2009 Fives, Part 2: Fails

  1. Intellectual property. We have billion-dollar corporations suing house moms for millions over file sharing while I can’t successfully track down a person to pay for recording a cover tune on my record (despite many attempts). Even if I could track down the legal entity responsible, we can’t seem to figure out a reasonable way to compensate them for allowing that recording to be played and downloaded over the web. Meanwhile so-called news sites (aka poorly modified WordPress and Drupal templates) and “lifestyle blogs” are straight-up copy-and-pasting their content from other sites/publications/Flickr/emails /you-name-it. Why bother with writing and editorial staff in the first place? Just deploy some spam-blog code and be done with it.

  2. Nonprofits. From One Laptop Per Child (which I was an early supporter of) to the what-was-the-big-deal-again? Open Source Applications Foundation (which I modeled my own non-profit after in 2003) to locals whose cost-to-benefit ratio must be the worst of any charitable organization ever. There are a lot of high-value non-profit organizations out there, sustained because of that value. But there are (seemingly) equal numbers of those sustained solely by their ability to execute on public relations.

  3. Art. I could discuss the validity of hanging art on walls and charging money to take it home all night long (preferably over numerous adult beverages) but that debate aside, if you are going to engage in such an activity, please hold yourself to some objective standard. Due to the wonders of modern technology, it is now possible for any person with a ticket to Thailand, a DSLR and a handful of free Photoshop actions downloaded off the internet to create a nice little series of photographs. Hell, there are thousands uploaded to Flickr every day. We have the internet, people–go forth and publish! But art…art…that takes work!

Disclaimer: You’ll notice I have in the past been very guilty of all three of the above. Hell…I founded a nonprofit that helped start an eponymous art gallery and produced software for people to better create, organize and share intellectual property! The fact that I still have strong opinions about these areas is because I still have strong passions in these areas and would love for others to learn from my mistakes. Respect others, learn about intellectual property issues, don’t be greedy. Don’t work for fame, work for love and let your ideas be honed in the great tumbler of the market (if that is where they truly belong). If those ideas turn into art, then consider their place within our culture before thrusting them upon the world; trade some of that scrap for some wisdom.

There are a million great examples out there of all the above done to perfection. My previous list should have been much longer (but I went for quirk over quantity). Creative Commons, Wikipedia, 20x200…and on and on.

  1. My art. I haven’t had the time or propensity to do anything artistic in the manner I would expect from myself. I haven’t put in the work (as described above). Even since ditching some of my previous endeavors like photography, I’m still spread pretty thin with writing, music-making and coding/designing. I finally achieved two long-held dreams, professional and personal, but neither of those involved art. I did release a digital EP that I am proud of and a benefit single collaboration, but haven’t written music all year otherwise. I haven’t really played out or gained any traction. My web sites are a mess, I’ve barely written. I’ve had some work published in a small UK publication and that was a great pleasure. One of my favorite creations of the year I did in one night, with the cheapest possible equipment; it was more an act of frustration than intent.

  2. Parenting. It’s hard work, right?!

I’m afraid those two personal failures will be yearly re-occurrences for a while, the rock of this unfinished sculpture my little chisel of a life works against…