July 5, 2023•668 words
You may have seen Google's latest update to their "privacy" policy: basically, the company believes it has the right to (and declares that it probably will) train its "AI" models on any content it can find on the internet. Maybe you're OK with it. Maybe you're not. This post is a tongue-in-cheek reaction to such news; if you don't like the thought of your work becoming neural network fodder, please remember: there are always options. Here are ten of them.
- How ephemeral can you go? Some of the best moments of our lives are not recorded, scripted, transcribed. Sometimes it's something you say in a conversation, or a gesture, or the way you move along somebody else.
- What if your best work was saved for 'live'? You don't have to be into jazz to appreciate this: a recording is sometimes nowhere near the amazing-ness of a live event. What if you were to change your model, and rely on 'live' to really deliver what you've been holding back?
- How's your webinar game? The above doesn't have to mean a night at a sold-out Wembley Stadium. It can mean 30 minutes with two other folks on a Jitsi Meet. Are you good with learning, teaching, impacting, and making good work happen in webinar settings?
- Remember "intranets"? It's annoying that most of these have now moved to Google Sites or to Microsoft Teams - making the problem worse (you can be damned sure that these are already getting scanned, scraped and used however these companies wish. But it's still possible to build an intranet that sits on an independent piece of web estate, and is specifically off-limits. Could these be the solution?
- How good are your meetings? I think this question matters. If you're not running a good, inclusive meeting, then the onus moves to what you do later, and "later" means "online". Your meeting can (and should) be a beautiful hybrid of face-to-face and online (shout out to Jitsi again!). And the way you run, share, and document things can (and should) be empowering. Some meetings can really be emails / blog posts. Make yours worth dressing up for.
- Can your work defend itself? There may be ways to prevent your work from being scraped, and these are getting better and better all the time. If you're on Wordpress, shop around for a good security plugin. If you're a visual artist, things are trickier, but not impossible.
- How analog can you go? If you're privileged enough to afford printing a small book run - is there merit in saving your best work for a paperback? If you're not at that stage yet - perhaps there's a CD-R drive in one of your machines? If you're thinking even smaller - how about a zine? These are still going strong and awesome in my neck of the woods!
- Is there a human-friendly dimension of your work which machines can't handle? This question might lead you to awesome, exciting answers. Can your community handle bilingual / multilingual content? (fact: it makes bots cry.) Can it handle magical realism, unconventional structure, weird approaches to file types and so on? As you're exploring these, please remember: it's still crucial to make all these accessible to all human users.
- How much do you care? Maybe you're OK with big companies using your online stuff to train their machine minions. Maybe you're generous that way, or stoical enough to stick to your truths. Maybe you know that the real value is elsewhere. If so, then perhaps the best way to deal with it is to keep doing what you were doing. (This one gets trickier if it needs to be a consensus decision, of course).
- What's your view of 'offline' and 'doing nothing'? The pressure to "create content" and "monetize your interests" is sometimes enough to make me puke. It's okay to find joy, and merit, in doing nothing and going offline. What will you find?