic was using my sites as stop points on other journeys, or to inflate the worth of other sites and not mine. I had hoped that by shifting everything to WordPress I could finally say goodbye to the automated response, but now realise I’ve simply swapped one form of robot for another.

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Normally, 10 people liking your post would be a cause of celebration. However, all of these people did so in under a minute of the post going live. I don’t know a single one of them either, which means one of two things: they all happened upon my site simultaneously at the exact same moment my post was published and have all become overnight devotees… or, it was a robot. I know which version of reality I’m going to ascribe to here, and what it makes me question is why this kind of behaviour is considered acceptable. It distorts accurate statistics, feeds the fire of ‘all automation is bad’ and makes certain people believe their own worth far more than will ever be healthy to begin with.

However, I’m beginning to uncouple from an interest in metrics, as it becomes apparent their relevance is fast becoming pointless, at least for me.

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Yesterday I wrote two blog posts and placed them on different websites. I know they were both of interest to my core audience: one was promoted by me throughout the day, the other was not. By the time I’d gone to bed they were both equally read, and the promoted one continued to gain a steady stream of views whilst I was in bed, from a regular audience who turn up to my site regardless of what gets advertised. The fact I could probably name about 80% of these people is neither here nor there, my audience is now a fixed percentage of the people I interact with daily. Everybody else might take an interest from time to time but in essence, I do more business using Social media than I do via blogging.

It’s the future: people don’t have time for all that commitment shit any more.

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There’s also an emergent trend of people I know not using social media as much as they used to, that I’m seeing people forcing themselves away (as I have) to exercise and reconnect with reality. Those who remain strictly wedded to their platforms are becoming more apparent too, and I find myself thinking that if I’m honest, I’d rather pitch content to someone who can show that their existence isn’t just logging in the moment they wake up and not moving from the virtual unless pushed. It is a really delicate balancing act too for someone who’s now attempting to create a presence for themselves online. How much is too much or not enough?

At what point does one accept that the only true progress comes via hard work and consistency? For me, that point has been reached this month with more cash in the bank than I managed when using a custom-built crowdfunding platform. I now have a new stream of content, and assuming I can keep it all going for another couple of months, there will then be the opportunity to turn to people and point, before declaring ‘this is what you get from me, if you pay me we can make it better.‘ It seems a decent way forward, and the exchange of effort for cash then has some actual meaning, because I’m not asking people to fund controversial opinions they disagree with. This is art. You either like it, or you don’t, and if that’s the case then you don’t pay for it.

It’s really very simple, and needs no robots involved at all.

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I’m coming up for 200k Tweets quite soon, and although I might celebrate the passing, it will be with a sense of some irony involved. A vast number of those message have been GIF-based, and it is beginning to make me realise just how important that side of proceedings has become. As I’ll talk about on the Writing site today, the biggest revelation in the last 10 days has been my comic strip, and how art has subverted itself in my mind to a very specific and quite vital opening movement of what is clear will be a path I’ll never stop travelling on.

The robots don’t (and won’t) fool me any more. When success does happen, it will also make detection far easier.

Even in the Quietest Moments

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I can now Tweet up to 280 characters. I don’t intend to do that with the majority of my output, and here’s why.

Watching the annoyance and frustration last night as the feature rolled out in parts of my social sphere and not others, it was almost funny to think that this change was, for so many, being considered as some badge of honour. The sole reason this change has been instigated is to help advertisers use space to sell more shit and make Twitter more money. This isn’t some great championing for more speech and understanding we’re talking about. For someone like me, it is a curse as well as a blessing. The biggest upshot is, undoubtedly, that people will just stop reading.

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The major winner for me will be poetry and short stories: I can now create longer works to post… but as some people mute the stuff I posted in 140 characters, to begin with, length will simply make those posts less appealing and not more. That means I’ll need to work harder on visuals and clever use of space in posts, that it isn’t about filling every character and ‘optimising’ the output. Undoubtedly the format can be finagled, but to do so requires a willing audience, and watching the annoyance last night as people simply posted 280 characters of ANYTHING to see if they had the new limit…

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Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should has become the phrase that really matters. 280 characters in a Twitter fight are just as useless as 140 if you’re unable to make the point without resorting to abuse and anger. Proving a point succinctly and well, without ambiguity is still something many people could do with learning. Word economy is useful: more significant still is an understanding of when a word dump is appropriate. That’s something I’m still learning after 51 years.

The moral of yesterday’s rollout is that sometimes, being first is all that matters to many. That stuff about the other person’s social media feed always being more interesting is all in the eye of the beholder, you know. I’m not special, you’re not lacking, it’s just tech, and what will matter more long-term are the people who use the system to their advantage by embracing the positives and eliminating the negatives. No, I’m not going to be clever with the format until I am TOTALLY confident it can be pulled off successfully.

Time to watch other people and learn.

Change

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Right then.

Yesterday was, without doubt, one of the best I’ve had for organisation for some time. It helps that the back of work was broken on Sunday, and now I’m left with the process of scheduling (which will happen after this.) Then it’s all about finishing off outstanding stuff, and starting the next batch of Things to Do. After three months, there’s a schedule that works. 

Next up, it is time to make some important changes to Social media.

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I now have a ‘Professional’ Twitter AND Instagram, and having worked out how to use the app in Windows (how smart is that?) I can prep all my artwork beforehand and still schedule it. This is unbelievably useful, and will encourage me to further organise my sorry arse better. Then there are the changes to how social media is consumed:

  • No social media before bed, or before I sit down at the PC first thing in the morning
  • ABSOLUTELY NO starting discussions without being 100% awake and attentive
  • No social media when bored ^^
  • Complete removal of Twitter (and all online media) from places where I relax or sleep
  • Regulated use of social media when I’m supposed to be sociable
  • Making time for ‘silence’ and times when electronic interaction does not happen

This is a lot but really, it all matters. If I look at the instances when I have gotten myself into trouble, 90% of them are due to engaging with people at the start and end of days, plus when I shouldn’t be using Social media at all. So, maybe if I can keep at this for a month it’ll become habit too. The lack of a tablet at bedtime for two nights running has made for some quality sleep, I hope this isn’t just a blip.

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The plan here is to try and be less reactionary and more reflective. This is fairly atypical of my life up to this point, but I’d like to believe that even at this age I can change and become more mellow. Sure, there are still going to be days when the table gets flipped, but at least now I’ll be better prepared to clear up the mess made afterwards, rather than just stomp off in a teenage huff and leave it to somebody else.

If I can get at least a part of all this to stick, it will totally be taken it as progress.

Where’s Your Head At?

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A lot has happened in the last week. The second of the IoW essay’s has gone up, there’s a workable short story on the table for beta reading and honestly, things are far better than expected. Forget for a moment that, personally speaking, the previous five days are a personal bomb crater: I’ve managed to get the routine cracked, and genuinely believe the long term future of the project’s getting increasingly viable with each passing day.  I’ve replaced what used to be my MMO Games Wednesday post with something I can dictate in both content and direction: most importantly, it has absolutely nothing to do with Warcraft. In that regard, I’m not going to lie: I don’t miss that work, but remain grateful for the lessons taught during my time as a columnist.

I’ve seen the very worst of humanity thanks to Azeroth, as well as the best. The decent people I have met and call friends will always outweigh the petty, angry minority: to succeed at what I desire means leaving these destructive people in my wake. I am continually reminded that some individuals will take your words and twist them for their own ends, often with little thought of both consequence and casualty. As a result of someone else’s stupidity I lost the trust of someone whose honesty and brilliance will be greatly missed. In the end, however, the most damage was all my own doing, providing salutary reminder that 140 characters is the harshest of mistresses when you want to make a point.

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Inevitably, when someone decides that your work is an attack on them, there is the panic that whatever you write will now be interpreted in the same way. I can remember the last time this happened, and the time before that… and the list goes on, because when you hold a mirror up to yourself as I do with regularity, it is inevitable that others see their reflection and not yours. Of course, I can invoke Occam’s Razor at this point, and decide that really the problem is with me. Perhaps if I stopped pointing out this stuff, I could have a quiet life and everybody would be happy… except that’s no longer the case. Being like this is what makes me happy. Discussing my thoughts, considering the shortcomings I posses… without this vital release, I’d not feel strong and confident enough to begin a Patreon, and here’s where we came in.

If you want to truly know what I am, it is all here, hidden between the lines. There is no secret plan to destroy other people’s lives: what I do, on any given day, is simply shine a light on what I see reflected back at me, that has to be dealt with by all of us eventually, in one way or another. I am saddened greatly when someone ends up being hurt where there was never, ever that intent, but in all honesty life is full of these moments, and it is how we deal with them as human beings that defines not simply our place in the world, but how the World reacts to us. Each time it happens the lesson is learnt: think when you use certain words, make sure if the person matters you apologise in person. However, I won’t take the words back if I know they were never written maliciously to begin with. I have admitted culpability when I knew I was wrong in the past. When I know I’m right, I stand by my assertions.

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Once upon a time, of course, I was too afraid to do this: easily bullied by others who felt that my opinion and voice was irrelevant. The only way you ever get stronger is to believe your own conscience, and after sixteen years of working with my demons, there is at least some peace for me. I abhor those people who think they can manipulate and twist outcomes to suit their own ends, and so many of these people care not one iota for those that they hurt along the way. If I was one of those people, yesterday I would have blocked several people and simply continued on with my life, but as I’m not? I choose to deal with the inevitable (and very personal) mental fallout the only way I know how. When I look back on this week, however many months it is from now, I’ll know I was given a lesson to learn.

Like it or not, you will encounter conflict in your life. It is inevitable and often unavoidable, and when it does happen the true measure of your own humanity is how you choose to stand and fall. I do my best to repair damage when it occurs, because it matters. There’s a choice to be made, in every situation, and if a particular flashpoint is irretrievable, I will still make sure I tried my best. Mistakes will be marked down on the list of ‘People I upset by not thinking’ and that is never just because of a blog post I wrote. All those failures come from the precarious fragility of automatic response via Social media.

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If this stuff didn’t matter I’d not get so wound up in the business of putting stuff right. I’d not go and ask people why they left, or try and repair bridges that are often nothing more than sticks in the water. Once upon a time I’d lie and pretend I didn’t care either, and that’s never gonna wash with my current path. This GIF that I love so much, Daniel Radcliffe at his cheeky British best, almost sums it up: it ought to say ‘I tried, and everybody can and will criticise me regardless.’ Realizing you are wrong is a big ask sometimes. Saying you fucked up in public, and I have several times in the last few weeks, is an admission far more people should make.

That’s something I’m perfectly capable of doing for myself.



I’m Not Your Stepping Stone

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Some very interesting conversations have taken place this week, mostly with people who don’t follow me on Social media and I know have no intention of doing so. What is becoming apparent, as I push further into looking for followers and extending a potential audience for the various projects I’m creating, is that there seem to be two major schools of online thought. For the sake of argument, lets call them Red and Blue. Those in the Red camp seem more concerned with the Internet being used as education, to make life better for everybody, and to help balance the quite obvious inequality that currently exists, especially towards anyone who isn’t white, male and heterosexual (your perception may vary.) In the Blue camp? Let’s see how much money and prestige we can milk from exploiting people’s fears and stupidity before they notice.

In the cracks between the colours however, a remarkable amount of fruitful, enlightening discussion and possibilities lie. You just have to put aside the desire to fight with everybody, that each interaction is the start of a potential fight, or that randos just pop out of nowhere determined to start a fight. Once all that mental baggage is dispensed with, the Internet will teach you stuff. It can expand your mind, make you reconsider the surroundings you call ‘Home’ and allow revelations to surface that would never normally have seen the light of day.

This conversation didn’t start that auspiciously, but because we were both adults and at no point did anybody revert to deliberate provocation? It went really well. It was the equivalent of meeting someone at an event who somebody else knows, discussing a subject in a crowded room (how should social media target an audience) and then moving on. I get to rethink my position, and nobody’s wrong. If you asked me why that happened in this case, I’d make a guess that both me and Matt (assuming this is his real name) probably place ourselves in the Red camp. On extended conversation I discovered he advocated open source platforms for social media use, and believes people gravitate towards Twitter is because it is ‘sexy.’

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I read a really interesting dissection of a current news story this week: there’s a viral doing the rounds that involves CNN and the Orange Twat, and because the latter do have some basic intelligence they were able to track down the person responsible for creating it. When challenged, it transpires that the reason why this person did it was, quite literally, for the LOLs and that attention has become a drug an increasing number of people are becoming addicted to. They’d not thought of the bigger forces involved, and was just making stuff to maintain an online presence. It is completely believable too: I just have to look at the sites my daughter and her friends subscribe to for an understanding of how ‘being internet famous’ is rapidly becoming acceptable as a career path alongside a lawyer or a marine biologist.

That’s the goal for so many in the gaming spheres I hang out in too. A cursory look at any number of Twitter bios reveal what gets priority: I’m writing for this website, and I have my own crafting page so you can grab a piece of me for the upcoming Convention or to simply use as news on your own feed. I don’t blame anyone for doing this either, because for a couple of years this was me. For a while however I’ve refused to tow any line that quietly encourages elitism, competition and exclusion for the sole purpose of selling a product. I’ve always stood on the fringes, and on reflection I like myself far more for doing so. The truth and what matters more is listening to every voice and being able to accept what I hear. The problem, I’ve discovered in the last few years, is that other people don’t like being told that.

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Choices have to be made at every step of your Social media journey: do I bother having a rant about someone completely taking my comments out of context to entertain themselves at my expense? Is it worth pointing out to someone they’re simply making things worse by perpetuating falsehoods? Should I tell others how that person has deceived countless others just to further their own ambitions? Increasingly, new followers ask me up front if they think I’m referring to them, but most of the time ‘Guilty Conscience Syndrome’ is just that: you believe you’re being talked about, because the last conversation you had with that same person contained a situation where you think you might have fucked up. As I had to point out last week, if I wanna point a finger at someone, names will be used. But, as is apparent with our CNN/TWAT viral producer, that’s exactly what certain individuals are after, vital fuel to fire aspirations of fame and attention.

It’s why Social media is always people first, and never users at any point ever.

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Someone suggested to me yesterday I could play Social media as an MMO: if that were the case I’d have given up a long time ago. It’s been a long time since I felt the need to block someone too but that happened yesterday, mostly because of the person being a catalyst in the disintegration of a friendship that I doubt I’ll ever be able to repair. Because of the amount of emotional investment I have in Social media, and the fact I have no desire to change that any time soon, being considered as a user rankles in a way that is a surprise. I don’t need my individuality so surgically removed and dismissed, and yet it happens with increasing frequency. I am not here to play corporate games either: I don’t want a part of a future that looks great from a distance but when you get up close expects you to hand over a vital part of yourself to be accepted as part of a whole.

I am what I am ’til I die, and if that means standing alone to do so, then so be it.

 

Sabotage

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The Internet is a great place, we all know this. However, like any massive playground where mob rule will undoubtedly apply if you screw up, there is NEVER a guarantee that people will play nicely, follow rules or indeed do what you want them to. That means that, if you’re trying to exploit any section within that playground, you need to do your homework REALLY carefully. Twitter’s been making new strides into ‘selling’ their marketplace this year, after disappointing previous attempts to find consistent ways of making money from the platform. Their latest adventure, on paper, looked like it might have some merit.

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For most ‘normal’ users, bots are annoying and frustrating things in your timeline, but now they’ve being used to ‘sell’ products through the wonders of interactivity. The concept’s sound enough: create a personal enough experience and people will engage with your campaign, and might end up buying the product as a result. What’s far more likely however, is that people will find a way to exploit your bot and make the company (and your lack of thought plus understanding of the marketplace) appear enormously stupid. This is exactly what happened to a multinational last week. On reflection, they really should have seen the issue coming.

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Sabotage is not the right word here, NetImperative. I really doubt this was individuals approaching a promotion with the agenda of conscious destruction. Walkers allowed people to upload photographs, assuming people would only want to use their own image as a ‘selfie.’ There were no checks and balances that pictures being provided were suitable. Using images of convicted criminals is what will happen when people grasp you didn’t think through the consequences as a company, and the Internet decides to show up your stupidity.

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I find it increasingly frustrating how the Internet is portrayed as the enemy by people who don’t grasp the first clue about how it works. Politicians assuming that this is where extremism happens don’t grasp that terrorism isn’t just undertaken by one easily identifiable group of individuals. If all you see is isolated, unrelated problems having single solutions, that the only way to fight to be right is to defeat those that are wrong… it is like the arguments I have with my kids. They don’t do subtle: I either told them to do it or I didn’t, asking them to consider subtlety is largely lost. However, on platforms such as the Internet, reality is no longer about one thing at a time. If you can’t multi-task, or consider that some people will be doing four or five things simultaneously whilst at the same time looking for ways to exploit your lack of foresight? You’re going to get burnt, just like Walkers.

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Ironically, talking to friends on Twitter, we saw this coming. Maybe there is money to be made in the future being a Freelance Provocatrix, driving my three wheeled tricycle from company to organisation, warning them of the dangers of not thinking your marketing strategy through online. However well you think you know the Internet?

They’ll always have the capacity to surprise you.

Time

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My life is coming to a fairly significant crossroads. In just over a month, I commit myself at 50 to becoming my own arbiter, attempting to create a new career as a 21st Century Nonconformist. In a World where so many shout their mantras into the ether, which some believe rotates far too closely around circles of electronic Hell: will I be seen as any different to the heretics and fools that embrace diversity, speeding us all towards the World’s end? This historical period is as close to chaos as many will remember, but for me I am reminded first of the early 1980’s and before the 1970’s: the Cold War and the Three Day Week are memories I carry a world away from what now passes for normal daily life. If the last few days of dreams are any indicator, my subconscious grasps only too readily that these are turbulent times ahead.

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I have always been considered as a troublemaker: however, I never really wholeheartedly embraced the concept of rebellion until I hit my late twenties. I’ve come to most things later than others, I realise now because of the ability to properly grasp implication behind those actions involved. With the benefit of time, an environment was created which allowed me to both develop and evolve at a pace that suited mind and body, and that was not dictated by circumstance. Only now is it becoming apparent how useful that has become in order to be able to see a larger picture. It is also a daily reminder of just how lucky I am as a white, middle-aged woman to have the opportunity to begin with.

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If I went to the Bank on June 1st and asked for a loan to become a full-time digital writer, they’d laugh at me. I could submit articles to a hundred online sites and be rejected for every single one. This is a profession that is so subjective as for it to be impossible to quantify what matters on any given day: the way in which we devour, create and even transmit our communications alters sometimes on a daily basis. My online newspaper of choice doesn’t simply provide written commentary any more, there are short video ‘articles’ peppered amongst the headlines. If you want a novel to be a success, having robots recognise your website is as important as a set of good reviews. My ability to communicate in 140 character bursts is as important as long form mastery, and textspeak. It isn’t about being ‘down with the kids’ and more either, there are languages for every part of the Web. If you don’t know your Deplorables from the Untouchables? You won’t last long in the Digital Wild West.

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What I bring to the table in this Digital relationship is time: not only have I been here since inception, but I’ve grown with trends and diversification. I am very much anti Facebook and pro Twitter, but it doesn’t mean I don’t grasp the commercial implications of both. I may avoid SnapChat because of the filters and vanity, but it doesn’t take an idiot to grasp how significant the platform is for a generation of users, for whom instant information is key. Learning how to be a better person might seem a waste of time in a place where nobody needs to know who you are, but when you’re willingly giving away personal details to anyone with a contact form? Consequences will matter. In fact, there will be a generation of Internet users for which the repercussions of digital immersion will only truly become apparent if we can survive the next forty years without the Planet disintegrating around us, mostly because lots of people failed to pay attention to Science when it mattered. Of all of this, in the digital world around us, a grasp of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and every sub-branch in between is more important now than it has ever been.

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I’d love to say that telling stories is the real reason I want to be a writer, and although that is true, I’ve realised in the last few years it isn’t all that now matters. I can still spin fictions in the manner I choose, but not at the expense of ignoring bigger stories. The Internet of Words is my way to do many things at once: fulfil my dreams, yes, but also expand the potential of others, because without learning to better communicate as a planet, we are all doomed to failure. It cannot just be any more that you work towards your own ends, making individual success matter. Without everybody being able to win, frankly, there’s not much left to live for. If you think the future is living in your own, safe and consequence free bubble, I suspect there’s some major shocks coming very soon indeed. One of the races in my favourite computer games have a phrase: ‘Time is money, friend’ and this morning I realised that’s more true on an intellectual level than I’d ever previously grasped. The time I have lived is indeed worth something, what I have left to use so precious that not a moment should be wasted.

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I’m now sitting on a lovely pile of CoPromote reach and on Monday I’ve decided to use the IoW site to officially launch my concept to a bunch of total strangers. I have no idea how this will go down and frankly, I’m not that worried if the interest is minimal. What matters most is having the confidence to stand and fall on an idea, and nothing else. Bringing unique perspective is what I’ve always done best, and I’ve ever been afraid of being unpopular as a result. After all, as I never grow tired of reminding anyone who’ll listen, the reason why you fail is to learn how to succeed. Once you know what not to do, the options become less complex to grasp.

Then all you need is courage to take that first step.