the internet is buggin’ me
I assume you’re here for the same reason I am…to learn about new music, talk about old music, check out some videos, converse in a forum about a particular topic, maybe promote yourself or your band, share a thought or a dream and just generally poke around. If you’re here for mental health issues and find yourself feeling as if this is an emergency, dial 911. But if I can be honest, at the moment I’m feeling unhappy and agitated…and what better way to get rid of it than by giving it away.
Let me start by saying that about twenty years ago I was working at the distributor owned by Capitol/EMI Music and they chose me as a guinea pig of sorts, to test their first company-wide email system and remote access to their inventory and shipping module. As my job required a bit of travel, I got a laptop that weighed about forty pounds, and a dialup account from either Prodigy or CompuServe, early gateways to the [gasp]…world wide web.
Checking into hotels back in those days, and logging in, required some technical knowledge, stamina and a credit card with a high limit. You’d first have to call a toll free number to get the local access number, disconnect the phone, plug the cord into your laptop, defeat or workaround the “dial 9 first” functionality of the hotel switchboard, pray that you connected and if you did, you would sit, stare at the screen and wait. Checking email was an adventure, even without the Viagra ads (because Viagra wasn’t invented yet). A dozen messages a day might have been a lot back then. Most went something like this:
I sent you a memo about the new McCartney release. Call me when you get it.
Or another version of that might be:
Urgent! Call me ASAP. Big news to tell you about Garth!!!
It took a while for most people to figure out how to actually use emails, and you can add voicemail messages to that learning curve as well. Given that today we are supposed to be better communicators than we used to be, we still seem to have a ways to go.
After a long day of travel and seeing customers, followed by a steak-and-wine-heavy meal, I’d go back to my room, spend an hour figuring out how to log on, check emails, look at shipments and sales numbers and…what now might take five minutes…could have easily kept me up back then well past my bedtime.
And shall we talk cost for a moment? Before cell phones and free wi-fi, to make a local call from a pretty nice business hotel might cost you $5 for access, and a $1/minute thereafter. For long distance, it would be $7.50 for access, and then up to $2/minute. Since I often stayed at hotels near the airports, which are always just outside the city limits, even a local call was long distance, or worse….the dreaded toll call within the same area code. So when I was in Dallas one night, and happened to spend 78 minutes online, you might say I was a bit put out to look at the bill the next morning and see a $452 “local toll call” charge. The damn room was less than $100.
But…I digress from why I’m a bit peeved today.
When I come to No Depression’s site to do all the things I listed in the first paragraph, there are ads on the top and side of each page. Sometimes I’ll look and click to get more information, sometimes I’ll ignore them. They are passive and benign. They don’t take away from the reason I’m here, they often alert me to something I may not have known before (like a new release) and they are to be used at my sole discretion.
On the other hand…
In the twenty years from IT guinea pig to everyday end user, I have watched the connectivity experience actually decline over time, instead of improving. Yes…we connect fast, easy and cheap. Yes…we have the world at our fingertips. Yes…we can learn and communicate like no other generation or civilization before us. (And for the sake of this rant, I shall ignore that 96% of all internet use is devoted to porn.)
In the past two years, as the venture capitalists have realized that they needed to take money OUT as well as put it IN, the internet experience has shifted into one giant 24 hour per day advertisement, for mostly crap we do not need nor want. Whether its You Tube, Facebook, GMail or name your site of choice, you will be hit in the face with an ad or two or three or a dozen or more.
I used to be able to go to You Tube, search for Phil Ochs, and watch some of his grainy black and white performances with the poor sound quality at my leisure. Now, I pick one, am forced to watch a 30 second commercial for Dominos Pizza, and then while ol’ Phil is singin about not marchin’ anymore, on the bottom of the screen there are an ever-changing flow of boxes, within which are ads for anything from Fox News, Hertz, a local carpet cleaner, Terminex and a dating service for seniors. Only the latter might be considered targeted to the Phil Ochs demographic. Attention dudes and dudettes of You Tube-land…YOU ARE MESSING WITH ART! STOP!
Demographics! If I was a business that advertised on the web, I’d make sure to whom I’m connecting with. On my Facebook page yesterday I was pitched hard by Lincoln. As if I…me…would want to buy an SUV that gets 14 MPG with a sticker price of $63,000. At this very moment (I just checked) they are advertising a Seinfeld T-shirt (have any for Treme?), insurance from State Farm (sorry…I use Costco), Air Force recruitment (too old), NYU grad school (I can share a dorm with my son!) and Walmart…a store I boycott for their use of cheap foreign labor that keeps prices down and profits up, while helping American workers remain unemployed.
And another thing…as a music person and a blogger, I do not like that Google has branded all of us as thieves. I used to love searching for fan sites that focused on tight narrow niche music, and sometimes might put up downloads of an old 78 recording or a radio transcription. But they changed that search feature after the major music corporations complained that it was a “rights infringement” issue. Sure. And when was the last time the family or estate of Mance Lipscomb or Jimmie Lunceford or members of The Penquins or Chi-Lites got a royalty check from Warners or Universal or Sony? Try…never?
So….that’s it. I just needed to get it off my chest and I don’t care if nobody reads this or not. I feel better. Really. Need to update my status. The cat just did the cutest thing.