Sunday, October 26, 2014

Solution du jour for viewing notes data in Flickr

So here I am, faced with the awkward discovery that I left my instructions for making home-made wine in notes on a photograph in my Flickrstream. "Well, where's the problem with that?" you might ask. Hmmm. Well, if I can get this right, the flapping back and forth caused by Flickr's incredibly successful and/or famously distastrous redesign  and the various redesigns of the redesign means that a few of the features - most notably, notes - have been left behind for "technical reasons".

I've always been a big notes user on Flickr. In addition to the winemaking diorama (below) I've also used them creatively with friends (that mass of chicks all have "secret thoughts" penned by friends), to identify products (all those small press comics are labelled with creator and source) and of course for the flickr groups What's in your bag? and What's in my fridge?, among others. You can't see any of that, of course, you'll just have to take my word for it.

But of course it isn't until you go and try and find if there's any way to turn a thing back on that you discover that other people felt very differently. "Graffiti on photos!!!!" and "Runs the purity!!!" and "Hate the way strangers can comment literally ON my photo" and my personal favourite, "A great picture of a butterfly's eye does not need a rectangle drawn around the eye and the comment "great eye" added. Fair enough. Looks like there was, once again, a whole pile of shriekyweb going on that was pretty much invisible from my calm, early adopter*, civilized corner.

Still. I'd already made notes re-appear once (I needed them to label some flowers) using the recommended-on-help-forum hack of viewing the site in French (which I can read, though I talk it very badly) which meant an older style sheet, notes still show, blah-de-blah, worked for a few months, but at some point it had stopped working, and I'd switched back to English till the next time I needed the notes.

That day was today, and at first I was wondering if the data I'd entered was even still accessible anymore. It is, and thanks to Elmophoto,  I have a new trick -- switch to viewing the site in an obsolete browser (you don't actually need an obsolete browser, that link there sets you up with a plug-in that will allow your modern browser to pretend it's an obsolete browser for a single site) and ta-da! The information reappears. That seems to be working for now, though of course no-one else will see the notes, unless they install the same plug-in, ugh, of course.

Funny thing, notes was (and is still, I think) unique to Flickr. But instead of a USP, it seems to be being treated like a random annoyance - a relic of the web before. Like me, I suppose.

*I wasn't a tester, but I was a sufficiently early adopter that I remember the site before anyone had paid for advertising and it was all just random hamster-related google ads.

Friday, October 17, 2014

creative output/traumatic insemination

There's been some very innovative music release actions this year. First there was Beyoncé's 17 videos vs Bowie's secret album and oh the world was full of delights and mysteries, and any morning might bring an unexpected creative explosion in the most unexpected places. What joy!

Then, of course, it had to get creepy. I'm looking at you, Thom Yorke. The decision to release via Bittorrent doubtless felt very right and now as it was happening. Perhaps he had been advised that everyone with a computer had Bittorrent, but that's not exactly true, is it? Perhaps he had also reflected on those old early-days CD releases which would install some bit of crapware on your computer and thought, this isn't unbroken territory! Perhaps there was some thought that only people who were able/willing to install a piece of 3rd party software on their computer should be able to purchase the album - a sort of initiation test, the music hidden behind a technical tiger. So we had Bittorrent. Briefly. And felt slightly violated.

But worse was to come. Itunes is of course WAY more ubiquitous than Bittorrent. There are three iterations of it running in this household alone (if you don't count the ones on the i-pods, and if you do, there are five*) and that meant potentially THREE copies of a U2 album we never ordered parachuting into the household. Alas, I'd lost my iTunes log-in in a password reset fiasco about four years ago and never got round to fixing it**, so it was only my dearly beloved suddenly exploding in a pile of swears. "Violated!" he choked, "By Bono!"

Unusual. But it got me thinking. Why are we staring at Beyoncé and Bowie going ooooh! aaaaah! like kids looking at fireworks, and going uuugghh aaaaaah at Yorke and Bono waving our hands like teenagers startled by a creep at the busstop? There's the obvious difference of course (the former being glorious edifices of alien glamour and the latter being essentially middle aged men with ponytails) but there's something more going on I think; and I think that we must reach for gender studies.

We choose what entertainment we let into our homes (and our computers are our homes, or at any rate an important part of them). We choose the providers and tools and methods and programmes that make up our own individual technical support zone. This area holds our memories, creative output, social group and task lists. Our body doesn't end at the skin, it extends outward, into our household and its echo, in the remote servers of the cloud; and for most adults*** access routes to that body-echo is as carefully monitored and controlled as access to our actual body.

What then of the music release that requests that you download and install a programme that you are fully aware of but consider a risky access route? It strips choice away from the receiving partner. There's a power shift, a power imbalance. Consent is compromised, or at least carries an unwanted freight, and one which exposes you to further risk. The act of receiving the music requires an act of self-compromise. Like certain encounters with gentlemen (or ladies) you might have had in your early twenties, it's not technically what you'd call .... awful ... but it leaves you feeling nasty and desperately scrubbing the programme from your computer, thinking, I didn't want this.

Bono, of course, went rather further. The traumatic penetration of iTunes libraries resonated around the world. Of course, it made a bigger splash than Bowie and  Beyoncé. He'll have made more money (does he need more money? do any of them?) and got more media coverage. But he's also joined that long list of powerful men in the entertainment industry who feel you should be grateful for (you may insert pretty much anything here) . Last I heard, Bono was being chased down the street by angry Germans, and I laughed, along with the person telling me the story, because I have been (like many people of all genders and ages) a powerless girl, and, oh, wished for that, or something like that.

*The extra ipod is fully functional bar the sound chip which got fried in a tragic headphone jack/power lead confusion incident.
**As I already have a surfeit of entertainment channels and music acquisition routes.
***Children's access is moderated by their parents/carers/schools.