This is all opinion here, so maybe it will help. If not, tell me I’m wrong…
There is a popular admonition in advertising: If you cannot describe a product without referencing another product, your idea isn’t going to work.
Referencing another product is something I like to call Anchoring.
If what you’re trying to promote isn’t much different from what’s out there, perhaps it’s a product creation problem and not a marketing problem?
Sometimes though, cannot make that choice. You’re an advisor, copywriter, or account executive hired by someone else who hasn’t gone through the product generation process with your level of clarity. If your product is just like another, more popular product, it’s going to be hard to promote it in a unique way.
So you have to find an answer and can’t tell them to choose something different. If that’s the case, is it a bad thing to reference another product? Is it a sin 100% of the time?
Let’s go to the movies…
It’s like this, but with [Unique Twist]
Movie lovers do this constantly.
- What is Avatar? Pocahontas in space.
- The Last Samurai? Pocahontas in Japan.
- Dances With Wolves? Pocahontas, but with Sioux Natives instead of Algonquians.
Some of these examples are spot on, some only contain a few major plot links. Oddly enough, I love all three of those movies, but dislike Pocahontas (not the person, though she always cheated me at Bridge).
You’re opening yourself up to a great risk with movies by presenting them like this.
The Real Risk in Anchoring your Idea to Another Idea
Where is the risk? Whether or not the development executive or audience member LIKES the referenced product.
If a development executive lost 50 million dollars marketing Pocahontas, and you were trying to get Avatar made, Avatar would not get funding if you pitched it as Pocahontas, but with a larger production budget.
If you promoted it as The Last Samurai – in space, and an audience member loved The Last Samurai, and science fiction, then he’ll see the movie.
This risk is removed if you know beforehand if your target audience likes similar ideas and products. If they do, you can take advantage of that mojo. Especially if the product is not a physical thing, but an experience.
Experience-based products and services can benefit a lot by anchoring.
- Lotion makes your skin feel like silk.
- Vacationing in the French Riviera is reserved for only the most noble of royal families (and we welcome you and your sweet tourist money).
- Pierogies are as decadent as a fine alfredo pasta, but with potatoes and cream added in.
Other Foreseeable Risks
Homogenous Market Products – Products that exist solely for practical reasons, are best presented without referencing a competitor that the target audience already uses. Now you’re trying to convince them to switch, and that’s not easy – why make it harder by reminding them of what they already use?
The Different / Dependable Conundrum – If you rely on something, and have for a long time, why take a chance on something new?
Is this helpful? I wanna know! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Pictures are for entertainment; messages should be delivered by Western Union – Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM)
If you’re writing a sermon, shame on you if there isn’t some sort of takeaway.
If your ads need to sell product, the theme should communicate that your product solves a deep-rooted need within.
Writing for entertainment is different. Novels, Videogames, and Movies are all escapist mediums. With those, we want to be entertained, to ‘get away’ from our present situations.
When that’s your objective, the idea that we might have to do something lates makes it more difficult to relax.
In this case, theme needs to be almost invisible. But that doesn’t make it less important. If anything, it makes theme more crucial.
Theme Helps Answer Most of Your Pre-First Draft Questions
Without theme, it’s difficult to make the key decisions necessary to shape your story.
- Which characters are the best ones to tell the story?
- Why would a city be a better setting than an isolated island?
- Would a funeral be a better place for a family fight than a graduation party?
- What should your conflict be about?
I kind of knew what my theme was about when I started writing my current book: The search for truth is difficult, and takes multiple attempts, but it is worth it in the end.
Theme needs to be communicated by the characters actions. Doing so only with words will turn people off.
In real life, we have enough people telling us one thing, while doing another – that doesn’t resonate with us.
How Theme Guided My Decisions
The search for truth is difficult, and takes multiple attempts, but it is worth it in the end.
With this theme in mind, I knew that one character had to go through this journey. Difficult, disempowering lies needed to grab hold of my main character.
Then, the opposite:
There had to be another character who NEVER did this soul searching, but seemed to have control of everything and everyone. Eventually, the main character needed to surpass this unmoving dinosaur – forever set in their ways.
There also had to be other characters who either weren’t aware or thought the search was a waste of time.
Is my theme the same as what it will be when the whole thing is finished? Mostly.
Over time, I will refine it. That’s a big part of writing and rewriting.
For me, not knowing your theme until your finished is like using a scalpel to turn a kangaroo into Miss Universe – there will be a lot of deep cuts, and there’s a high chance it won’t work.
You can still communicate your message – and Tell A Great Story
If you don’t want people’s lives to be different, you don’t really have anything to say. There’s nothing to talk about.
Even if your story makes no change whatsoever, the thought that it could may give you the juice needed to follow through with your project to the end.
Not every writer does it this way – it’s only how I do it.
A few writers, after many false starts and hundreds of revisions, can make a good story without knowing their theme at the beginning. Even then, they likely refined their craft and subconsciously had an idea of it anyway.
Is it obvious to you when someone is trying to communicate a theme in a story? Has it ever made you love a story more? Less? Let me know in the comments…
Have you ever caught yourself believing in an idea about yourself that wasn’t true?
Usually this happens right after you’ve suffered from the results of that lie:
- Low self esteem
- Feelings of being trapped
- Seeing yourself as invulnerable to temptation, greed, or deception, etc.
- The loss of a key relationship, job, friendship, opportunity
After several days/weeks/months of slogging through emotional mud, we gain enough distance to see that – yep, we’ve been duped. Sold a bill of bad goods. Pulled the itchy wool over our own eyes.
And in hindsight, this didn’t need to happen. But then it happens again, and again, and again. Our brain is the Energizer Bunny of lies.
Why does this happen? How can we change our beliefs and be stronger people?
In this post, we’ll explore the topic together.
A Christian Author’s Guide to Telling a Lie
How to tell a lie and get away with it?
By believing it yourself.
1. You take an event, and give it meaning.
For the first 16-26 years of our lives, other people gave meaning to our events for us. Teachers tell us whether we’re smart or hard working based on whether we did our homework, or what grade we got. Parents discipline us based on how bad they believe we screwed up, or even how they feel about life at that moment.
“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small.” – John Lennon
Back then, you didn’t have the tools, skills, or awareness to separate truth from falsehood. None of us did. Is it fair that these scripted moments serve as the foundation for our self esteem? No.
Don’t use this as an excuse to stay where you are. Instead, take this chance to remove any self-loathing you may have about being deceived.
2. Then, we find events and line them up with the story we already believe.
I don’t love watching the news. Instead, I love is watching other people watch the news. It’s more entertaining, and often more informative.
Why? Wolf Blitzer, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck – familiar names if you live in the U.S. – they deliver information and build their audience based on what a lot of people already believe, or want to believe. Their reporting is fused with predetermined context, and people keep watching because they experience a wide range of emotions all relating to – and challenging – their own belief systems.
What is ‘America’?
What does it mean to have ‘good values’?
‘Who’ is ‘trying to destroy’ the country?
What ‘realistic answers’ can be offered to ‘improve our national situation’?
Each of these carry their own meanings to different people. When we see a barrage of events, one after another – we line them up according to our confirmation biases.
Confirmation bias – a process where we search for and interpret information that confirms what we already believe. Here is an article on science daily if you want more info about it.
Take an event, like a solar eclipse. Australians are lucky because today they can see one. Here’s an extreme example of solar eclipses that has been used in nearly every medieval time travel film: “If you kill me, I will blot out the sun with my great powers! [cue solar eclipse, the villagers free the hero] Okay, I will return to you the sun!”
This gambit worked because people back then had strong beliefs about solar eclipses being tied to magic, curses, etc. The Aztecs believed that they needed to make human sacrifices during an eclipse or else their god would remove the sun forever. Yikes!
So let’s bring the confirmation bias down to your day-to-day reality:
You may believe you have no value as a human being, as a character does in my book. If you do, when something happens that is neither good or bad – you will take that event and use your confirmation bias to strengthen the idea that you have no value.
- Too many red-lights at intersections on your way to the store. Why does this always happen when I’m in a hurry?
- Your teenage son wants to spend time out with friends rather than stay home on the weekend. Not even my own son cares about me!
- Someone tells you that they fell asleep during your presentation. I’m a terrible speaker. Or, I’m wasting my time talking to these ingrates!
If something fantastic happens, you won’t cherish and enjoy it.
- you’ll brace for impact, because this relationship was too good to last anyway.
- hedge your bets, because you’re bad at selling and need something more concrete.
- You’ll stay emotionally detached, so you won’t risk rejection or failure.
- Or you may even resent a challenge to your belief system. How dare someone actually want to help me? What did I do for them? They just want to use me later!
3. Until finally, You actually believe the lie.
Then it’s easy to tell a lie to yourself. That’s right, the best way to tell a lie is to actually believe it – 100%.
Of course, if it’s a lie, then we’re deceiving ourselves, and we never really ‘get away’ with it.
With that in mind, how many lies to we all tell, without even knowing it?!
Stepping Stones to Truth
First of all, recognize that for much of your life, you didn’t have the awareness or skills needed to know this information. Most of the lies are not your fault.
They are IN you, but they AREN’T you.
Now you can do something about it. In my third book (affiliate link), life coach Brian Shaul and I devote an entire section to changing your thought patterns. I recommend you check it out. Until then, here’s something you can use to get started.
Pay attention to your thoughts. If you can, write them down. A good question to ask in any situation where you feel nervous, weak, or scared is: why do you feel scared?
When your brain gives you reasons, write those down too.
Are those legitimate reasons? Not an easy question to answer. Here are some questions that may spark some insight into this:
- Who told you this reason first?
- What event did they use to build on that story?
- Did this person have anything to gain by telling you this?
- Were they relying on you for things they shouldn’t have?
- Were they denying their own ability to be responsible for their emotions and actions?
Did this interpretation or story help you? Maybe it did for a time, but that time has passed and it’s time for change.
If that story didn’t help you, write down a different meaning to the story based upon what you now know.
Start telling yourself the new story. Here’s the fun part. The next time you’re in the emotional throes of a life event, you’ll snap out of it and realize: this is an opportunity to shape your belief systems.
But how do you know whether something is true?
Too big an answer for just this blog post. The short version for me is in John 8:32
‘the truth will set you free’
Lies are designed to trap you – to give control of your life over to something else that’s not worth even touching. If you come out of this exercise with your brain being filled with ideas of what you can do to improve your situation, have better relationships, less fear, and greater love, then you’re on the right path.
Will I ever be done with this?
This is a lifelong quest. If you aren’t dead, then you’re not done. We are never 100% in truth - all we can do is live our lives in closer to truth than we had the day before. Do that enough times, and things will get better.
The best strategy of all: If you want to get out of a lie, find ways to get feedback from other people. The best feedback will come from trustworthy people who don’t have anything to gain or lose by reinforcing a false belief. Accountability will sting sometimes, but that small sting is nothing compared to a lifetime of being trapped.
Does someone ‘get’ your message just because they are on your website?
In this post, you’ll learn how most people read websites – so your message has the greatest possible impact.
What People Do When They Get YOUR Message
You worked hard writing a message for someone. The least they could do is pay attention to what you created FOR them, right?
Instead, what happens?
- If people have to click, most don’t get to your content in the first place.
- If they get there, they read the first line and then get distracted- possibly by a squirrel passing by.
- Or they’ll skip down to the bottom of your page to see what your point is, without having any idea why that point matters. Then, instead of going back up to reread it with proper context, they leave.
What’s Really Going On?
It’s not your job to teach people how to think. We can’t be George Costanza, waging war on reality, and insisting that people will pay attention to our content ‘because it’s on TV’.
Rather than going up to every potential reader, slapping them in the face, and telling them to ignore thousands of hours of conditioning, lets put all their conditioning to your advantage.
Jakob Nielsen, web usability expert and principal of Nielson Norman Group, published an eye-tracking research study back in 2006 that tracked the eye movements of 236 people at different websites.
People typically follow a similar pattern with their eyes when scanning websites.
It looks like this:
If your most important message/action steps lie outside that F, most people aren’t seeing it.
Several more takeaways:
- Most people won’t read everything.
- The most important info or attention grabbing writing, needs to be said in the first two paragraphs.
- Have sub headlines and bullet-points so that the rest of your writing is scannable.
For more articles, and for a guide to writing on the web, check out Nielsen’s website.
Don’t get angry. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, put your most important content in the places where people naturally look.
What will you do with this information? Will the Nielsen Eye Tracking study change how you lay out your emails, blog posts, and letters? Let me know in the comments.
You want to write a great book?
Think like a movie writer.
You want to write a great movie?
Keep your voice down.
Check out these free resources. But don’t tell anyone else.
1. The “Go Into the Story” blog on the blacklist website.
If you’re even a few months behind me, you’ll be shocked to learn how many of your favorite movies first showed up as scripts on the blacklist. This blog is extremely useful advice for writers, and the blogroll (left side) has links to so many useful sites that your eyes will bleed and your brain will catch fire.
God forbid, if a meteor crashed into both Burbank and Los Angeles, another city would need to pick up the filmmaking slack. Austin, Texas would be a prime contender. I am a bit biased, though – I live there. This is one of the big screenwriting festivals, so they are able to get guest posts by people in the industry that a lot of other blogs won’t. No comments section, though.
If you can, come to the next one in October. Look around and you’ll probably see me at some roundtables.
3. Wordplayer.com -
My favorite writing site. Don’t let its design fool you. As a cartoon merchant once said: Like so many things it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts. THIS IS NO ORDINARY LAMP!
This site has columns by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. If those are new names to you, they have written Pirates of the Carribbean, Mask of Zorro, Shrek, Aladdin, and most movies you grew up loving. Each of their articles are eternally useful and never go out of date. I’ve read them all, and plan to go over them again when I finish screenplay #2.
Can you help me?
Okay, talking louder now.
I’m looking for good websites for improving tone and prose for revising my book, which is nearing first draft completion. Can you help? Let me know of any good ones in the comments.
Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itselfnameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address – March 4, 1933
Fear is a trigger that pulls you right into a victim mentality. It is such a strong trigger that you may find it difficult to get back out again. Here, I share my own experience dealing with fear. By getting out of it fast, you reduce the time you spend in a victimizing self-image.
Note: Keep in mind that this post is designed to alleviate fear in non-deadly, non-urgent situations. It is not meant to be a guide to self-defense or to teach lightning-fast reaction skills necessary in deadly scenarios. While some of the principles may cross over, those situations require more intensive preparation and training. It also does not deal with phobias, which are usually based on easy to see stimuli (heights, the band KISS, etc)
Fear does two things to your body, and to your progress in life.
- It slows or stops your movements
- It throws a situation in your face that you know little about
Fear = Ignorance + Paralysis
The scariest part of any horror movie is when?
The part leading up to when you finally see the monster.
What happens next? A sharp spike in surprise and panic – then you adjust.
So he’s an humanoid alien with a huge head, thinks Ripley. I can work with that.
So the KKK guy is actually a fat old-timey pharmacist wearing a white hood.
Nothing can compete with what’s in your head, that’s why things are scarier when we cannot see them. That’s why death is so scary. Nobody truly knows what happens. Sure, as a Christian I can tell you what I believe, but I’ve never actually died. There is a great unknown that we cannot reach without crossing a line and not coming back.
I once hit an elk at sixty miles an hour. The beast managed to stop in front of the road when it saw me coming – then proceeded to crap on the hood as it tried to jump away.
To this day, I call that experience a ‘drive-by s***ting’.
Thank God I was not only okay, but the car worked well enough to take me the remaining 60 miles between Boise and Sun Valley.
Mademoiselle Elk reinforced what I already learned from body language books. Fear makes you seize up before you can react. It’s called tonic immobility.
This happens in your brain too, but the paralysis in your decision-making can last much longer.
While you do not want to react to the problem emotionally, you need to keep moving. That’s why activity and work is so helpful for the mind.
Take a small step. Regardless of how small it may seem. Before you know it, you’ll be taking larger steps. Finally, with most of your fear gone, you’ll see enough of the road in front of you to be confident again.
How do you beat fear the next time you are afraid?
- Learn more about the situation.
- Get moving again.
If this seems hard, tell yourself that you can go back to being afraid after you take a few forward steps and get more information. Chances are, you’ll be afraid again. We all are.
Have you realized anything similar to this in your own experiences with fear? Let me know in the comments
Here are some takeaways from spending way too much time writing stories.
Hopefully they will help you to be more productive as you spend too much time writing or reading stories on your own.
1. How you describe something can amplify or undo a reader’s view of what happens.
- A terrifying monster is never ‘frazzled’, unless you want to laugh at him.
- The lumberjack rarely prances, unless he’s in a Monty Python song.
- And the Lorax never rampages.
The best plot in the world can be sabotaged by poor word choice.
2. Every character in your stories will have some element of yourself in them. That’s not always good, and it’s not always bad.
Empathy with a sadistic villain can scare you. There is, however, a silver lining. The story exists so you can graffiti reality – and follow a thought pattern to its end where you can cringe at the consequences of that mentality. By doing this, you refine your character via mental war games. It shows that we don’t actually want to be Walter White (Breaking Bad), Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), or Nicholas Cage’s character in Lord of War.
Yet you must be careful that every character is not just a clone of yourself. We are all unique individuals. This means that what matters to you may not matter to someone else. The way you finally ‘get’ a lesson may be vastly different from how most people do. What seems revolutionary to you may be last year’s news to everybody else.
Try to differentiate your characters as much as you can, then don’t worry when you fail.
3. FK scores can help you improve.
No, it’s not a crude way to say you need improvement in the bedroom. FK stands for Flesch-Kincaid score. Master copywriters use this to determine how readable a story is.
“Successful writers have two skills: coming up with good ideas and expressing them clearly” – Michael Masterson
The point is not to make your story appeal to the lowest common denominator. Rather, you want to remove unnecessary confusion from your writing. I’ll often run this test 3-4 times per blog post.
Here’s how to do it in Word:
- Go to ‘Word’ in the top menu bar (next to the apple if you’re using a mac)
- Click Preferences, then ‘Spelling and Grammar’ in the top row of icons.
- The bottom check box in the ‘grammar’ section will say ‘Check readability statistics’. Check it.
- Now, run a spell check in ‘tools’ for your chapter/blog post. At the end, it will show your score. The higher your ‘Flesh-Reading Ease’ is, the easier the document is to read. The lower your ‘Flesh-Kinkaid Grade Level’, the easier it is to read.
Choose simple words. Shorten your sentences. Cut down your paragraph size. Root out your adverbs and transform passive voice sentences into active voice. Those are the best ways to improve your score.
Want to learn more about how it is used? Check out this link.
4. Break the rules, but learn them first.
I’ll use passive sentences all the time. I tend to use them in dialogue with characters I want my readers to dislike.
- Politicians often say ‘mistakes were made by the administration’ instead of ‘I’m sorry.’
- Bureaucrats claim: “That rule wasn’t approved in my department.”
- Know-it-alls who quip, “It was indubitably broken by a crude ignoramus.”
Shut. Up. I can see readers putting on their boxing gloves now.
The point is, once you learn why things work the way they do, you can break the rules to your advantage.
Where do you learn the rules? One of my favorite starting points is Save the Cat, but you can start wherever you like.
5. Luckily, we are drawn to the same stories.
If you want to fill your brain with paralyzing self-doubt, go here. It shows how all your original ideas are tripe, repetitive, and predictable. Read, enjoy, and then ignore.
Georges Polti, in his book The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, says there’s only 36 types of stories in existence anyway. Many of these are largely ignored in our culture.
In Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythologist Joseph Campbell tries to tell me that there’s just one, but his FK score is criminally high.
We are human beings. In the last few thousand years, very little has changed about that.
Write the same story, using the unique voice that makes you different from every person that’s come before you. If you do this enough times, it is more than enough.
What did I miss? (I guess that’s lesson six – you always miss something). Let me know in the comments.
There is a part of storytelling that all the greats know. Get this right, and you will overwhelm your audience with emotion. Tears will be shed.
People will love your characters more than their own family.
Okay, I embellished a bit. Still, the lesson is important to any great novel, movie, or series.
And I learned it from a musical.
One Day More
Last year I saw Les Miserables
Well, I saw it in England back in 2009, but this time it was the movie version.
Two-thirds of the way in, there’s a song called ‘One Day More’. In just four minutes, I learned a lesson about storytelling that’s easily worth a million dollars.
In most stories, plot climax happens around 75-80% through the story.
The ring of power is destroyed.
The Nazis reap the consequences of tampering with the Ark of the Covenant.
Michael Corleone takes out his enemies while attending a baptism.
In most of these situations, the main character fully realizes the outcome of pursuing his goal, and the conflict in his story diminishes after it is over.
That’s a good story.
But what about a great story?
All Story Arcs Meet at the Top
A great story weaves the plots of all the characters – all their hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions – and guides them towards one eruption point.
In this short segment of Les Mis, here is what happens:
Jean Valjean is trying to leave France before it erupts in civil war, all the while fearing that he will never escape his past.
Marius makes a lifelong commitment to a girl who is leaving the country, while deciding to join an under-equipped, and under-prepared side of the rebellion.
Cossette realizes she loves someone other than her father, then is pulled away from it before she could ever enjoy the relationship.
Eponine realizes she will never be with the man she loves, and she truly has nothing left to lose by joining the rebels.
Enolras leads a group of young men all willing to die for freedom from tyranny – and the fight starts tomorrow!
Javer has put all his faith in an institution he thought couldn’t be beaten. Now that it may crumble, he sees his very source of security and identity under attack. He will spy against the rebels in what is probably the least convincing covert op in history.
Mr. and Mrs. Thernadiere risk their lives more than ever to profit from the chaos around them
Society: The upper class abandoned responsibility and replaced it with selfishness. They like the status quo. The lower class, on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to make things right.
See my point? All the story arcs meet at the top near the same moment. In my opinion, this is why Les Miserables affects people so deeply.
If you want to one day create a story just as powerful, do not ignore this lesson.
Every character must feel like the story is about them, and each character must face their demons at the same moment.
One day more builds suspense about all these characters and the world they live in –in about four minutes. If a good plot was like opium, then ‘One day more’ in Les Mis is storytelling heroin.
For a dose of what I’m talking about, check out this song here. Nobody knows the day or hour of judgement day, but for the characters in your story – you should!
REVERSAL: With any rule, there is always an exception. This may be too elaborate for any story that could be read/seen in just 30 minutes. Also, this technique could become predictable if you overuse it. Nonetheless, you should be able to create an epic masterpiece if your story calls for it, and this plot technique will serve you well.
Have you ever seen a story that followed this rule really well? Let me know in the comments below.
Is the internet evil? Or is it good? This is not an easy answer. By exploring how a technology is used, can you use it more responsibly? To express your opinion and consider the thoughts below, read on and let me know what you think in the comments.
One day the devil was doing some administrative work. On his desk, the red telephone rang. He picked it up and sighed with a smoky breath.
“Yes, Mr. Devil. This is Phil. I realized I could make my own videos on the internet. So, uh, I know we had that whole appointment about selling my soul so I could make movies, but I don’t think that’s necessary…”
The devil picked up a dart from his desk and threw it towards the closed door. It slammed into the bulls-eye of a dartboard target on the door. On the bullseye was a picture, labeled “Phil”.
He slammed down the phone. That was the third call this week since that damn internet rolled into town.
I pitched this story premise to a Christian friend of mine. “I disagree.” he said. “I think The Devil’s territory is the internet.”
He seemed so sure of himself. Was he right? As a writer, I spend a lot of time on the internet. I wouldn’t want to think I was spending so much time in the danger zone. Was the internet the Great Satan, or was it God’s gift? In secular terms, is it good for you or bad for you?
So I did some thinking about the internet. I filtered out the legal and ethical money-making potential of the technology, which was neither good or bad in my mind.
In the end, the internet came down to four revolutionary aspects of transferring data:
Speed, Volume, Access, and Anonymity.
If my friend was right, the devil was in there somewhere.
To uncover the influence of good and evil, I explored two questions with each factor.
How can this be used to control others or make war? (Devil)
How can this be used to liberate people from evil or help them? (God)
I explored all four areas thoroughly in my mind. While I could post a full version, it would be far too long for this simple post. So I narrowed it down to the two biggest issues: Access, and Anonymity.
If you wanted to be a big music star, you used to need a record label.
If you wanted to make a movie, you had to pitch a studio that likely had its own agenda in the first place.
If you wanted to be a reporter, you had to work for traditional media.
Not anymore. Now, anybody can do pretty much anything. The cost of entry for a lot of industries is down, and if you can get traffic, you matter more than any gatekeeper or dinosaur.
How can it be used for war or to control others
Other than hiring people to flood the net with disinformation, there isn’t much of a boon for those who seek to control others.
This is one area where freedom has been given to a lot of people, and taken out of the hands of the earlier establishment.
Different bills have been introduced to try and change that (see here, and here), so we must be cautious and make sure that this issue is the political touch of death for any lawmaker who dares challenge it.
How can it be used to help others?
Today, if a story is not being told, anyone can help make that story go viral.
As the saying goes, ‘Light is the greatest disinfectant.’
Media has become less of a top-down structure, and more of a conversational game. People can discuss major topics and be heard.
The ugly and the beautiful. Since the computer is searching the data, and not ‘you’, your name doesn’t have to be attached to what you do online. What do you do when nobody is looking, and does knowing that make you a worse person?
How it can be used for war or to control others?
Online bullying can be a very nasty affair. One look at youtube comments on popular videos and we see trolling and mudslinging at its worst. Social media has put a face on a lot of these people, so something can be done if a bully lives nearby and is dumb enough to say bad things about another person online.
The hacking group Anonymous makes anonymity part of their name. They hack, which is definitely an invasion of privacy, yet they also shine light into dark places where corruption has been hidden for years.
Then there are the darker corners of the internet that promote pornography, hate groups, and other negative things. While people have a right to make their own choices, the anonymity of the internet lowers the immediate negative impact and accountability for these choices. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that some of these sites can trigger addiction that can be very hard to escape.
How can it be used to help others?
Anonymous donations to charities.
People need to talk about sensitive issues with somebody, but sometimes don’t know/trust anyone in their community to share them with.
You can discuss and explore the religious and political viewpoints of others without the mocking or humiliation of peers..
Researching information for screenplays, books, movies, and other written works without ‘big brother’ drawing weird conclusions. “In 2009, you researched eye surgery. Three years later, you searched for pictures of pyramids. Are you a member of the Illumina—“ NO! No I’m not.
For a search engine that replaces your IP address with 0′s, I use Startpage.com. This search engine allows you google-quality online searches without a database recording everything you do. It’s family friendly because it also comes with an adult-site filter, turned ON by default. I still use traditional search engines occasionally, but startpage is now my default.
Have you ever acted or spoke differently when parents or teachers were standing directly behind your shoulder, watching? Anonymity can also be used to express your viewpoints about controversial topics without fear of persecution. It is a safeguard to freedom of speech. If a tyrant doesn’t know who is talking, then they cannot silence the voice. This provides a forum for real honest debate – possibly more honest than any that had ever come before it.
With technology going the way it is, privacy may become one of the major currencies of the world – so be wise and get your share of it now.
So far, Access seems to provide the most good, while Anonymity enables the greatest amount of evil. At the same time, anonymity is still a crucially important part of what makes the internet a good place for those who intend to make it so.
These writings don’t begin to sum up the potential of the internet, or its implications for our society.
However, if it made you consider how you will use the technology for the better…
If it alters your decisions in a positive way, then the discussion was worth it.
What did I miss? What other factors play into good/evil on the internet? Sound off below in the comments.