Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.
This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.
As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.
Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.
I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.
In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.
It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.
I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.
We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.
Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.
Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.
* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan
This fall, I began working tangentially in the tech industry coordinating volunteers, who inspire and empower kids by teaching them to code, for a local non-profit called Kids Code Jeunesse. In light of recent and troubling events making headlines and spreading like wildfire over social media, I thought it necessary to speak with local #WomenInTech and hear about their perspectives and to discuss gender in the Tech and Gaming industry, and mostly, to learn from them, for myself and my work, and to share that knowledge with others.
Firstly, I spoke with Carolyn Jong, who is an organizer at the Mount Royal Game Society and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre. Jong has been involved in many projects including making games of her own, and looking at intersectionality in gaming cultures. She is also an active member of Montreal’s indie game community.
A few days before we met for the interview, Jong hosted a discussion on recent events, including threats of a massacre at a feminist speaking event on the topic of gaming that would be given at a school, and about the “hate and harassment campaign,” also known as #GamerGate, with its persecution of game designer Zoe Quinn and others. Jong felt that there was a need for local collective conversation about what had been happening.
According to Jong, in terms of discussing issues affecting women in tech and games, there is a whole gamut of reactions. Some people recognize the issues and work towards addressing them while, on the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be two types of reactions: one of dismissal (“There are no issues!”) and another of a more aggressive nature.
Jong noted the irony of the dismissive response, which forces those seeking to address gender issues to keep close tabs on research and statistics, in order to demonstrate the “realness” of an issue that they may have experienced first hand. On the other hand, the more aggressive reaction is linked to power, privilege, and fear: “It’s complicated and part of a much bigger trend. This is a reactionary response.” In her blog post, “GamerGate and the Right,” Jong explores the disturbing nature GamerGate and its relationship with other movements and politics more in depth.
There are many initiatives aimed at bringing women in the industry together (such as GAMERella) along with initiatives aimed at getting young girls interested in tech and games (Girls Who Code, Ladies Learning Code). Jong has been involved with some of these groups, including the local group Pixelles, and has found meeting others with similar experiences and looking to address similar issues has also been a validating experience.
“For my own experience at least, it has been inspiring,” Jong explained. “These spaces have kind of given me, this sounds corny but, the strength to keep pushing on [addressing gender issues]. It would be really hard to do that kind of work because it’s not something that tends to be rewarded in other places.”
“I’m hoping,” Jong emphasized, “that the sort of push to get girls and women involved in games is going to branch out to include other people that have been marginalized or minoritized in circles. Current movements tend to be inclusive and aware of these issues but I’m hoping other initiatives specifically addressing these groups will emerge.”
Second, I chatted with Julia Evans, a Montreal-based web developer and data scientist, who organizes monthly events for programmer women with the Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. She also co-founded the local chapter of PyLadies Montreal.
“My daily experience in this community is mostly of super wonderful people, but for lots of women (and other minorities), it’s not like that. They work with people who routinely don’t take their work seriously or sexually harass them or just exclude them in a series of minor ways every day,” Evans recounted. “The more friends I make, who are women who work in this industry, the more I hear about [how] super competent wonderful technical women regularly get harassed and threatened. There’s a lot of really blatant sexism.”
These incidents of blatant sexism range from the microaggressive and discriminatory, to flagrant misogyny. Evans cited the blog posts of two women, Cate Huston and Julie Pagano, who publicly left the tech industry or community as an example of the types of issues women face. Evans also cited as evidence of blatant sexism how Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, dismissed women’s abilities to write security exploits. Recently, the CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, responded to a question for advice for women who might be nervous to ask for a raise with a statement that they should not ask for a raise but trust in the system to pay them what they should earn. Problematic to say the least. There exists, and Evans pointed to it, a timeline of sexist incidents at the Wiki for Geek Feminism which includes the École Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
For Evans, who is used to the kinds of environments that welcome a diversity of programmers, it comes as a shock to attend conferences where 98% of the people in the room are men. “What went wrong here? This is not what a developer community is,” Evans recounts thinking in these situations. She finds it really upsetting that it would be considered normal to have a conference with an overwhelming majority of men when there is a considerable and established presence of women in programming already. Moreover, Evans nods to the magazine Model View Culture as highlighting the already existing diversity in tech whilst addressing and offering solutions to some of the barriers present.
Evans, like Jong, pointed to the importance of spaces which recognize these issues and aim to make change. Initiatives like AdaCamp, a women-only conference around open technology and culture, and workshops like Hacker School where, Evans explained “people work incredibly hard on making sure everyone is taken seriously and that everyone is given an equal chance to learn and grow.” Evans recommends reading a post by fellow Hacker School attendee Sumana titled “Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test” which highlights the diversity of women and their conversations in tech spaces.
Forget The Box would like to thank Julia Evans and Carolyn Jong for their time and for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us.
One of the biggest criticisms of internet activism is that it does nothing except make you feel good. You can share a status, sign a petition or change your Facebook profile pic and feel your job is done when it’s anything but. I Can Go Without hopes to change that with a new app that gives conscious consumers the chance to go without daily purchases like a cup of coffee or a cab ride and give that money to the efficient, sustainable charity of their choice immediately.
“The conscious consumer is the single largest potential force for good in the world,” said ICGW co-founder Paul Rowland in an interview at this month’s Jeudi d’Apollo. “They’ve already revolutionized the whole cosmetics industry to be more aware of what they’re doing. Everybody recycles now, that’s conscious consumerism.”
The team came up with the idea over breakfast. There was a famine happening at the time with a billion dollar shortfall in aid. Realizing that Facebook was close to getting its billionth member, they thought that one group of people could help the other.
“What if everybody today went without one coffee and just gave that money to this fund? Let’s say it’s a three dollar coffee,” Rowland recounted their thinking, “they would have three times the money they needed. It’s this social hive philanthropy of people getting together. That’s the ultimate dream.”
While the ultimate goal may take a while to reach, ICGW already works with charities like the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, Dans La Rue and Oxfam. They’re also in talks with businesses whose models they find ethical and sustainable, to have them match donations the organization receives from individuals.
“When you get involved in this stuff you realize there are a lot of ethical companies trying to do some good,” Rowland observed, explaining that “if you go without, they will go without, too.”
That doesn’t mean that ICGW would take money from just anyone. Access to water, health care, shelter, food and education are the five pillars of the organization and companies whose practices counter any of these pillars wouldn’t be a good match.
But what if, say, a company that makes plastic water bottles, which is not sustainable and works against one of their pillars, came to them with a million dollars? Knowing all the good that they could do with that money, Rowland admits that it wouldn’t be the easiest decision they would have to make, but their principles would definitely play a huge part in it.
“It’s a whole jigsaw puzzle,” he explained, “and all those pieces interact with each other and have an effect, so if we’re supporting water and trying to make sure that it is accessible to everyone, then advocating plastic bottles, it doesn’t make any sense.”
This could be one of the reasons why their focus remains squarely on small amounts from individuals. After all, it’s not like they’re asking people to give up their Ferraris (though Rowland admits they wouldn’t say no if someone did want to go without a sports car and donate to a cause).
“I love beer, I love wine,” Rowland says, “but I’m pretty sure that in one month I could drink one less beer or have one less glass of wine. It’s not really a big ask.”
Coffee Town is the first feature film from the online fun-house that is College Humor. The film stars Glenn Howerton, who runs his online business from his laptop out of the local cafe (commute much?). When he hears that the owner is planning on turning the place into a sleazy nightclub he and his buddies try to stop it.
The interesting thing about Coffee Town is that for years College Humor has been drawing in massive online audiences with their comedy shorts, articles and memes but this is their first foray into feature film. The film, apart from having an all star cast, (Coffee Town is written and directed by Brad Copeland, Arrested Development, and stars Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and singer Josh Groban) is following an alternative distribution model. By-passing theatrical release, the film is banking on digital distribution as it’s primary means of income generation. Films have been doing this for a little while now but Coffee Town is the first to rely solely on it’s online reputation to carry the film.
The film is showing this Saturday evening at Just For Laughs and will be accompanied by a Q&A with writer/director Brad Copeland, Ben, Glenn and Adrianne. You can get tickets through Just for Laughs or you can download it via iTunes and other on-demand platforms.
When: Saturday, July 27 at 7:00pm
Where: Place Des Arts – Cinquième Salle, 175 St-Catherine W., Montréal
Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:
Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.
I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”
What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”
And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs. It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.
So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early. The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque. And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.
We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”
We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.
Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.
There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.
You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.
We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.
It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.
So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use. I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.
Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it. It’s about the participation all the way through. So we just elongated the way in which you can do this. Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.
I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.
That’s a great one. You’re right.
In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.
And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it? Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?
What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.
Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.
How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?
We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.
We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.
Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.” I didn’t want to do that.
How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?
We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.
It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.
Wow! I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?
Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.
So all languages? All genres?
All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.
What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?
I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.
It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.
People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.
Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things. Our job is to help with that.