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As an ’80s kid, I’m often nostalgic about that era. I sometimes hear myself speaking and I sound like my grandparents when they bragged about how things were better “before”.

To be honest, I do think things were better before. Ha! The eighties were an amazing time to live in and anyone who disagrees simply wasn’t around yet.

But let’s be honest, some things are just so much easier now, right? I created this comic series called “Strange things from the past” because some things are better now and some things were better then.

I had a blast making it. It was a little travel back in time and I hope you’ll travel too!

If you want to see more of my comics, check out my previous posts here and here

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11 hours ago

LMAO, my sister and I did that and you can hear my father in background shouting to turn down the music

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12 hours ago

The best thing in the early 80s was a walkman and you really could walk and run while listening to it. The discman came much later, in the middle of the 80s.

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10 hours ago

With or without a cell phone, I would never wait an hour for someone to turn up.

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13 hours ago

The sound of the dial up modem being so loud you feel like it will wake up the dead when you start it at night. Not even muffling it with stuffed toys helped much.😂

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11 hours ago

“photo album today” -> do they even exist?

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13 hours ago

My grandfather owned the local video store. He would hold it for us.

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11 hours ago

Ah yessss. sitting on my bedroom floor, reading the lyrics booklet (if they had one) or at least going over and over the album art while the new CD played.

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12 hours ago

Yeah, we’re lazier with numbers today. I only memorize the ones from my closest family members. And if any of them changes a number, that’s it 😂 I let my phone remember the new one.

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13 hours ago

An encyclopedia that was out of date a year later on anything but history.

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13 hours ago

Do not miss smoking in restaurants or other public areas at all

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11 hours ago

Perfect resembling of styles!

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13 hours ago

We were able to read a map. Main difference!

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13 hours ago

My father recorded a sports match over the christening of our first child….

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8 hours ago

She looks cute in her ’80’s clothes. She just needs black lace Madonna gloves.

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12 hours ago

We did have videorecorders back then…

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13 hours ago

Was more… Mummy/Daddy, is it true that…?

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11 hours ago

i made a few mix tapes. None of them worked, I was very single.

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13 hours ago

They’re still like that. Just use 274 extra products today.

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13 hours ago

Yes, you had to sing to the guy in the CD store

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7 hours ago

they have less power then.

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12 hours ago

Still waiting for the boyfriend from earlier?

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Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/comics-strange-things-from-the-past-80s-tallncurly/

From Black Lives Matter to #OscarsSoWhite, the decade would not have been the same without black voices on social media

There is power in numbers. No internet subsection displayed this fact better than Black Twitter, which touched nearly every sphere of American culture and politics this decade.

In the 2010s Black Twitter become a cultural force to be reckoned with.It promoted Black Lives Matter and raised awareness around the tragic deaths of Sandra Bland and Eric Garner through hashtags such as #SayHerName and #ICantBreathe. Its anger over Kevin Harts homophobic tweets pressured him to drop out as a host for the 2018 Oscars ceremony. It pressured Pepsi to retract and apologize for a Kendall Jenner-fronted commercial accused of co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement. It created hundreds of delightfully viral moments such as eyebrows on fleek.And it helped a wild 180-tweet thread in which a stripper recounts an adventure-filled road trip to Florida become an A24-produced, feature-length film.

I would absolutely say this decade wouldnt be the same without Black Twitter, says the UVA professor Meredith D Clark, who is currently writing a book on the internet subsection. But I also think it was a continuation of our larger relationship with black American communities. Black culture has been actively mined for hundreds of years for influences on mainstream American culture.

Bizzle Osikoya (@bizzleosikoya)

Caption This pic.twitter.com/HtPDWwqVWG

July 21, 2017

The thrill and intrigue of scrolling through Black Twitter often crossed cultural and racial lines. At the risk of getting randomly harshed on by the Internet, I cannot keep quiet about my obsession with Late Night Black People Twitter, an obsession I know some of you other white people share, because it is awesome, Choire Sicha wrote for The Awl in 2010, before Black Twitter had become the accepted moniker.

Defining Black Twitter continues to be difficult. The meaning is slightly amorphous, but it refers to a particular collective of black identities and voices on Twitter taking part in collective, culturally specific jokes and dialogues that affect the community from discussing colorism to dishing out jokes about common black mom phrases.

The Georgia Tech professor Andr Brock says Black Twitter allowed mainstream, white culture an unprecedented glimpse at how black people talk and joke among each other.It was one of the first spaces that white people could see how creative black people are with our discourse, and how we used a technology that wasnt originally designed for us.

Free Atlas (@Hampton)

When Popeyes made that Chicken Sandwich pic.twitter.com/9GaTWitcDg

August 20, 2019

One of the first viral Black Twitter moments of the decade came in response to the documentary Kony 2012, a 30-minute YouTube film that looked at the kidnappings of Ugandan children by a guerrilla group and efforts to find them. The video received over 120m views in only five days and redefined what virality meant, with donations towards the cause quickly surging.

However, members of Black Twitter were some of the first to criticize Invisible Children, the charity behind the film, for its sources of funding and misleading reporting. The critiques were surprisingly nuanced for a social media space, some citing the call for donations as another incident of slacktivism, a term used for low scale, feel-good displays of charity. Invisible Childrens campaign quickly faded in popularity, and the charity later struggled to survive after its viral moment.

This would be the power of Black Twitter over the course of the decade a diligent, occasionally merciless watchdog for problematic behavior.

Calling out cultural appropriation was a chief focus of the space in the early 2010s. Celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kendall Jenner and Miley Cyrus were critiqued (and roasted) for adopting traditionally black hairstyles and/or dances. Its ability to prevent major business deals would also be flexed. In 2013, Black Twitters outrage was largely responsible for corporations ending their affiliations with chef Paula Deen after she admitted to using the n-word. Later, a juror from the 2013 George Zimmerman trial lost out on a major book deal when Black Twitter voiced disapproval. Users were able to directly put pressure on the jurors literary agent, Sharlene Martin. You know that the stains from blood money dont wash off, right? one user wrote at the time.

timanni (@positiviTeee)

How the world portrays Jesus vs how the Bible describes him. #MetGala pic.twitter.com/AOSrHDIaY8

May 8, 2018

Here are just some of the celebrities and companies Black Twitter cancelled this decade: Roseanne, Pepsi, Meghan McCain, Gucci, Don Lemon, Iggy Azalea, Karamo Brown, Jeffree Star, Jussie Smollett, Kevin Hart, Kanye West, TI, Jay-Z, the NFL, Gina Rodriguez, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Brown, Matt Damon.

Brock says the litany of cancellations that occurred on Black Twitter this decade were not simply rooted in anger and outrage, as media outlets frequently depicted them. They were moments of catharsis. People who have been affronted or hurt or wounded finally had a voice to make gatekeepers take notice, he says.

Clark says the subsection is not a monolith, but actually composed of numerous, small personal communities and networks, which then band together when an incendiary event or something that triggers discussion occurs.

Clark argues the term Black Twitter often led to racial biases (ie, depictions of the group as an angry mob) during media coverage. Whenever you put black in front of anything, people think its deviant from whats mainstream. I think that led to a lot of confusion for folks who were outside of Black Twitter. The term doesnt necessarily signal the cultural richness we found within the space.

Black Twitter has its roots in the low-tech forums and blogs of the early aughts.

Black
Black Twitter has raised awareness around the tragic deaths of Sandra Bland and Eric Garner through hashtags such as #SayHerName and #ICantBreathe. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Brock says, prior to 2010, black-centric blogs would try to pressure mainstream media into covering underreported topics, like 2006s Jena Six case (which saw activists protesting the excessive charges six black boys faced for beating a white classmate). Lipstick Alley, BlackPlanet, OkayPlayer, Crunk and Disorderly these sites were digital watering holes for early black internet users. However, their presence was nowhere near the scale or visibility of Black Twitter.

Blogs couldnt talk back to media in real time the same way Twitter can, Brock says. That ability to talk back to corporations and media, and for the talk back to be visible is what distinguishes Black Twitter from previous incidents of black communities online.

During the 2010s, Black Twitter would prevent the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and too many others from being glossed over by news outlets. It proved the power of a hashtag through well-crafted digital campaigns. One study found that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used over 1.7m times in the three weeks following a grand jurys decision not to indict the cop who killed Michael Brown.

However, there were downsides to the immense attention.

April Reign, who started the popular #OscarsSoWhite campaign, says media companies often surveilled the space, looking for ways to report on the black community without actually engaging with it. Its hard when you see someone who is having a profound discussion about a particular issue, and a media outlet will extract all these tweets and put a sentence at the end and call it an article, she says. That person got paid for writing the story and the media outlet got paid through advertising dollars for someone elses tweets. The person who wrote the tweets never sees a dime.

This would be a frequent problem throughout the decade, brands adopting popular phrases and jokes born in the space for advertisements. At 16, Kayla Newman had her eyebrows on fleek saying popularized through a re-circulated Vine video and became slang for flawless and perfection. Kaylas unique saying was used by brands like Dominos, Ihop and Dennys in advertising without her ever seeing a dime.

Denny’s (@DennysDiner)

hashbrowns on fleek

September 30, 2014

I gave the world a word, Kayla Newman told the writer Doreen St Felix in 2015. I cant explain the feeling. At the moment I havent gotten any endorsements or received any payment. I feel that I should be compensated. But I also feel that good things happen to those who wait.

There would be numerous occasions where Black Twitters lexicon provided new terms for popular culture: thot, bae, cuffing season, throwing shade, lit, turnt up. The exchanges were fun (even if they were often misused by white people), until companies began using the slang to sell T-shirts and other miscellaneous products online.

Of course, there were also major winners from the space. For the lucky, success on Black Twitter could be monetized. Lil Nas X who broke boundaries as an out gay, black man in rap and country mastered the arts of memes, retweets and follows to make his song Old Town Road an unexpected viral hit. Lil Nas X was allegedly able to go from running a Nicki Minaj stan account, under the handle @NasMaraj, to Grammy-nominated artist. (Lil Nas X has not confirmed running @NasMaraj, despite reporting, urls and time stamps strongly suggesting he did.)

Lil
Lil Nas X at the 47th annual American Music Awards, in Los Angeles, 24 November 2019. Photograph: Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock

Meanwhile, the social media accounts of fast-food chains like Popeyes and Wendys connected with audiences and sold product through lifting phrases and slang from black and gay communities on Twitter.

Elsewhere, the comedian Shiggy became an internet star when he danced to Drakes In My Feelings record, creating the dance challenge of 2018 and later appearing in the rappers video for the track.

As 2019 comes to an end, the power of Black Twitter is being demonstrated through the 2020 presidential campaigns. Joe Bidens story about CornPop, a racially charged pool confrontation in the 60s, provided the basis for numerous memes. Kamala Harris virality on Black Twitter was so strong that Maya Rudolph, while impersonating Harris on SNL, joked Mama needs a GIF! to boost her poll numbers. And conversations about reparations once thought of as a far-fetched, in-group topic were held by major candidates.

Ira Madison III (@ira)

Kamala Harris seems like shed suggest splitting up in a haunted house

July 29, 2019

Brock believes the outsized influence and visibility of Black Twitter will continue through the 2020s. As much as people complain about Twitter, it has a mindshare wildly out of proportion with its user base, he explains. I dont see a service that offers that same level of access, distribution, and open conversation on the horizon.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/23/ten-years-black-twitter-watchdog

YTMND, one of the internet's earliest and most popular meme websites, has closed its doors.

One of the internet’s earliest meme pioneers is no more. 

“You’re the Man Now, Dog!,” more commonly known as YTMND has shut down. Twitter users first noticed the site was no longer accessible on Monday and word quickly spread to forums and other corners of the web populated by those who were heavily influenced by the meme site.

YTMND was most well known for its user generated standalone pages filled with a single, tiled image or animated GIF, embedded with large text, and often with a sound or music file playing on loop. 

The domain YTMND.com was first registered by the site’s founder Max Golderberg on April 1, 2004. However, Goldberg had registered Yourethemannowdog.com for the original standalone meme which sparked the idea for the use-generated YTMND way back on July 6, 2001. The site’s name is a reference to a line spoken by Sean Connery’s character in the 2000 film, Finding Forrester

The site was extremely popular in the mid-2000s and, despite advertising troubles that came with hosting offensive content, YTMND turned a profit. During its prime, the site gave birth to an array of popular internet memes of the time, such as Picard Song and Doesn’t Change Facial Expressions.

However, the site’s founder soon became tired of policing the death threats, doxxing, child pornography, and nazis that began populating the platform. Health issues, as well as falling traffic partly due to the rise of social media and declining ad revenue, soon led to a once-bustling internet community becoming an early internet meme museum. 

Goldberg has long alluded to the fact that his website, which he grew to hate, would probably not be around forever. He effectively stopped working on YTMND in 2014 but the site did live on — until this week.

“Besides being a time capsule I don’t really see a reason for it to continue to exist. It seems like the internet has moved on,” Goldberg said in a 2016 interview with Gizmodo. “And I’ve moved on too. I don’t have much interest in the site beyond it being good memories.”

Thankfully, foreshadowing the shutdown of your website years in advance has its benefits. Last year, the Internet Archive preserved a full copy of YTMND and will soon make it available on their website. Goldberg shared the archiving news on Twitter, seemingly confirming the death of his creation.

Sadly, YTMND, you’re dead now, dog. But, thanks for the memories.

Mashable has reached out to Goldberg for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/ytmnd-youre-the-man-now-dog-shuts-down/

The streaming service is a decade old on Sunday. So has it created a post-CD paradise for listeners or turned todays music into a grey goo? Our music editors argue for and against

The case for Spotify

The year is 2008. Now Youre Gone by Basshunter has spent its fifth week at No 1 and you cant get enough of it. Your options are as follows: head to the shops and buy the single on CD, which doesnt feel very on-demand; buy it as a download, the quality of which is as flimsy as Basshunters subsequent career; navigate through a labyrinth of occasionally pornographic popups to download it illegally; or sit through Scouting for Girls five times until it comes on the radio.

Ten years on, Spotify has erased these costly or frustrating scenarios. You can instantly access not just Now Youre Gone, but deep cuts from Basshunters oeuvre such as From Lawnmower to Music or his oft-overlooked Christmas single Jingle Bells (Bass). And, indeed, the majority of popular music made by anyone ever.

The result is musics most radically democratic era. While adverts between songs jarringly juxtapose the beauty of art with the brutality of capital, it is at least free to listen to them. Thanks to Spotify and YouTube, no one with internet access 90% of the UK needs to pay for music, an important and seismic shift from the vinyl, CD and download eras when, for many people, music ownership was a luxury or treat. For 9.99 the going price of one newly released CD album in 2008 you can have uninterrupted access for a month.

The
The Spotify logo on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange, as it celebrated its stock exchange listing in April 2018. Photograph: Reuters

You can already hear the effects of this democracy on music itself. The global profile of non-Anglophone pop has risen, from K-pop band BTS to Puerto Rican star Daddy Yankee, in part thanks to this levelled playing field; the multicultural hybrid music of stars such as Stefflon Don feels like the natural result of a culture that can access anything, anytime. Critics point out that you dont own the music you pay Spotify for, but effectively rent it, although the ownership of digital files was always pretty illusory and underwhelming anyway and, as anyone who has tried to copy a library of iTunes files from one device to another, a teeth-gnashing faff. As the parallel demise of Blockbuster Video and, er, print media shows, most people value convenience over physicality when it comes to film, news and music. It can also be argued that Spotifys quality is lower than that of a CD, which is true, and the muso in me trembles to think how many people are listening to Spotify on its low, data-preserving quality, which sounds as if the songs have been irradiated. But its 320kbps high quality setting will satisfy all but the most sensitive listener.

Spotify speaks to this silent majority of music fans. Audiophiles, object fetishists, anti-capitalists, musicians these groups noisily protest Spotify, but are marginal compared with the number of ordinary listeners, who never read the liner notes in the first place. For many people, music is just for mood, something to work, exercise or have sex to situations that Spotify usefully caters to with playlists such as Productive Morning, Extreme Metal Workout and 90s Baby Makers.

It is a badge of pride for musos to say that Spotifys machine-learning algorithms when you listen to a track and it recommends things you might also like dont cover their cosmopolitan taste. But there are plenty more people who have relatively narrow taste, for whom in a world where not everyone has the time or inclination to read up on new music this kind of recommendation is really cherished. And if you do happen to have catholic taste, or fannish obsession, there are some very deep back catalogues to go down (even, should you so desire, Basshunters). There are debates to be had over revenue sharing and the acts it chooses to promote, but Spotifys free, total access makes it essentially utopian. Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The case against Spotify

If I compiled the off-record remarks from my interviews over the past decade, the majority would concern Spotify namely how much artists hate it. Please dont put that in, they panic after slagging it off. I really need it to support my new album. And they do: Spotify is a kingmaker.

After the early 2000s doldrums, the recent music industry revenue boom is thanks to the rise in streaming. It is well known that artists dont see much of this. Spotifys royalty rate is notoriously low. The top 10% of artists dominate 99% of streams as Ed Sheeran getting 16 tracks in the Top 20 after the release of showed. Still, Spotifys patronage putting artists in its powerful playlists, which drive streams is crucial. Musicians cant afford to complain.

Spotifys
Spotifys CEO, Daniel Ek, speaking in New York in March 2018. Photograph: Ilya S Savenok/Getty Images for Spotify

At a relatively affordable 9.99 a month for an ad-free subscription, Spotify benefits the consumer more than the artist superficially. Its exploitative relationship with musicians has trickle-down effects. The most basic is that any artist who cant afford to make music is not going to be making much more of it or they will have to tour for longer (costing their health and creativity) and find alternative revenue streams to survive. But just as musicians realised they couldnt afford to be sniffy about selling out, after the puritanical 90s, Spotify undermined that undesirable alternative, too. As critic Liz Pelly writes in an essay for the Baffler, brands dont have to pay to use songs on adverts if they want to piggyback an acts cred they can put them on branded playlists without asking permission or paying a penny.

Setting aside the issue of money, these playlists have fundamentally changed the listening experience. Spotify prides itself on its personalised recommendations, which work by connecting dots between data points assigned to songs (from rap, indie, and so on, to infinite micro-genre permutations) to determine new music you might like. Its model doesnt code for surprise, but perpetuates lean-back passivity. There is no context on the platform, merely entreaties to enjoy more of the same: You like bread? Try toast!

It limits music discovery and the sound of music itself. Singles are tailored to beat the skip-rate that hinders a songs chances of making it on to a popular playlist: hooks and choruses hit more quickly. Homogenous mid-tempo pop drawing from rap and EDM has become dominant: New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica regularly disparages this sound as Spotifycore.

The algorithm pushes musicians to create monotonous music in vast quantities for peak chart success: hence this years tedious 106-minute Migos album, Culture II, and Drakes dominance. Add in Spotifys hugely popular artists with no profile outside the platform, widely assumed to be fake artists commissioned by Spotify to bulk out playlists and save on royalties, and music appears in danger of becoming a kind of grey goo.

Spotify looks like a neutral platform but behaves like a gatekeeper. It faced a backlash this year after censoring R Kelly and XXXTentacion for their alleged acts of violence against women (only to grossly promote XXX after his murder). Why were only black men censored when many white male rockstars have violated women?

It continually perpetuates such inequality: a report by Pelly found that despite the woke optics of playlists like Feminist Friday, women are underrepresented on its most popular playlists. (Meanwhile, Drake benefited from Spotifys first global artist takeover, his face and music appearing on every editorialised playlist when he released this years Scorpion.) These function as echo chambers, popularity begetting more support, the antithesis of musical democracy.

Look: I pay my 9.99 a month. I use Spotify to make playlists for friends weddings and to compile 80s curios I discover on TOTP reruns. The genie isnt going back in the bottle. But we can be responsible listeners (I buy albums I listen to more than five times) and hold Spotify to account because the people it is meant to benefit cant. Any platform that intimidates the creators that underwrite its business is truly dystopian. Laura Snapes

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/oct/05/10-years-of-spotify-should-we-celebrate-or-despair

A former female employee alleges that the sales team took boys trips to strip clubs and that an executive was promoted after receiving warnings for sexual harassment

A former Spotify sales executive is suing the music streaming giant for gender discrimination, equal pay violation and defamation. Hong Perez alleges that the Swedish company systematically discriminated against female employees, Variety reports.

Perez alleges that her former boss, the US head of sales Brian Berner, took only male employees to the Sundance independent film festival in 2016 and 17. She says employees spoke of drug use on these boys trips and alleges that one man got into a physical fight during one. She claims these trips excluded more senior women.

Perez claims that in March 2018, Berner was reprimanded by Spotify for accepting free tickets to Madison Square Garden in New York, and that he evaded disciplinary action by blaming her for the situation. She claims that Berner then fired her for violating the companys code of conduct.

A spokesperson for Spotify told Variety: At Spotify, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at any level. While we cannot comment on the specific details of a pending litigation, these claims are without merit.

Perez also claims that another Spotify executive received a promotion after receiving warnings for sexual harassment and that this executive had taken male sales-staff members to strip clubs in Atlantic City. She claims that she raised concerns with a human resources executive over what she perceived as a double standard in how Spotify had treated a male executive it is unclear if she means the same one accused of sexual harassment.

Perezs suit also alleges that men in the sales department received higher compensation and equity than their female counterparts. She quotes the companys chief financial officer as having said that he did not care about diversity at the company and that an HR executive told staffers his favourite swear word was cunt.

Spotify
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in May 2015. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

In July 2018, Spotify published its first public diversity data report. It stated that 38.7% of employees identified as women, with less than 1% identifying as non-binary. The number of female board members, senior executives and women in leadership roles hovered around 30%.

The number of women in management roles had grown by 3.4% to 38.4% in the two-year reporting period to 2018. Only 14.1% of Spotify staff were above the age of 40, showing an increase of 1.2%. In the US, where slightly over half its global staff are based, 50% of staff were white, 14.8% Asian, 6.1% black, 5.5% Hispanic and 2.7% mixed race.

In a statement accompanying the data, Spotify affirmed a need for diversity and a feeling of belonging among staff. It acknowledged the necessity of more work, specifically around increasing the share of senior women leaders and focus on female representation in our technology organisation, diversifying our racial landscape in the US, investing in the intersectional experiences of our employees, and ensuring our service is welcoming to all.

Spotify has run marketing campaigns around social justice issues. In July 2017, the company launched a series titled Im with the banned, which highlighted those who have been historically excluded, including immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

In July 2018, Spotify recorded an 8m rise in its number of subscribers in the second quarter. The number of monthly paying subscribers, which account for the bulk of its revenue, rose to 83m at the end of June from 75m in the first three months of 2018, more than double Apples last reported 40m paid users.

Spotify made its debut as a public company in April 2018, with a so-called direct listing approach. At the end of its first day of trading, the company was valued at $26.5bn (20bn). The stock value has since risen 39% to $33bn.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/sep/19/spotify-sued-gender-discrimination-equal-pay-violation

The Facebook scandal shows that the rules of the internet need to be written by ordinary people, not corporations, says Lizzie OShea, an Australian human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer living in London

Facebooks reckless vanity has made the headlines again, with the revelation that data it held on about 50 million users was exploited commercially without their consent, and that when Facebook found out about this, it did pathetically little. We only know this thanks to the bravery of a whistleblower. This is yet another scandal in atroubled period for the company, with a growing sense that it is all profit, no responsibility. But the current malaise goes wider than Facebook. On the internet more widely, the advertising-supported model has demanded its payout, and as a result our experience of the web is getting worse. Like rats scrambling to get back on a sinking ship, senior former-Facebookers are lining up to express regrets. It all feels too little, too late.

The problem of large corporations posing a threat to democracy is an old one. Monopolies that vest control of markets in a single person create a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government, declared US senator John Sherman in 1890, when he introduced his eponymous act, which became the cornerstone of American competition law. Facebook looks increasingly like digital royalty, and not in a good way. It controls vast amounts of our data and curates what we read with a mysterious and mercurial flair. As the Cambridge Analytica files show, the platform appears to prioritise advertisers over users, and doesnt do enough to control how the data it collects is handled by third parties. Of course, Facebook is not the only offender: Amazon and Google have enough fingers in enough pies to make digital oligarchies a problem we can no longer ignore. But what is to be done? How could we make a platform such as Facebook less autocratic?

In the first place, it is critical that we understand this as a systemic problem with the business model. With that in mind, we could follow Shermans example and break up the market using anti-trust laws. But there are also ways to create alternatives from the bottom up. Governments and regulators could foster the conditions in which alternative networks with more democratic foundations could flourish.

One way to do this is to increase transparency and public participation around rule-making for digital platforms. For an example of what this means, we can look to Wikipedia. It has its problems, but it is aremarkable example of how to make decisions as acommunity, rather than a company. The method by which articles on Wikipedia are produced is governed by a set of rules that have been determined collectively, over time. There are arguments, there is consensus, and there is everything in between all of which is documented for anyone to see.

Compare this with Facebooks decree that its news feed would prioritise personal stories over media content, without any apparent indication that it considered the impact on journalism. Or its equally clunky attempt to survey users about who should decide whether child-grooming content should be permitted on the platform.

The Facebook executive team is clearly unaccustomed to managing democratic processes and genuine community collaboration. But it is possible to imagine a social network where users have a say in how, for example, our daily news feed is curated, and where each choice we make isnt used by some tech giant as an opportunity to monetise our data. We need to start collaborating on the design of rules, create a culture of transparency among platforms and have discussions about what constitutes the public good. It is often said that the spaces for discussion created by social media companies are the 21st-century equivalent of the town square or public meeting. We cannot continue to leave the decisions about how to organise these to the private sector.

If we want to create alternative services and give them a chance to grow, we will need ambitious programmes of public investment. Platforms organised around the public good will need to be resourced to build a user base, and it is time we stopped pretending that venture capitalists are any kind of proper substitute for public money and oversight. There are precedents for this. Minitel in France, for example, is often scoffed at in Silicon Valley, but actually worked pretty well. Minitel was a publicly supported informatics system before the modern internet, and boomed thanks to government investment. Anyone with a French telephone line could get a Minitel monitor for free and make use of the hybrid public-private network between the late 1970s and 1990s. It looked abit like agovernment information service and a bit like Craigslist, where people could access information, buy things and hang out in chatrooms without anyone using these as data farms for black-ops marketing.

We have many good reasons to be wary of governments controlling the internet. But investment in infrastructure does not have to be synonymous with state spying. Interestingly, Minitel was built in such a way that users retained a form of anonymity. There was a central money-collecting service (a bit like how the Apple store today sells books, music and streaming services). But service providers were never given an itemised bill, sothey did not know who their users were.

Minitel was still centralised, however: all communications had to go through one node. So while we can learn from its example, we also need to allow people to communicate and collaborate without replicating this weakness. What this means is a return to the days before the big tech companies and spooks oversaw the concentration of web activity through central nodes. The internet began as a decentralised network, but market consolidation has effectively changed this, even if its technical underpinnings have remained unchanged. This is what pioneers including Sir Tim Berners-Lee mean when they talk about the need for a re-decentralisation of the web.

Modern technological capabilities mean that this objective is within our grasp. Projects such as Berners-Lees Solid offer a glimpse of what might be possible, by allowing people to control and port their data to different services. The blockchain also has the potential well beyond cryptocurrencies to help people deal with each other without having to rely on a centralised platform or ledger. We have the technical capacity to chat, cooperate and trade directly with each other, without relying on private platforms that measure value in ad revenue.

The internets inherent value and power come from the fact that it is globally interoperable and decentralised, writes the internet freedom advocate Rebecca MacKinnon. Everybody can add value to the network, without having to get permission. The basic technical protocols that allow this kind of collaboration are still in place, but the profit motive and market centralisation have undermined their effectiveness.

We need transparent and participatory approaches to rule making, public investment in digital infrastructure that does not facilitate state snooping, and decentralised forms of data management. Without these kinds of changes, we are unable fully to make use of the enormous resources generated by a network of billions of people. We also, as the news about Facebook has made frighteningly clear, risk undermining the democratic processes that hold wealth and privilege accountable.

Lizzie OShea is an Australian human rights lawyer, broadcaster and writer living in London

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/20/digital-oligarchs-rewire-web-facebook-scandal

The YouTube star claimed he was trying to raise awareness of mental health issues by filming a dead body. Its time to stop using this meaningless phrase, says Emily Reynolds, who writes regularly about mental health

The words outcry as YouTube star posts video of dead body in Japan are so ludicrous, almost nonsensical, that they may as well have come from a random 2017 headline generator. Unfortunately, they dont.

Logan Paul, a 22-year-old vlogger, has been castigated across the internet for publishing a video showing the body of a suicide victim in Aokigahara, a forest near Mount Fuji notorious as a site for multiple suicides every year. Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul (no relation) told Paul he should rot in hell; even Piers Morgan described him as a sick, twisted, heartless little prick.

Pauls YouTube channel has over 15 million subscribers, so its no surprise that a number of fans are already attempting to explain away his behaviour, many with the hashtag #Logan_you_are_forgiven. These fans are in the minority, though, and rightly so. Filming the body of a victim of suicide and posting it online for all to see is unforgivable behaviour refusing to give the victim any dignity in death, completely disregarding the distress it may cause their loved ones, failing to take into consideration the millions of young viewers exposed to the scene, and displaying a very disturbing lack of empathy in the process.

His excuse? He was trying to raise awareness.

Thats obvious nonsense. Media guidelines on reporting suicide are clear: the Samaritans guide on reporting standards plainly state that outlets must exercise caution when referring to the methods and context of a suicide a point that includes not giving too much detail on specific methods. Dignity and decency aside, Pauls video clearly fails to live up to these standards. But there is something in his use of raising awareness that speaks to something beyond this single incident.

Awareness raising came into its own in 2017, with decades worth of campaigns by mental health charities and activists finally gaining mainstream attention. So far, so good: its undeniable that testimonies from those with long-term mental health conditions have started to massively destigmatise elements of mental illness, depression and anxiety, particularly. But, somehow, awareness raising became a behemoth. In recent months Ive had coffee shop windows and soap packaging exhort me to be aware of mental illness, and its even been used in workplaces across the country as a way to improve the efficiency and productivity of workers not quite the stigma-busting change of heart that many of us had in mind when we first started campaigning for awareness.

The primary goal of much visible mental health activism became raising awareness, and it completely dominated the media: articles, books, TV shows all firmly focused on the idea of breaking down stigma. The actual day-to-day realities of people with chronic mental illness were seemingly unimportant it didnt seem to matter what they needed or how they felt, just as long as we knew they were there. The politics of mental health the impact that austerity has on the lives of mentally ill people, as well as poverty, racism, lack of access to services have broadly been ignored in favour of simply encouraging people to talk.

Its now reached the point where awareness raising is used to excuse all sorts of problematic behaviours. Hundreds of articles are published every year making sweeping, unverified statements about mental illness and giving potentially dangerous advice; the NMEs unapproved use of Stormzy as a poster boy for depression was apparently an attempt to raise awareness of an issue that weve been inspired to talk about following your comments; and Theresa May claimed that her government would reduce stigma while simultaneously placing services under obscene pressure via unrelenting cuts to the NHS.

Pauls claim is a similarly transparent attempt to get himself off the hook to excuse his despicable behaviour and, probably most pertinently for him, to prevent the loss of his 15 million YouTube subscribers. But though his excuse is undeniably galling, its also now par for the course. Awareness raising is so ubiquitous a phrase that it has been rendered utterly meaningless.

Genuine awareness raising thoughtful, responsible testimonies from people living with mental illness or disability is invaluable. But when a term can be so easily utilised to justify even the most horrifying behaviour, its probably time we found a new one.

Emily Reynolds is a freelance journalist based in Berlin

  • In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/03/logan-paul-youtube-suicide-mental-health-raise-awareness

The supposedly rhetorical question resulted in an avalanche of responses, with people suggesting heroines ranging from pirates to Holocaust survivors

A viral tweet about the female power embodied by Taylor Swift has inadvertently prompted an avalanche of stories about strong women throughout history, including Malala Yousafzai, Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf.

On 10 November Twitter user Nutella posed the rhetorical question: Name a badder bitch than Taylor Swift.

The internet took the invitation literally and by Monday the post had more than 7,000 replies.

Nutella (@xnulz)

Name a bitch badder than Taylor Swift

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/04/internet-rises-to-the-challenge-to-name-a-badder-than-taylor-swift

YouTube, social media and even Bitcoin are allowing musicians to reject major labels and go it alone but the industry is fighting back. Can artists use technology to stay truly independent?

All the hits … Bugzy Malones video for Moving has been viewed almost 10m times on YouTube.

The guys are cool and massively helpful, he says of ADA. But theyre taking the lead from me and what it is that I want to do. They are there to back up the vision and be on the wagon that is already moving.

Yet record companies still profit from deals such as Bugzys and take a cut of artists earnings. Plus, their grip on companies offering services to independent artists is getting tighter. Sony Music now fully owns distribution firm The Orchard, while, on the label-services side, Warner Music owns ADA, Universal Music owns Caroline International and Kobalt owns AWAL (Artists Without a Label). All the record labels, major and indie, have an equity stake in Spotify.

But while the teeth marks of the old music business can be found in the emerging one, there are still ways acts can remain totally independent.

Benji Rogers set up direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic in 2009 to allow acts to pre-sell, distribute and market their music. It turns out that direct communication makes the artist the most money, he says. Rogers is also an early investor in SuperPhone a supercharged communication and engagement tool built by musician Ryan Leslie, whereby all contacts and fans are managed through one phone number. He is not in the mainstream, says Rogers. He is literally the definition of independent.

Leslie was signed to Universal, but left to pursue a career where technology would give him the independence to create a new type of fan engagement that he felt the label system was too ossified to bend towards.

Selena Gomez has 128 million Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums, says Leslie of the fundamental disconnect between social media profile and sales, from where the idea for SuperPhone sprang. What I realised is that social media connections are very weak.

Selena
She has 128m Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums … Selena Gomez. Photograph: Chris Polk/Getty Images

In 2013, he gave his phone number to his Twitter followers to sign them up to SuperPhone. Within six months, 35,000 people had texted the number and, of that, 33,000 had responded to an automated request for more information about themselves. The following year, he went on tour and announced it to his fan database. We sold 40,000 tickets with no label, no manager and no PR, he says. All straight off SuperPhone.

After raising $75,000 in seed funding, he opened it up to all artists, including rappers such as Lil Wayne and Cardi B. They are all vetted in advance, so that they dont abuse the tools to spam fans, but rather use it carefully to maintain regular contact with them. Success, in any iteration, happens at the speed of communication, he says.

All this comes as a reaction against the three-card trick Facebook has played on users: if you have a million followers, at best 2% of your audience will stumble across your posts, unless you pay Facebook to boost them, according to research by Ogilvy.

Quick Guide

Five tips for staying independent in music

Think like an entrepreneur

Young aspiring artists are also aspiring entrepreneurs, says Ryan Leslie, suggesting they find at least five key contacts for every part of their career from lawyers and producers to video directors and graphic designers. The top five in each category will hopefully be the nucleus that will catapult your career.

Be a digital polymath

Its about making sure you are across as many platforms as possible and utilising all of them, suggests Luke Hood. No one wants to rely on one revenue stream.

Avoid sales tactics

Dont try and sell anything to people, even music, proposes Sephi Shapira. Just monetise the engagement with the consumer.

Own everything

Its one thing to license copyrights for a while, but its entirely another thing to give them up in perpetuity, says Tim Clark. It is the same thing with data.

Be outgoing even if you dont feel like it

You have to be tenacious, says Brian Message. If you are a bit of a shoegazer in your bedroom, it will be a lot tougher than being a gregarious personality who is driven.

Every artist you know is in some way, shape or form paying Facebook and Instagram to reach their fans, argues Rogers. What you get here is a sickness cycle. Would I build my business on Facebook? Hell, no! Because, in their business, I am the product. What is it giving me back?

In a similar vein, social app EscapeX was set up to decentralise social media and give artists new levels of autonomy by putting them, rather than the major social networks, in charge of their communities. The engagement economy is different, argues Sephi Shapira, the companys CEO. Its not really the amount of fans that you have; its how engaged you are and the spending power of your fans.

Thirteen-year-old Danielle Cohn a megastar on lip-sync video app Musical.ly, where she has more than 8 million followers recently signed up with EscapeX to take more control of her fanbase. In the app, she has a monthly subscription option, but Shapira says this only accounts for 10% of the money she makes there. The other 90% comes from fans paying to rocket themselves up the leaderboard to be in her top-three fans, where, according to the apps description, they will be guaranteed to be seen by Dani Cohn effectively buying their way into her line of vision.

The Faustian pact of these apps and social media platforms is that musicians get data about their fans in return, but become dependent on the service in question still being in business and relevant six months from now. As MySpace crumbled, artists made SoundCloud the main place to upload their music. But SoundCloud is teetering on the brink of insolvency, recently laying off 40% of its staff and raising emergency funding of $170m to stay afloat. If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools.

German
If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools … German songwriter Bibi Bourelly at a SoundCloud event. Photograph: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Musician and tech activist Mat Dryhurst believes, however, that a new wave of funding and technological disruption is brewing that will finally put artists in the driving seat moving them beyond apps and social media altogether and propping up their underground communities in perpetuity.

He laments a world in which platforms rise and fall based, not on a lack of demand, but on a lack of ability to return profits to a small group of venture capitalists. He argues that the cryptocurrency community the people behind online cash such as Bitcoin could create alternative to the ad-funded models beloved of Silicon Valley.

He suggests an ICO initial coin offering to fund a music hosting and sharing platform a kind of cryptocurrency IPO. It would allow for open-source utopian developers to raise significant amounts of money with an engaged user base and build something potentially revolutionary, he says.

Its best thought of as crowdowning we could distribute governance of these platforms to the people who care the most about them. In return for your contribution, you receive something of value that can be used within the ecosystem and also potentially a portion of ownership that gives you decision-making rights.

Royalties are possible under a cooperative model, like Resonate.iss proposed model for more equitable streaming payments. You could also make membership and uploading entirely free in return for contributing value in other ways to the platform. One artist making the first steps into this space is Bjork, whose new album, Utopia, can be purchased using various cryptocurrencies.

SuperPhone, EscapeX and ICO-powered platforms are early indicators of a self-sustaining 21st-century counterculture. In that world, artists own and control everything data, copyrights, fan relationships. For now, however, they are trapped, toggling between Tin Pan Alley and Silicon Valley.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/22/we-could-build-something-revolutionary-how-tech-set-underground-music-free

‘Destruction of the most satisfying kind’: in praise of Netflix’s ‘skip intro’ button

The credits for prestige dramas are often turgid monuments to codswallop which is why this tool is the greatest invention of this century

Last year, Kanye West embarked upon a self-aggrandising seven-minute monologue during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show. As this monologue hit full speed, West bellowed the following statement to nobody in particular: Picasso is dead, Walt Disney is dead, Steve Jobs is dead. Name someone living that you can name in the same breath as them.

This question has remained unanswered until now. Because, although I dont know the name of the genius in question, an heir has finally been discovered. The pattern now goes Picasso, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and whoever invented Netflixs skip intro button.

Im increasingly of the persuasion that this tool is the greatest invention of the 21st century so far. Its certainly the most satisfying. If youre yet to experience its magnificent wonders, let me walk you through it, step by glorious step. You turn on Netflix. You choose a show. Its interminable title sequence lurches into action. A little rectangular button pops up in the bottom right of the screen. It says skip intro. You hit it. As if by magic, the title sequence goes away and youre slap-bang into the show itself. Its miraculous.

One little-discussed downside of Peak TV is that 95% of all title sequences are terrible. This is because there are too many prestige dramas and theyre all trying to prove that theyre more prestigious than the others. The fastest way for them to do this is to hurl every last ounce of pretension they can at the opening sequence. The signifiers have almost become rote now: if theres atonal music and tiny writing and you start to lose the will to live about halfway through, you know this must be a really important series.

Prestigious opening titles have become such a lazy trope that lesser shows are starting to misuse them. The intro to Star Trek: Discovery, for instance, is as toweringly self-important as anything since the first series of The Leftovers. It is a monument to codswallop, dripping with references to the Renaissance up to and including Michelangelos fresco of The Creation of Adam, set to the sort of ambient chiming they play in tall lifts to stop people from freaking out.

Worse still, just when you think its done because the words Star Trek Discovery pop up it lumbers on for 13 more agonising seconds. This would be good if Star Trek: Discovery was actually prestigious, but it isnt. Its a workaday spin-off of three or four better predecessors. Show me someone who wouldnt skip the Star Trek: Discovery intro, given the chance, and Ill show you a masochist.

Same with Mindhunter. Its title sequence is novel the first time around hey, a tape recorder really does look like a bit like a dead persons face! but watching all 95 seconds of it 10 times in a row, and listening to the title music, which sounds like someone tuning a railway station piano as slowly as possible, is too much to ask. We just want to see some serial killers. Of course were going to skip the intro.

Netflix has toyed with intro-skipping before. It used to start episodes automatically once the opening titles were finished, but the lack of choice irritated some. Now, though, you need only hit a button and bang the whole thing blows up, never to be seen again. Its destruction of the most satisfying kind. Its the televisual equivalent of being a drone pilot. I cant get enough of it.

In an ideal world, all title sequences would be as short as the one for The Good Place, which is just a momentary white-on-green screen. A sequence like that proves that the show is desperate to tell you as much story as it can before time runs out. It tells you theres no time to waste. Its exciting. But, until that happens, at least weve got this magical button. Its unknown creator should step forward immediately, so we can all throw flowers at them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/nov/08/in-praise-of-netflix-skip-intro-button