Sugarless

So my grand experiment on not using this blog as a free billboard is coming to an end today. Did I learn anything from it? Oh yeah. Did I affect anything because of it? That’s a bit harder to gauge.

Let’s start with what I learned. Thing is, I cheated a little bit; I wound up having to drop the generic bit on my micro-blogging service because I realized I used that more as a direct communications tool than I initially thought. Most of my posts on that service had to be ‘branded up’ because they were recommendations to friends and so forth, and going generic would defeat the purpose of the message. I went as long as I could, and tried to keep things generic afterwards when they weren’t replies (such as the miniature painting progress), but that wound up being more or less a failure.

Although, I did realize that there’s a distinct difference between word-of-mouth support for a product or service, and false-grassroots “movements” in support of one. It’s probably unjustly cynical of me to presume malice or monetary impetus for anyone talking up something they like on the web or in real life, but sometimes it’s really hard to tell. In general, though, if someone makes a forum post about something cool they found, they’re not likely to be getting paid for it– particularly if it’s someone you know or trust. (We’ll set aside the issue of whether or not you can really “know” or “trust” someone you’ve only met online for now; I think everyone knows my stance on that, but as with everything it’s not a universal experience.)

Advertising in and of itself is not an evil thing; it’s just been so grossly misused and misapplied in modern society that it can get very overwhelming very quickly. To a certain extent I can sympathize with the views of folks like the Adbusters or their comrades in culture-jamming, even if I think they’re being just a tad bit too radical in their approach. It’s easy to say “f*** it all” and want to just withdraw from the commercial world altogether. Then again, that approach is dangerous as well.

Ads serve a twofold purpose. Their primary purpose in the world today is to garner sales for the product or service depicted in the ad (we’re assuming that the product or service actually is depicted in the ad– I’m looking at you, scuzzy pharmaceutical companies). However, their original purpose, and one which is more or less relegated to a side effect these days, is to inform the populace that a new product or service is available, and to tell the public about it. One can draw a distinction, then, between ads which serve primarily the first function– let’s call them “hypes” (as in Don’t Believe The)– and ads which primarily serve the second function– call those “dopes” (as in The Straight).

Hypes are everything negative associated with advertising. They’re glitzy, flashy, attention-grabbing or in some cases attention-arresting, and offer little to no substantive content. What content a hype may contain is either deceptive, misleading, or in some cases completely false. In computer terms, they’re viruses: they hijack a user’s computer for fairly small slices of time at a time to self-propagate and perform a detriment to the user.

Dopes are the more benign usage of advertising. They are detailed, specific, subtle or even understated, and tend to err on the side of the uncomfortable truth. A dope winds up being obviously an ad, but one that sometimes gets sought out by a consumer. In computer terms, they’re the documentation for some underused command-line arguments on a program: you don’t need it all the time, but when you do seek it out, it tries to present itself as the best solution to your problem, whether or not it actually is or you happen to have the problem it solves.

Modern ads can’t be so clearly and neatly divided into these two categories. How do you define, for example, a particularly pleasant earworm of a jingle? What about a dry, deadpan ad for a slimeball ambulance-chaser portraying himself as legit? Furthermore, the thought that pervasiveness equals success has caused most ads to shoot for viral status over being informative. Witness the titillating ads for a particular domain registrar that pop up every Super Bowl; how many average football watchers are going to give two rats’ asses what a web domain is? It gets worse in that hypes tend to be viral in a very literal sense, “infecting” consumers to the point that they themselves, either knowingly or unknowingly, start spewing hypes: commonly manifested as fanboyism.

I’ll freely admit to starting this month in anger and outrage, but the irritation was mostly with myself. It seems like I was constantly regurgitating the hype mill from some source or another without adding anything meaningful to the commentary. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that my decision on what to talk about and what I didn’t want to talk about was itself a form of commentary, and that most of the time, when I made a post about something commercial, I felt the need to make at least some brief (ha ha) remarks on it. A lot of my irritation was being directed at the aftermath of a few product revelations, or in some cases lack of revelations, that had been going on at the end of January, and as a result I found myself defending a position that wasn’t even mine to begin with. It turns out, though, that taking this month to reflect on my online activity and what I was posting did me a world of good.

It’s probably obvious by now that I’m going to start talking about commercial interests again starting tomorrow; I’ve already got the next three days’ worth of posts lined up, and that also includes two Game Clear notices (I’m skipping doing Save and Quit for those games). The thing is, though, you can count on the fact that all of what I discuss here is my genuine opinion. I’ve only been paid to promote something online once in my life, and I’ve made it abundantly clear what that thing was (also, my obligation to do so is probably long since expired) and didn’t proverbially pee in the well; so, honestly, this blog is what I actually believe. Warts and all, perceived fanboyism and all, it’s my opinion. I’ll try not to jump to the defense of companies in comments on other blogs, of course– if I see some flagrant stupidity or fanboyism, I still feel obligated to point out logical fallacies and inconsistencies at the very least– but I’m not going to censor myself just because I’m not being paid to promote something I genuinely like.

As a final little coda to this, remember that buyout plan I left open in the initial post? Yeah, nobody bit. I didn’t expect anyone to, of course, but it was worth a shot.

A Different Problem

A few years back, when I was in between jobs, I would spend my days literally camped out in front of the computer all day, getting up for soda and snacks, and when it became dark out (which was made longer by the fact that I was doing this in the summer), I would look up at the time, realize I’d lost an entire day, and curse myself for not accomplishing anything.

Today, I did stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but stuff nonetheless. Painted some models; brought one project to a pretty good pausing-point until an external event gets lined up; did some number-crunching in advance of some news that’s going to be on here next week; and, since I still have some time here before I want to go to bed, I’m probably going to try marathonning a disc of a TV series (likely a short-runner).

However, I still “feel unproductive” because I also spent about five hours playing an online game, when the stack of unplayed games is still ridiculously high. I suppose I can justify it by saying that I needed to relax, but in all honesty, I don’t even particularly care for the game I was playing… it just is scratching an itch I guess I never really knew I had. Ah well, hopefully tomorrow I can move on to something that gives me the “having done something” feeling I’m missing.

The Right Stuff

I’ll be able to talk about this more early next week, but let me just mention that some days, it really helps to get back some test results that make you flabbergasted to realize– not that you’ve been selling yourself short, because I know I’ve been doing that– but by just how much you’ve been self-effacing. It’s not really ego-stroking if you have paperwork to back it up, is it?

A Helpful Tip

I know many folks out there reading this here blog come from different walks of life. I’m sure some of you even work in retail. I’d like to believe that all of you are smart enough not to need reminded of this particular little training hint that I’m going to provide, but on the off-chance that it comes up, well, don’t say nobody ever warned you, OK? Here goes:

When a customer says to you, “You have made me look like an idiot three times today because your staff did not perform their jobs to anything remotely close to the standards you claim to have for their photography department,” the correct response to this is “I am deeply sorry, sir/madam, for your embarrassment and will process the refunds you requested right away.” It is most emphatically not “*scoff* I didn’t make you look like an idiot. I’ll talk to my manager but you ain’t getting a refund.”

Too Damn Productive

Things already done this morning:
* Downloaded, installed, and synced a new todo list application for my phone and main computer, and had it put its information on the desktop.
* Resized font sizes of the podcast and task list displays on the desktop so they don’t interfere with one another. Also realized I need to listen to some freaking podcasts.
* Found my birth certificate so that I can go apply for a passport tomorrow.

Things I need to do this morning:
* (cut for length)

No Lazy Here

For the first time in a very long time, my list of tasks for the coming week is silly-long. Heck, today was insanely busy, and that included a lot of “wait, I need to do this too” and “holy crap must find wi-fi” moments. Of course, the chaos I dealt with today is dwarfed by the balancing act I’ll be doing tomorrow. Still, the end result wound up being more than a little worth it.

I’ve not done any serious, hard-core gaming for well over a week now. I’m starting to get the shakes because of it, I think…

Balancing Act

Ever read more than one book at a time? Not, you know, with one in each hand. Dual-wielding books would be kind of obsessive and a little weird. I mean, reading a chapter of one, then jumping to another. It’s less weird than the fiction-akimbo scenario above, but still weird, particularly when your long-term memory starts to get fuzzy and blends the two books together. Weird, but funny, particularly when you fuse steampunk-alternate-historical-fiction and young-adult-coming-of-age with very-old-far-future-scifi.

When the brass automaton dumped Kyle because he wasn’t willing to go to the Sea of Tranquility on Saturday evening, I almost cried. Really.

Say It, Don’t… Well, Okay, Yes, Say It AND Spray It

I’ve been keeping myself busy this week with a lot of household projects, but in between mending things and breaking others I’ve had the opportunity to get some primer on my miniature armies. Well, one of them. I ran out of black primer just now, about a tiny way into the first major unit of the secondary army. (They started out as my “primary” army, but I wound up building up the other one pretty quickly as it seemed to be less massive of a numerical investment.) In any event, it’s pretty much assumed that I’m hooked now, and I’m eagerly awaiting the coming of spring so that I can prime up the rest.