Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sneak Preview

Okay, not much I can really say about this... but here's a preview of my upcoming Machinema series. I quite like how this turned out:

Unfortunately, Blogger compresses the ever-living hell out of the video, so you're only getting a very rough idea (just pretend you're watching through a pair of really greasy specs).

Anyway, the series is going to be another Minecraft 'Let's Play' series like I'm doing now, only this one will be played on the 'Ultra Hostile' map 'The Infernal Sky' by Vechs.

I hope you guys head over to my channel and check it out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's a Lecture....

I was talking to my brother today when he suggested a topic for today's post.

Apparently, there's a comedian here in the UK who writes a regular column in one of the newspapers and he caused a bit of a stink by saying he never reads his comments because they're usually negative or rude.

My brother's angle on this story was to suggest I write about how this comedian shouldn't be writing a column in the first place if he's not willing to listen to feedback. Basically, his opinion is that if you're not interested in your audience's opinion, you shouldn't be writing for them.

I agreed to write a post on this subject...but I'm coming at it from the totally opposite angle. As a creator myself, I completely and totally understand (and even support) this comedian's point of view.

You see, the mistaken assumption here is that the people who comment on any given article are a representative cross section of that article's audience and all their opinions have merit. If that were the case, I'd agree completely with my brother... but as anyone who has ever posted anything on the Internet can tell you,  that that's just not true.

From this blog, my Podcast and my YouTube videos I can tell you the pattern is always the same:

Around 95% of your audience won't interact with you in any way besides consuming whatever it is you've created. They'll turn up, read your post (or watch your video, etc) and leave. For example, I get roughly one comment per 100 blog views, and about two or three comments/ratings per 100 YouTube video views.

The remaining five percent are the ones who will interact. They're the ones who will click a 'like' or 'dislike' button or leave a comment...but here's the rub: In any given situation, people are far more likely to express negativity than positivity. The same person who won't bother clicking a 'thumbs up' button on something he likes will be more than willing to create an account, send a confirmation email, wait an hour to be verified and then take four attempts at a captcha to tell you that you suck.

In other words, someone who comments on an article is usually skewed towards one extreme or another. They either love you or they hate you...and if they disagree, they aren't going to respond to your article with a well though out rebuttal to your argument...they're just going to say they've fucked your mum or you should go die in a fire.

In other words, even though comments sections were designed for discussion, what you're most likely to find is over the top, gushing fans or foul-mouthed trolls.

However, I think my second point is the more important one.

Personally, I think the Internet has totally skewed the way we view the creator/audience relationship. What was once a one way street has now become far more of a two way conversation.

But here's the thing, an article, blog post or column in a newspaper really isn't a conversation, it's far more like a lecture.

For example, let's say that you write an article and it gets published in a major magazine. What you're essentially doing is telling the world at large that this is your opinion... then I come along... and I dislike your article.... In fact, I absolutely hate it.

Now, ask yourself a question. In the above situation, as one of your readers, what exactly do you owe me?

Are you required to listen to my opinion? Do you have to change your opinion to please me? Do you owe me an equal forum so I can express my opinion and publicly disagree with you?

Of course not. All you did was write an article.

Take this blog, for instance. This is my forum where I express my ideas and opinions. If I write something you disagree with, you're more than welcome to comment... and there's a very good chance I'll read it...in fact, if it's well thought out and well written, you may even change my opinion... but I don't have to read it.

Right now, our relationship is one between a creator and consumer. By your being here, the only implied relationship is that I'm going to write something and you're going to read it. I don't owe you a say...and I'm no more obligated to listen to your opinion than you're obligated to listen to mine.

Basically, buying a movie ticket doesn't mean the actors are obligated to listen to us critique their acting. Going to a concert doesn't mean the musicians are obligated to listen to our opinion on how they could improve their songs...

People are angry because a writer said he didn't read his readers' opinions of his work, even though the law of averages state that 99% of those opinions are from the idiots and trolls.

That would be like me getting mad at Pavarotti because he ignored me when I said he was a fat cunt who should sing in English.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rebecca Black

Ok, this is something that's been bugging me for a while.

In case you have no idea who Rebecca Black is, let me sum up the story for you:

14 year old girl has a single and music video produced by a 'vanity publisher'. Video ends up on Youtube. Video goes viral as 'the worst song ever'. Shit hits fan.

If you've never seen the video, here it is:

Now, first, let me address the controversy. Black has apparently been pulled out of school due to bullying and has recieved 'death threats'.

Rebecca Black has never recieved a death threat. What she has recieved is a bunch of youtube comments by idiot kids along the lines of "zomg ur video is so terable if i see u in the street ill run u ova wit my car"... and the traditional media, who apparently have no idea what the internet is like, have grabbed that with both hands because it makes the story more sensational.

As for the bullying? Well...probably, but it's not anything really out of the ordinary. I remember highschool. Highschool is all about trying to be as average as possible. If you're too intelligent, you're a nerd, not intelligent enough, you're thick...in other words, if you do anything that places you outside the norm, you're going to get bullied and made fun of.

I guarantee that there are twenty or thirty other kids in Rebecca Black's old school who are facing exactly the same level of bullying because their parents are poor, or because they suck at sports or because they're the first (or last) in their year to start developing breasts...but that doesn't exactly warrant a news story.

Basically, I have a really hard time feeling sorry for Rebecca Black. If I were her, I'd be enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame and be laughing all the way to the bank. As well as appearing on multiple TV shows, getting major radio play and her song being bought as a novelty on iTunes she's earning approximately $24,900 a week. Not bad for mom and dad's initial investment of $4000, wouldn't you say?

All I'm going to say is that if I was walking through school and my classmates 'kept singing my song at me in a really nasally voice', I'd pull out the three and a half grand I'd earned that day, blow my nose on a hundred, check my Rolex and walk on.

Even better, when the novelty wears off and people have moved onto the next viral star, with the whole bullying, hate-mail and death threat angle, I gunarantee she's a phonecall away from a book deal about her 'harrowing experience' (Hey if fucking Snooki can get a book deal, so can Rebecca Black).

But, anyway, the main thing I want to talk about is the song itself.

Is it the 'worst song ever'? Really?

Don't get me wrong, it's truly awful. The melody is annoying, the lyrics are bland and nonsensical... but slap that song on the radio between a Justin Bieber and a Britney Spears track and I wouldn't bat a frigging eyelid.

Basically, Rebecca Black is just another bland, cookie-cutter teen pop singer, but she made the mistake of releasing a single without a multi-million dollar marketing department behind her to explain to the public that she's not shit.

If Rebecca Black had been introduced to the world as Simon Cowell's protege, 'Friday' would have been a number one smash and we'd all be talking about how 'Friday' is a genius commentary on modern pop.

Basically, I think we can all see how ridiculous the whole situation has gotten when Justin Bieber starts taking the piss out of 'Friday's' lyrics:

Yeah, Bieber, because you're such a fucking artist.

'Tomorrow is Saturday and sunday comes afterwards' is a pretty fucking terrible lyric, but I'd hardly say that "Let's go...jump on my skateboard and eat some cake along the lake," is the lyrical masterpiece you think it is.

I think we all need some perspective here. On the one hand we have a poor little rich girl who got her mom and dad to stump up four grand so she can have a music video and it went viral... on the other hand, we have a seventeen year old kid selling millions of bland, manufactured cookie-cutter records, with massive success, who actually referred to himself as the 'Kurt Cobain' of his generation.

The problem isn't that Rebecca Black released a shitty record and got called on it...it's the fact there are so many 'Rebecca Blacks' out there that people take seriously.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Something Else to Annoy Me. Also, Advice

Today, I finished my 25th Let's Play video and have it chambered and ready to upload in a few days. (I record about an hour and a half at a time, break that into 15-20 minute episodes and upload a new one every day).

I appear to have finally started to 'break through' this week. I'm getting an average of thirty views per video in the first few hours after an upload, and I appear to be gaining subscribers at one or two a day. (Yeah, I know, that's nothing by youtube standards...but it's encouraging to start getting noticed considering I've been doing this for less than three weeks).

Unfortunately, this puts me in a really annoying position.

You see, at this point I've gained an audience significant enough for other youtubers to want me to plug and/or link to their videos, but not so significant that they feel they're wasting their time in asking me.

To me, that's just not cool...and makes absolutely zero sense. If I had a dedicated audience of thousands, I'd be happy to throw a beginner a bone and give them a link if I liked their videos....but as a beginner myself with a tiny audience, if think your videos are good, the last thing I want to do is redirect my small audience to you...and if I think your videos are crap, I'm obviously not going to endorse them.

Basically, get a similar number of subscribers to me and we'll talk. At this point, the best case scenario is I just give you the audience that I've worked my ass off for.

But now for a spot of advice.

As well as the handful of people asking for a direct plug, I've gotten more messages than I can count from people who have seen that I'm making minecraft videos, so they ask me to watch their videos (and, of course, subscribe)... not through a comment, mind you, but by sending me a direct, private message asking me to check out their video.

Not only is this completely unwanted spam...99.9% of these all have one thing in common. The channel was created within the last week, and there's a single, solitary five minute video up.

I've mentioned this before about blogging, but it also applies here, if not more so:

If you want to build up an audience, the first thing you do is create good content. Worry about the marketing later. There's no point getting people into your store if you have nothing to sell them.

To me, it just appears that the majority of the internet has things backwards. They want the big audience, the praise and the adulation before they put the work in...and if you need a huge crowd of people to cheer you on before you write a blog post or upload a video, you're not going to keep at it anyway.

Put simply, if I land on someone's youtube video and enjoy it...and they have ten other current videos that show they update consistently...I'm going to bookmark their channel, watch their back catalogue and keep checking back. If I land on someone's channel and they have one or two videos that were uploaded two months apart...I'm not going to waste my time.

Basically, if you want to create something, do it for the sheer joy of making something. The more you do it, the better you'll get and the more likely people with actually want to see it. Once you've got some quality work online, you'll grow an audience.

It doesn't matter how many eyes you get to your website if they visit once and never return, and until you have some worthwhile content, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Two sides...

I read a news story this morning with the wonderfully unbiased headline proclaiming "The young girl being ripped from her family to live with her Mum's ex...in the US!"

Sound's horrible, doesn't it? There's obviously been an error somewhere, some tragic mistake that's going to send this poor little girl kicking and screaming to live with someone she knows while her loving family stand helplessly by.

Well, turns out that's not quite the case. When you read the story, you find things are almost completely the other way around.

Now, no-one is mentioned by name for legal reasons, but here's what's happening when you boil it down to the bare facts.

The mother of this child (who apparently has learning difficulties and a low IQ) got pregnant with this child from a 'casual relationship' (read: one night stand). Five months into the pregnancy...and this is important, bear in mind that this is before the child was born... she starts dating this American guy, marrying him shortly after the baby is born.

Two years into their marriage they divorce... and the child's mother fucks off and leaves the baby with the American, who then raises the child for six years with help from the child's grandmother. Also during this time, they have the birth certificate re-registered, naming the American guy as the child's father.

Then, the American decides he wants to go home and, obviously, take his daughter with him... and now the child's blood family are up in arms...and the papers claim that this child is being torn from her 'family' to live with her 'mum's ex'.

I've said a million times before that the word 'Parent' is a job description and not an honorary title. Getting someone pregnant doesn't make you a father and giving birth doesn't make you a mother. A parent is someone who loves, takes care of and raises a child... not someone who gets knocked up in a nightclub and fucks off after a couple of months.

This American guy was there before the child was born. He raised that child in a traditional family unit for two years...and continued to raise and support that child for four years after her own mother left. Now he's moving back to America and wants to take the girl he's raised for six years with him.

You know what I call someone like that? A father.

The re-registered the birth certificate makes this American the child's legal parent anyway, but in this case, legality doesn't come into it.

Who do you think this child is better off with? The step father who's been around and taken care of this child since birth. The man this child has known as 'Dad' since day one... or the family of the woman who had a one night stand and walked out on her own daughter.

Friday, August 12, 2011


In the past I've tried to write about why the Star Wars prequels are such a travesty, and to be honest, it's really hard to do without getting into real geek-speak and nerd talk, but today, I think I've finally worked out a way to prove conclusively why the prequels don't even come close to the original trilogy.

It's got nothing to do with the storyline, backstory or reliance on special effects, it's not about the movie contradicting accepted fan-continuity from the novels...it's straight up bad writing.

So here's how I prove that the Star Wars: Episode 1 wwas a great big pile of shit:

Take any of the main characters from either Episode 1 or Episode 4 and describe them without mentioning the way they look, their costume, their job title or role in the movie. Basically, describe their personality.

With very few exceptions, it's incredibly easy for A New Hope, but just about impossible for The Phantom Menace. For example:

Han Solo: Arrogant, cocky rogue who acts like he's out for himself but is ultimately a good person who cares about others more than he lets on.

Luke Skywalker: A naive, idealistic farmboy dreaming of leaving home and having adventures.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: A wise old wizard, a mysterious mentor. Gravely serious, but also kindly. Subtly pushes people, allowing them to learn what they're capable of.

I'll be completely honest, I've just written a sentence or two each for brevity, but I could easily write a couple hundred words one each character without breaking a sweat, but the prequels?

Qui-Gon Jin: Well, he's a jedi....no that's his job title. He's Obi-Wan's master...no, that's his role....uh, he's a bit stern, I guess?

Obi-Wan Kenobi: He's sits on a ship and complains a lot.

Queen Amidala: Errr.....

Basically, the characters in A New Hope are just that characters. The characters in The Phantom Menace are cardboard cutout plot devices.

Try it for yourself. Take five minutes and describe Princess Leia's personality...now do the same with Queen Amidala.

To put this into perspective, when we're looking at character depth, R2D2, a faceless droid who never talks beyond making weird noises, is a far more developed and likeable character at the end of A New Hope than any prequel character was after three movies.