Cultural Contexts for Social Understanding | Main | NMP Project One

November 15, 2006

Mutable Type

So, I have a personal vendetta against the WORST blogging tool on the planet?

Why am I still using it, you ask?

  1. It's freely provided by the school.
  2. I'm required to use this blog (in other words, this blogging package) for my academic blogging.
  3. It would break the heart of someone I personally care about if I didn't make use of the resource that he put in place (ie: Movable Type).

I blog this to illustrate the concept of the culture of "I just want something that works" and my personal favorite, "I paid for it, so that guarantees that it will do what I want it to." Too often, people have the misconception that free software is "by programmers, for programmers" with a steep learning curve. Here's the real challenge: try uploading a good-sized flash video in your blog without using FTP. It won't let you do it! You have little to no control over that sort of thing.

(As an aside note, Dr. Jerz, if you want flash movies for the Setonian, we have to convert! It's one thing if it's for a class, but if there is an audience with expectations, no one should have to e-mail the file and wait for it to be uploaded).

When you pay for software, you lose control over what you can do with it. The possibities are endless if the software is alterable. Why should you care? When will you ever need to worry about these things? You may never. I pray you don't. But because the learning curve on commercial software is generally very shallow because of the familiarity, when you learn everything about that piece of software, it becomes obselete. You may say: "well, I'll just buy the next edition!" WHY?! The learning curve may be a tad bit steeper on free software, but the development curve of open-source software is much steeper. That's how software companies make millions. They introduce a product that becomes obselete quickly with the constraints, then have you wait for the "it works" stable release of the next version of the software. By the time it comes out, you are so willing to buy it because it can do what you want (after waiting how many years?) without having to explore its possibilities.

People keep buying commercial software because there is a culture of misconception about open-source software. The "experts" (that is many companies) are turning to open-source solutions. Why? Companies are no fools. They want to get away with as little expenditure as possible while thoroughly ripping you off. Do you think this culture of misconception was something arbitrary? No. Companies will give this impression that anything else is "unstable" or "difficult" to keep their customers. If everyone turned to GPL software, the companies would not make money and thus fold. They put fear in you because they have fear.

In corporate communication, you learn that fear is the greatest manipulator. It doesn't just manipulate the target audience, it manipulates the corporation. Competition creates and perpetuates this culture of fear. Be honest, you are always afraid of losing. Afraid of losing friends, afraid of losing grades, money, scholarships, grants, opportunities. Why can't America break the habit of competition and fear? Because it is a ditch. Once you are in it, it is hard to climb back out of it.

Competition does not always have an ethical spirit as many will have you believe. That is a complete myth. If the competition becomes intensely strong, concepts such as cheating emerge. Competition is about winning, not about any other end. All other benefits are secondary to the accomplishment of claim.

So, if corporations have a grip on you as a loyal consumer, they have won. You have now become the object of their stides. Being on this bandwagon does not make you valued. On the contrary, it makes you an object. Your worth of dignity is devalued because you become part of the mass consumer culture. Once you show dedication to a corporation, you become a number that they can put in reports, a testimony they can use to get other numbers and testimonies.

There is a huge difference between being a trophy and being a friend. Trophies only carry superficial, symbolic meaning. Friends have a deep personal meaning. The commercial software companies are not your friend. They work from nine to five on the software, write the docs, then leave and would rather shoot themselves in the face then talk about software after hours. Open-source developers don't do this for a living. They have a much stronger incentive: they love this stuff. They eat, sleep, drink and breath software development. If you IMed them with a question 9 times out of ten, they will answer it and usually more politely than a company's tech consultant.

The real reason open-source software hasn't skyrocketed to another dimension is because they need more contributors. You don't have to have any real knowledge of programming. If you have ideas and suggestions, that is often times the most important part of the developmental process. Testing things to see what works for the program, what could be cut or what the program is lacking is a huge help.

If you are going to jump on any bandwagon, at least jump on the one for collaboration and not competition.

Posted by EvanReynolds at November 15, 2006 3:06 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


You might even want to take, Stephan’s advice and search for a tutorial that talks all about online publishing if what I suggested doesn’t work out.

Posted by: Amanda at November 18, 2006 12:14 PM

Evan, Karissa showed me how to put up the html document when publishing your Flash document. Under publish, there are options to save it as an HTML document. In Flash MX, the program automatically does it, but you can’t see it within Flash. However, when you are ready to upload it into Moveable Type (when all the files show themselves), the HTML file will be there.

I don’t know what form of Flash you are working with, but there are differences between the two. check the index of the Flash Journalism book for publishing, and it should offer some answers. It did for me.

Posted by: Amanda at November 18, 2006 12:00 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)