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Jul. 14th, 2014

ScamCon

I honestly don't even know where to start with this.

People who've followed this blog for some time know that I don't really like much of anything. It would be easier to make a list of things I don't dislike than a list of things I do dislike. But there are some things I hate more than others, and scammers are one of those things. Even more than that, I hate scammers who try to make themselves seem like the victims. Fuck them with a cactus. In the ear.

Over the weekend, there was a fan convention in northern Illinois. Okay, no biggie, right? There are fan convention all the time. And most of the time, they're very fun for the attendees. This one... not so much. The con that happened this weekend was known as DashCon, previously known as Tumbl-Con USA. The name was changed to avoid confusing people into thinking that they were officially affiliated with Tumblr itself. And that was about the last honest, above-board thing that happened at that con.

I do not like the Daily Dot very much, but this is a relatively balanced account of what happened at the con, although the Daily Dot is a lot more willing to go on “this was an honest mistake, not fraud” than I am. To make a long story short, along with a whole lot of other issues, the con's organizers got on stage, claimed that they were going to be kicked out unless they raised $17,000 in an hour, and started begging for money, which they received. Even with all of this last-minute slapdash fundraising, they still didn't have enough money to pay for the hotel rooms of the celebrity guests they invited, couldn't pay the performers, and had to sell pizza at a ridiculous markup to feed the hungry guests. But they apparently had enough money to put a down payment on the convention hall for next year, And not only did they get a convention hall for next year, they upgraded massively, into a convention hall used for massive, already-established conventions in actual industries, that would probably cost even more than $17,000.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of business law knows that once a contract has been signed, one party cannot renege on that contract by deciding that they don't like the people they signed the contract with and demand more money. That's not how contracts work. In my (humble and unprofessional opinion), they either never signed a contract, or didn't pay their fair share of the money to book the venue this year, and the hotel realized this belatedly. They could have also given a bad check, and realized what they did, and started trying to extort from the con attendees in order to cover their asses. This is called check kiting, and it's a federal crime, so this should be interesting to see if anything comes of this in the future.

If that wasn't bad enough, they also did not have enough money to rent the rooms for their high-profile guests, or even pay them. Welcome to Night Vale, a popular podcast, ducked out when they realized what was going on. I don't have the best opinion of the WTNV people since the podcast has stopped being funny and been more heavy-handed commentary on social issues, but my opinion has risen a bit based on this. Not only did they realize that they weren't going to get paid, most likely, they realized that if they did get any money at all it wouldn't have been ethically gotten, or could potentially be seized as part of an investigation into the fraud, if that's the way the defrauded parties choose to go.

But that's enough about the potential fraud/sketchy business practices. Let's get into the other sketchy things that went down at this con. For one, there was no security to speak of whatsoever, so anyone could wander into the con itself without paying for a ticket. There was a panel about BDSM, that was supposed to be restricted to adults only (18+). Reports are kind of all over the place about what actually happened, but it seems that they weren't very stringent with the age requirements, and minors went in and attended. That is a federal crime, and a very good way for the presenters to end up on the sex offender registry. Whether or not that's fair is a discussion for another day, but the fact remains that they really needed to be more careful about who gets into restricted panels.

And if that wasn't enough, now some people are complaining that the fact that the WTNV people bailed when they realized how sketchy this was are sexist because the convention organizers were “young women.” Never mind that at least one of those “naive young women” is approaching 40- technically old enough to be my mother. And serously? You're going to go the route of trying to paint scammers and fraudsters as naïve, poor, misunderstood young girls? HA. And Bernie Madoff is just a misunderstood old granddad.

I should end this by saying that I did not attend DashCon. But I can recognize a scam when I see one, and I have no sympathy. Well, that's not entirely true- I have sympathy for the attendees who got scammed out of their money. Given tumblr's demographics, it's very likely the majority of people who lost money actually were, in fact, naïve teen girls.

Here are some more links to the whole debacle. You know my position on it, you can form your own opinion if you'd like.

The Escapist

Oh No They Didn't! thread

Reddit thread from TumblrInAction

Another Reddit thread from TiA

Third Reddit thread

Hyperbite

Tumblr detailing what you can buy with $17 grand

Tumblr user explains the basic problems with the con- somewhat outdated but useful

Tumblr user who attended but left before the money grab happened describes the con

Lots of links

Why a lawsuit could happen
A vendor who went to DashCon talks about what she saw

Oct. 11th, 2013

"Comment Culture"

Most people who read fanfiction on AO3 are aware of the kudos feature. It's a bit like the Facebook “like” button, where you click it and it sends a little notice to the writer of the fic that you liked their work. I think it's a nice feature, especially when you read something, and like it, but you can't think of anything to say other than “I liked this thing!”

But apparently, there are a number of people out there who really, really fucking hate kudos, to the point that they throw a fit if anyone deigns to leave a kudos rather than a comment. “It's destroying comment culture!” they'll complain. “Nobody ever comments on my fics anymore!”

Maybe that's indeed the case.

But outside of a certain few stories, nobody leaves comments on AO3, it's all kudos. In fact, oddly enough, the only fic of mine on there that's gotten more than one or two comments is a 150-word drabble I wrote for Sleepy Hollow because I was bored while waiting for one of my classes to start. And don't get me wrong- I'm not complaining. I'm actually really flattered that people liked that silly little brain-dump! But it just goes to show that the fics on AO3 that get lots of comments are completely arbitrary. I've seen 200,000-word epics get next to no comments, but about a billion kudos. And I've seen 200-word ficlets get about a billion comments, and next to no kudos. It's very random, and from what I can tell, it doesn't have a whole lot to do with the writer, or the quality of the story. It just seems like the lottery, almost, where there's really no telling whether that ticket you pull is going to be the one that wins you the million dollars, or if you'll just get the two-dollar consolation thing. Posting up your fic on AO3 seems to be like that, to me.

Maybe you'll get a bunch of comments and no kudos. Or maybe you'll get a bunch of kudos and no comments. More likely you'll get a mixture somewhere in between. Just be happy that people are reading your stuff!

Aug. 10th, 2013

Letter To A Younger Fic Writer

And yes, I'm aware of how pretentious this is, but after seeing a high school freshman get excoriated for the unbearable sin of writing a less-than-politically-correct fic, I couldn't help myself.

To the attackers- people, back the fuck off. That fourteen-year-old who you just tore apart for putting a supposedly gay historical dude in a straight relationship, in the background of a fic set in a historical canon? Congratulations on making your side look bad. Seriously? I don't know the sexual orientation of every single historical dude out there, and if the situation made sense for the plot (which it did, according to you), then what's your problem? It's not like the historical dude is going to sue, he's been dead since 18-whatever. Especially since I went to Wikipedia and looked up the guy in question- he was married to a woman (granted, it was a very brief marriage, but he was still married to a woman, which shoots some holes in your argument right there). And what you, as adults, consider to be “common knowledge” might not actually be common knowledge to anyone younger than your demographic group, or outside of your chosen profession. I don't expect everyone to know what a Linux kernel or bash shell is, because that's just not reasonable.

Also, seriously? Picking on a kid? Didn't your momma ever teach you to pick on someone your own size?

To the kid- I know it sucks, starting out writing in today's hyper-sensitive environment. By the way, your story was very impressive- much better than anything I could have ever hoped to have written when I was your age. But, there is one thing you need to be aware of- today's fandom climate, especially in certain fandoms, is sort of like a pack(?) of piranhas. They will eat you alive if you do something that they determine to be against the collective. It's a tricky situation to be in, especially if you post your work on tumblr- which you do. To be honest, that's probably why they found you in the first place. Tumblr is a fascinating website and it can be a lot of fun, but there's some definite problems there. The site's format makes it very easy for one person to take offense to something, and then broadcast it to a lot of like-minded people. I will bet my paycheck for the next six months that's what happened. My advice to you? Get off tumblr, or at least don't put your fic there. Move it to AO3 or FF.net. I would advise avoiding LJ/Dreamwidth fandom communities, though, because the same sorts of people that like to lurk around on tumblr lurk around there, as well.

However, and I do kind of hate to say this, it might be simpler for you if you do a bit more research next time. Yes, I know the guy in question was married to a woman for a while, but people get extremely touchy about this sort of thing. And with good reason, in a lot of cases. No, I'm not saying that this time was good reason, but now that you've seen what they'll do, I hope you'll take that into consideration in the future. I'm not trying to discourage you from writing, but these people can be absolutely fucking vicious. I've seen people lose their real life jobs because they pissed off the wrong person. I cannot stress enough how important that is. You are young, but you won't be in high school forever, and people do carry grudges. I feel really bad telling you this, because the last thing I want to do is discourage you, but maybe in the future avoid writing romances with actual historical people in them. I know, the guy's been dead for over a hundred years, but he was still an actual guy, you know?Just watch your step in the future. Again, I'm not saying this to scare or discourage you, but I also don't want to see you get drowned in an endless sea of rage.

I really feel sorry for younger fic writers just starting out. Back in my day, we wrote whatever the hell we wanted and no one gave one good goddamn about what we wrote, unless it was a Mary Sue. Today, it must be a minefield for someone just starting out.

(Note: I am turning comments off on this, and no, I will not be providing a link to anything. The writer has gotten enough shit already, the last thing I want is to direct more haters at them, or for them to somehow stumble across this and see even more hate)

Dec. 4th, 2012

The Hawkeye Initiative

So there's this movement over on tumblr to replace “sexy” female character poses with Hawkeye from The Avengers. It's become really popular on tumblr, as well as on other sites, and in way, I can kind of see why. Some of them are pretty funny and well-drawn, and it was started as a movement to sort of caricature some of the ridiculous poses that comics characters (specifically, the female characters) are sometimes drawn in. Yes, it's kind of amusing, and yes, some of the pictures copied are pretty damn ridiculous.

But despite that, I'm actually really uncomfortable with this whole thing, and I can't exactly put my finger on why.

While I think it started out in good fun for the lulz, I feel like now it's taken a really mean-spirited turn. Instead of being “yo, that pose is whack, let's draw someone else like that because it's funny!” I feel like it's now “goddamn you suck at art, let's make fun of the artist by ridiculously caricaturizing their work and making them look stupid on purpose! Let's purposely point out every single little thing we don't like about it and make it seem like that artist is a horrible person in the process!” While I said it started out in good fun, there was also a sort of political undercurrent to it. The creators of the initiative have said it started out to be a form of feminist critique. Which is fine. There's plenty of that going around on the Internet. And Longcat knows that it needs a more positive public face instead of the screeching lunatics that make it up right now.

This could have been that chance, but once again, a funny idea that could actually have made a positive impact of some sort has been hijacked, yet again, by those same screeching lunatics. And instead of actually trying to make a point, it's gone off the rails into asshat territory. Which is really par for the course, I've realized, for discussions on the Internet. You can start out with a good idea, an idea that could actually make an impact, and then the extremists show up and run it into the ground.

It's just unpleasant, and it doesn't give a very good impression of fandom as a whole. The general population tends to think of fans as ugly nerdy neckbearded basement dwellers for the guys, and fat, whiny fujoshi for the girls. Way to prove them right, folks, seriously.

But because I don't want this to be yet another entirely negative post, and because I do think the meme, at its heart, has good intentions, I'm going to put a few links to contributions that I think really did live up to the original spirit, and are just plain funny. These links feature funny dialog, an actual copying of the original image, and most importantly, they're all in good fun while still staying true to the message they were originally trying to get across, whether or not you actually agree with it or not. Unlike some of the submissions, which come across as “look, u don't art good lawlz, look how feminist I am!” they actually do try to make their point more or less... well, not exactly respectfully, but in good faith.

Feel the Fury

ART!

Yes, that suit is very practical. In fact, I think it's more practical for him than her- good for shooting arrows!

I have no idea who the original is but the copy is shiny!

Hulk looks confus

I thought they were doing the Caramelldansen at first...

Heh. Loki.

While this post might seem kind of harsh, I don't actually have anything against this project. I just think that they should try to keep the meanness to a minimum. Which might seem strange coming from me (The Douglas actually called me the Snark Knight the other day), but honestly? You can still be snarky and call attention to things without being unnecessarily obnoxious towards people who either don't know what it is you're on about, or who just don't particularly care. In fact, you're more likely to alienate people by being bitchy about the things they like than you are by explaining why something is a problem. That's not to say you can't use humor to do it- all those posts I linked are pretty funny. But they're not mocking the artist's actual ability, just the way that they chose to exercise it.

Aug. 24th, 2012

I Overreact To Your Article About Overreaction! YAARGH!

Cracked, I am disappoint.

Normally, I love Cracked's articles. I learn new things, or get perspective on life from the different writers. Sometimes there's interesting articles about popular culture, or funny videos about various things. But today, I was disappointed with this article.

One thing I've noticed in the past is that this particular columnist seems to attract a lot of haters in the comments. I've never really understood it- sure, she's not the funniest columnist on there, but some of her articles are really interesting. Sometimes it seems like she sails a bit on the good ship USS Political Correctness, but it's not a big deal, really. But when I read this article on my phone at work yesterday, I just kind of sat there for a few minutes with my jaw hanging open. “Are you serious?” I asked myself. “What... what the heck is going on here?”

The article writer does have some valid points. The thing where people flip out about minor factual inaccuracies is a pet peeve of mine. Oh noes, someone used the wrong terminology, but you could still understand what they meant! Call the FBI! And other people having bad taste in entertainment. Yeah, it doesn't affect me, but I might think they're an idiot.

But what really stands out to me is #2, the thing about customers. Clearly this writer has never worked in customer service. Yes, any one of those examples she gives would be alright on its own- somewhat annoying, but not enraging. But it's the little things that add up- on a day when I've had shit thrown at me because I didn't react fast enough, or been threatened because we didn't have something in stock that the customer wanted, or seen people beat the everliving shit out of their kid because they were misbehaving, or who hold up the line because they can't make up their mind about what they want and then yell at you when you try to help someone else who actually is ready- those things add up. There's only so much of that you can take before the very sight of a customer sends your blood pressure through the roof. When it gets to that point, even minor customer transgressions will make you angry. And if you can't rant about your job, what can you rant about?

While she does have somewhat of a point in #1, the thing about getting angry about what other people wear, the examples she chose were horrible examples. Do I have a problem if a fat person wants to sit near me when I am eating? No. Do I have a problem if a sweaty, stinky fat person wants to sit near me when I am eating? Yes. But it has nothing to do with their size. I don't care how fat or thin you are, if you smell bad I don't want you anywhere near me, especially when I am trying to eat. You could be supermodel thin, but if you smell like ass I don't particularly want to be around you.

Of course, due to my reaction to this article, I'm probably going to be dead of hypertension by next week. :P

Jul. 15th, 2012

A Small Observation

Can I just say that political correctness policing amateur written erotica is fucking ridiculous? I mean, what are you expecting? Shakespeare? Honestly.