Monday, July 20, 2009

Waiting for 2010 #67: YouTube Culture



Embedded above is a segment from the summertime television series America's Got Talent, in which a nine year old boy plays a bluesy guitar solo on an electric guitar. He's a very good guitar player right now. By the looks of things, time is on his side, and he's becoming a better musician every day.

As much as I admire the kid's talent, this rant isn't about him. It should be, but it's not. If you go to this video's YouTube page, and scroll to the comments, you'll notice all the anonymous haters (in varying degrees) insulting the nine year old kid's talent. You can almost see these anonymous trolls seething with jealousy and likely a good dose of self-hatred in the comments against a talented little kid. When I read through the comments (trolls are as entertaining as they are disappointments), the hater comments were given higher ratings, and some of the positive, encouraging comments were given negative ratings.

Anyhow, that's the culture of YouTube. It's where anonymous cowards can vent their hatred, and feel some degree of power online (which is not to judge their respective situations offline). Forums tend to get overrun with spam bots, and YouTube is overrun with haters. If that's the way it's going to continue, then c'est la vie.

There is, however, one possible way to create a subcultural paradigm shift in YouTube. If this doesn't happen in YouTube, then maybe another user-submitted, content-driven social network can try this (if they haven't already): Only active users may comment on other active users' content.

A lot of YouTube's current haters don't produce their own content. Back to the guitar kid, as an example, some of the commenters jealously say they're better than the kid at guitar but they provide no such tangible proof supporting their claim. They don't even have a video uploaded to their account (and favorited videos don't count!).

Now, if said hater(s) have their own content, and only content-producers may comment on others' content, then it would be a truer society of peers critiquing one another. They can spew hatred or give praise or submit thoughtful critiques, but they wouldn't be completely anonymous anymore. Being tethered to their own content, would they still have the false-courage to troll?

I realize that the uploader of the America's Got Talent video is probably infringing on NBC's (et al.) copyright and does not own the aforementioned video, but my point remains valid. In any case, maybe a prerequisite to uploading content would be to prove your identity. In order to post their own music, musicians on Facebook must provide a scan of valid identification (with sensitive numbers and non-name/non-photo data blacked out).

This might be the solution to get rid of anonymous trolls in several me-first* type websites: (1) Only allow producers of content to comment on other users' content, and (2) require proof of authorship (or at the very least, existence) in order to upload your content. If only people remember good manners over political correctness**, then maybe both the online and offline worlds (which are increasingly becoming one and the same) would be better places.

*Me-first websites encourage self-centeredness in the comments/forums, whether political ideology (liberals vs. conservatives), computer platform preference (Third-party PC w/ Microsoft Windows users vs. Apple Macintosh w/ OS X users), fans of music/musicians, and look-at-me-I'm-on-YouTube. In other words, me-first has one main opinion: "I'm right."

Others-first
websites don't rely on divisive dichotomies to foster a community and tend to drive away trolls pretty effectively. Few in number, others-first communities have a range of possible driving forces, from a "Be nice" prime directive to a "How can we make things right/bigger/better?" cooperative mission. You do not need to lose your individuality to be cooperative, and you do not have to be self-centered to be an individual in your own right.

Finally, a relatively obscure blog like this one gets few comments and therefore is neither/nor.

**Keep in mind that saying "I hate political correctness" is politically correct to that specific ideology.

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