Monday, 19 May 2008

Drama, whistle-blowing, skins and stuff

Lots of it going on in SL (always, everywhere) whether to do with money or love and probably a lot of other things too.

Spotted a particularly large kerfuffle over a skin-maker and a non-SL 3-D artist that has in turn baffled, perplexed, amused and horrified me. Many thronged to comment, often - I suspect - without any knowledge of what they were talking about. Some were polite, some weren't. Some tried to sound authoritative but there I strongly suspect some of them were neither authoritative nor unbiased. Massive quantities of mud appear to have been slung, just from skimming over some blogs and comments.

Some observations, though (and yes I suppose I'm jumping on the bandwagon but this is not just about those skins but about alleged content creation theft / abuse in general).

First, whistle-blowers aren't going to be popular, whatever their motives (greater good, personal vendetta, or both, and there's usually some of both, no?).

IMHO, whistle-blowing is a double-edged sword.

YES it's good, sometimes, to point to dodgy practices (note, I said dodgy - proof is another issue entirely and what some people consider to be proof, others do not) to raise awareness of what can and does go on and perhaps deter others from thinking they can get away with something unacceptable (although again, 'unacceptable' means different things to different people).

But once you've blown that whistle - to some extent depending on where - anything can happen and usually does. Where, however is another double-edged sword. Making it public raises awareness, sure, but once the 'public' are in there... you're going to get a whole spectrum of the public reacting. And sorting out the 'reasonable' from the hysterical, totally biased, or insincere is no easy task.

Washing dirty laundry in public also brings on lots of other personal gripes and yet more mud being slung, so things escalate, get twisted, people get hurt, others dash off a post without thinking... and of course there are those who actually enjoy all this. Train-wreck mentality. Those who have never indulged in this, please throw the first stone. I confess to stopping and staring.

I used to be very active on a writers' forum and plagiarism was naturally one of the hot topics there. Sometimes people most certainly did lift chunks from other people's work, some confessed to being 'inspired' by others. There are strong parallels here.

When challenged, some confessed, period. Some issued apologies, some didn't. Some threw mud elsewhere in doing so, some dramatically 'died' and their grieving survivors (!) posted tearful messages to the forum about writer X just needing to be loved so 'borrowed some material'. Some denied everthing despite what others considered clear proof and ploughed ahead, supported by friends who 'believed in them'.

It frequently got very ugly (understatement). Some innocent people got hurt, particularly if the attacks were unfounded and/or only done for personal reasons. Some writers got more exposure (either the accusers or their targets or both). Some people even learned that plagiarism is perhaps not a good thing ;)

Money, I should add, wasn't involved but a piece of writing has 'consumers' who can identify with the writing, and at times with the writer. An author has crafted it and cares about it enough to share, hopes to get praise. Sure it's different if somebody's income involved, I agree, but the feelings are the same: betrayal, outrage - misplaced or otherwise.

So what is my point? Is this drama useful or not? I'd say no for those people who jump onto bandwagons and take sides without knowing what they're talking about, but yes if eventually some good comes of it and some people learn lessons (or stop abusing and/or cheating).

I don't know who's right or wrong in the present drama... and there are many, MANY shades of grey and side issues involved. And I'm not even convinced that the truth (whatever that might be) will ever, really, be established in full or conclusively. Even if it is, whether it will do any good after all this flood of words is questionable. It's like traffic fines or cigarettes: raise the price and you'll get results... for a while. Then people will start speeding again or simply pay more for their fix. Or maybe, just maybe, a few will reconsider their ways. For that, maybe, would it all be worth it?

On the other hand, maybe others will think 'oh, speeding / smoking might be fun - let's give it a whirl'. No easy answers, huh?

It's just the drama involved in anything like this is just so sad, and I think that's what gets to me. Particularly the added drama that just fans the flames (and in a way I'm contributing to it, I suppose). Drama can be so ugly.

But so is human nature, no?

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