WebProNews is currently taking on Digg.com showcasing how a story submitted by an “ordinary mortal” is ignored by the majority, whilst exactly the same submission by one of the elite Diggers soars freely on the front page. Ironically, I have had a conversation with a Cheshire-based SEO agency just before Christmas, and they asked me if I knew (or could suggest) any ways of getting “dugg”. I said what I believed was the real picture: that 1) there are cliques that stand on guard of their authority and that 2) the process of “digging” is a pure chain reaction. This is confirmed by the majority of Digg users who aren’t satisfied with the service:
“The coalition of outcasts has primarily blamed two Digg.com features pretty standard on Internet social networks: the ability to form friends lists and “shout” to those friends about news stories a user wants promoted”.
Forming friends and sending “shouts” is precisely the ‘chain-reaction’ mechanisms. But is it only peculiar of Digg.com? Or does Digg.com represent the world at work: a cluster of mutually supportive coalitions that keep an individual user at a distance while also being keen on feeding off his/her ideas?
On this occasion, WebProNews refers to Digg.com as a failed democratic model; however, ironically, Digg.com may be that very democratic model – at its worst, of course. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat who is reportedly still studied in the States for all things democratic, predicted in his treatise that a democratic regime can degrade into the tyranny of many – exactly what we see on Digg.
Yet again, is it only Digg that we should blame? What about campaigns pro or contra something on Facebook? What about the whole nature of Social Media whereby you share the content only to find out that someone else has appropriated it? The example that is discussed on WebProNews involving Digg.com may not be entirely relevant, but it does give a perspective to the problem.
So, how to protect your ideas from being stolen?
As I write this, I must admit: I do not know the answer. Two things come to mind, however. One is a comment I recently had on my article drawing on the interview I made with Dave McKean. Turns out that The Jim Hanson Company were very positive about the artwork of Tanya Doskova, a Canadian artist who worked at the Company’s studios in London for a period of time. You will get the gist of the problem as you read the comments. I said to Tanya what I felt was well relevant to me at times. As once an insider of a huge media corporation, I am confident that my inkling about the ‘preferential’ attitude to the native citizens is grounded. This is not to accuse anyone of something bad; but this is not deny that ‘foreign’ and ‘alien’ are synonyms, after all.
The second is a seminar at the London Book Fair 2007. One of the talks centred precisely on the possibility of copyrighting an idea. We looked at what then was the very popular case of Dan Brown vs. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. The answer wasn’t bringing a relief to anyone of us who is concerned about the issue: you cannot copyright an idea. Indeed, if we suppose that all things exist as ideas, then imagine, say, Dante being issued with a copyright on the idea of Love. Just because he composed The Divine Comedy, to be sure.
For my part, I have never really publicised my ideas, and as far as writing goes, I very rarely let anyone read the text before it is finished. I am sure not to publish the entire text online (except for short stories or those that were inspired by a contemporary art work), but only a selection because – forgive me my audacity which is supported by comments I receive about my work – I think I do have brilliant ideas that just doesn’t visit some people. But this is different with blogging where the whole idea is about publishing and publicising your content.
Now, ideas are beautiful in that they are in the ether: if one idea didn’t visit me, it may surely land in someone else’s head. If this happens ‘naturally’, i.e. I didn’t mention this idea in another’s presence (a blog post included), then I don’t have a problem. But when I do mention those ideas and then I see other people trumpeting exactly the same (and by the look of it, they didn’t quite trumpet this idea before my mention) and without crediting me, I do ask: what do I do? Especially if I am still going to act on the idea that I voiced?
To an extent, this is a problem of pre-eminence: who was the first to mention something? But even if you can survive not being credited as the original communicator of an idea, the question remains: when and how should you start throwing your idea around, to gain feedback or support? To get back to that example with Digg.com and to use it symbolically, when should you submit your content to Digg?
By the look of it, unless you’re among the top users, you shouldn’t submit it at all. Yet Digg is but one of the places that operates as a ‘network’, and you may not be a part of it even if you seem to be. What to do? Maybe to follow Zizek who said that today the criticised and ostracised Socialists should recognise their legacy precisely because it is theirs and should know their facts better and thus make their critics play on their, Socialist, terms. Ignore ‘Socialist’, and you’ll find a plenty of individuals and smaller groups that are trying to use the Internet to promote their causes against networks of other individuals and groups. However hard it is, self-belief and the ability to see through the polite facade of today’s relations may be the only things that can get you through any difficult times. And to quote my preferred Dali, ‘the difference between Surrealists and me is that I am a Surrealist‘.
The illustration is the courtesy of WebProNews.