'Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics' used to be a well used put down for the manipulation of facts. Nowadays I guess we should be using 'Lies, Damn Lies and The Internet'. It seems to have dawned on people in general and the media in particular that the internet is far from the source of genuine information it purports to be and in fact, the complete opposite. To observers of the photographic internet it does of course come as no surprise, since the part of the World Wide Web that we inhabit has been spreading 'misinformation' (the polite term) for years. Either for financial gain or just to create mischief. I guess it isn't really that serious compared to the actual evil that is being spread around out there, including all that BS from the election of the most powerful politician on the planet, but it has been overshadowing any benefits that the sharing of photographic knowledge might bring for about as long as it's been in existence.
It seems that there is a much higher % of the worlds population than can be deemed healthy, actually live in and believe the 'You Tube' reality. i.e. accepting that the more poisonous elements of social media somehow don't have an effect on the world and that's merely the price for access to all that incredible information out there. But then just how reliable is that information? and is it actually way more harmful than it is beneficial?
The nature of the internet and social media means that it is very difficult to challenge statements, ideas, opinions and 'facts'. There seems to be no necessity to provide any objective proof to back up often outrageous and completely false statements. Lies and libel prevail a lot of the time and any attempt to find those responsible for churning out this bile is often impossible and the constraints that the press and media have to adhere to are simply not there. OK, as I said before in terms of what goes on elsewhere what happens on the photographic internet isn't so serious, but the spreading of malicious lies and cyber bullying are commonplace and should you want to engage in 'debate' on any of the forums, you need a pretty thick skin these days.
I recently had an experience that illustrates all of this. I did a guest post on a rumour / news site about an adapter. Pretty uncontroversial but it seemed to generate a series of over the top comments. Firstly I can't understand why people who don't own or use that gear brand or even want to do either, hang out on forums that are dealing exclusively with it. OK some will obviously be shills and trolls employed by rival companies to rubbish 'opposition' products, but that doesn't explain it all. It seems in fact that this is some peoples idea of a good time!! And that good time seems to include unpleasant comments, an aggressive stance and a desire to wind things up to insult level as quickly as possible. So in essence picking a fight. I found it difficult to believe that my pretty bland adapter review could generate such hostility. Way out of proportion to what I was writing about.
We've all seen it, and I imagine many of us have been on the receiving end. It seems that expressing opinions is going to upset somebody and often this nonsense gets generated by the most innocuous statements. The concept of writing something in an internet post that would never be said face to face is well known and looking at a screen and typing seems far less 'real' than it actually is. So I guess we may well be stuck with it.
Unfortunately this propensity for 'misinformation' isn't just restricted to forums and social media. A recent internet phenomenon is the rise of the internet 'guru' or opinion maker / shaper. The YouTube reviewers and bloggers, who get gear to review, generate incredible numbers in terms of site hits and basically earn a pretty decent living from dishing out their opinions. And of course the concept of 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' seems to be par for the course and some design their content to get as many clicks as possible. Now I guess it takes courage to set yourself up like this and to realise that you are probably going to get as many people hostile to you as favourable. Certainly it's something I've never felt the need to do. But what happens is that the self-created personality cult takes over. The websites and YouTube channels become about the writers and presenters rather than what they are writing about. Now I was always a fan of Hunter S Thompson and I enjoyed his 'Gonzo journalism' but I'm not sure that it's influence is actually that beneficial. Much as I enjoy the videos of Kai from Digital Rev (now left and posting solo) they were essentially about him rather than the products he was supposedly reviewing and one persons personal opinion is hardly a substitute for a well researched series of tests and trials.
Now with the sales curve of stand alone cameras looking like its falling off a cliff, there are now less of these about. Sites and blogs are closing down and some are changing their focus as enthusiast photography returns to something like the participation numbers it had when it was all about film. Smartphones have destroyed the compact stand alone camera market and as they constantly improve they will start making inroads into other gear too. So there are less 'ad clickers' out there and incomes will obviously fall. Now my two favourite sites Mirrorlessons and Gordon Laings Camera labs haven't engaged in the cultivation of a personality cult and provide well written, well researched articles on photographic gear. And I'm sure both will continue to succeed and thrive. Because it's still difficult with places to actually go and look at a camera diminishing, to actually make our own assessment.
There is still a place for good photographic industry journalism and the falling market share of stand-alone 'proper' cameras may in fact have a positive effect. It might even mean we get more writing about what it's like to actually produce images rather than the gear that we use. And it is with this in mind that I've decided to change the emphasis of this blog. Now in terms of the people I've been writing about above, this (soundimageplus) is pretty small scale. I've been around for a long time, but because I write this for fun rather than for profit, I've never engaged in all the social media promotion that I would need to do should I wish to move it into big numbers / big income territory. I write about what I want to write about and don't really have any expectation that will mean that it will provide me with anything other than the pocket money that it does currently. I make enough to pay my web hosting fees and maybe buy a lens or two, but that's about it.
So, in the future I will be writing about what I know best. Stock photography, the images I create and how I market them. I'm still working on a format that I think will work, so in the next few weeks there may be a bit of experimentation, but my wish is to move away from writing about the gear I use to the images I create. Hopefully, that will be interesting to some, but it's something I need (and want) to do. Watch this space!!