A wrestling fan’s take on Net Neutrality

“Wrestling fans” and “net neutrality” are not concepts likely to be paired in most people’s minds, but from the site ProWrestling.com comes a take on the net neutrality topic I hadn’t heard before:

Essentially, many websites and services would only be available if they were the highest bidder to a cable company. Then, all other internet users would be blocked from that site or service. Imagine a world where only special users could access MySpace!

Is this fair? Is it right? No, to the common internet user it’s not. But cable companies are frothing at the mouth for this to happen. They are shilling out millions to lobby their cases in Washington as we speak. To make things worse, if you didn’t like your internet provider, you have little or no chance of switching, since many internet companies are monopolies in certain regions. For instance, I use Comcast, and as much I hate their services, it’s the only choice in my city, and I’m stuck with it.

Going with this theory, what would stop billionaire Vince McMahon from coming along and making a deal with several or more cable companies? Since he knows the internet is always a detriment to his WWE, he might be able to throw money at cable companies just so they can provide WWE.com, but in return, he would want pwtorch.com to be blocked off. Or he could say “I’m going to pull my pay-per-view programming unless you block out wrestlingobserver.com.”

Could you imagine one day not having an Internet Wrestling Community? To many wrestling fans, the internet is the lifeblood that fuels their passion for the product. Without the internet, fans can’t interact with each other, they can’t get all the juicy backstage gossip, they can’t download their favorite matches, and the acclaimed critics like Meltzer and Keller could take a hit on their income.

I’m nowhere near insider enough to get the backstory amongst the specific players here — McMahon controls pro wrestling and (at least some of) the online fans don’t like him is about as deep as I can go — but it’s interesting to see net neutrality cast as anti-internet-billionaires-who-control-the-industry vs. the fans.

A Peeve: Unsearchable Names

This should be Rule #1 in choosing what to name your band: GOOGLE IT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!

Unless you are going for the megamystique approach to stardom, or the ‘no matter what happens please God don’t let me become a star’ approach to music making, when people stick your name in the search box, they ought to be able to find you.

This week I’m in love with the first album by a band called Consequences. I wanted to learn more about them. Try googling that band name and see what comes up. Rock bands? I think not. Unless you put “sweden” in there and then there’s hope. If you can weed through all the other consequences of this and that in Sweden. But there’s no hope for finding them on YouTube.

Or how about another intruiging band, Second Class Citizen? Gave up on that one (you know it’s bad when I’m glad for MySpace). Never found any kind of official site for Starlet. I was commiserating about this with a friend who’d spent way too much time trying to track down a band called White Flight.

I know it’s hard to come up with names, but please oh please oh please, if you want to be found, don’t make it so hard! And if you’ve gotta have a name that’s a word or an oft used phrase, give your record a name that’s not. The name of the Consequences’ record? Consequences.


International fandom

One of the things I think is particularly cool about last.fm is its internationalism. They’ve got users submitting their listening data to them from 240 countries. 240. That blows my mind — can you name 240 countries?

Sure we used to be able to get American and British charts. And now we can turn to places like Its A Trap and get Swedish college charts, but where else can you get listening data from 240 countries? See here for a nice visualization of 24 hours of last.fm data submissions. Yeah, most of the world is dark and it’s dominated by Europe and the eastern third of North America, but all in all it looks suspiciously like the distribution of world internet users.

As The Sun discusses, this makes for some surprising discoveries:

Latest figures show that Coldplay’s Clocks is currently the most listened to internet track on www.Last.fm in China.

In Sweden, native indie band Kent top the charts while in Somalia it’s French dance group Air with their song Playground Love.

The Beatles are the most popular band online in Japan and the Fab Four’s Strawberry Fields Forever is also first choice in Argentina.

What would be REALLY cool would be if those charts were all dominated by bands from those nations (I wonder if there would be more of that if they were translating the site into more languages than Japanese). Still, the first way to get music flowing across international boundaries in more than one direction is to let those of us who never hear anything but US and UK artists find out how much of it is out there, and that it’s so much richer and more diverse than a name like “World Music” can suggest. And then give us an easy way to listen to it.

In that regard, their users can tag songs and artists, and those tags give you a glimpse at music from places that never make the radio abroad. Here’s a ton of artists tagged “China”. Only 2 are tagged “Somalia” but lots are tagged “French”. You get the idea. So if you want to check out what Chinese music sounds like these days, click on that tag radio button over on the left and take a sonic vacation.

My own ears spend most of their time in Sweden.

Robert Jordan’s exemplary fan community

Forbes.com writes about blog-reading fans of the terminally-ill author Robert Jordan. Jordan has been writing about his illness on his blog, and his fans have apparently gone above and beyond in supporting him:

Robert Jordan, author of the best-selling Wheel of Time series, has fans. And if you want to understand them, take a look at his blog. Since last spring, when he announced he had a rare blood disease called amyloidosis, Jordan, 58, has been chronicling his life-and-death struggle online. Whenever he’s well enough to write, he thanks the fans who sent care packages, and those who donated to the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., where he is being treated. Then there’s this: “For Jaime Platt and her sister, your offer touches me deeply. They were able to harvest enough of my own bone marrow stem cells that I don’t need marrow donation from elsewhere, but thank you very much. That was a kind and generous offer.”

His fans aren’t just offering body parts to him, they’re also connecting with each other:

In the Internet age, fans can engage with a book long after they’ve finished it. They go online, meet other fans and participate in role-playing games. There’s even a Web site profiling couples who have met and married because of the series. (One happy couple, Amber and Markku of Espoo, Finland, met in a “clan” devoted to the Wheel of Time board game.) Rabid Jordan fans know all about Harriet, his wife and editor, and they even sent her care packages when they learned he was ill.

I am sure much of this comes from the connection fans feel with his books and with him. But looking at his blog, it’s also clear that he’s set it up to foster a sense of community. The front page is a blog, but the header reads “Dragonmount, A Wheel of Time Community” and in addition to the blog is a prominent link to a forum where there’s loads of discussion going on. There is a gallery for fan art. This is an author who has given fans an officially-sanctioned space to connect with one another around his work, to be creative with his work, and added on maintaining regular and meaningful direct connection with them as well. It’s a good model.

Are women rockers better bloggers?

The Independent Online Edition has a piece up about Lily Allen in which they claim that women are better than men at using the internet to communicate with their fans:

While major record labels complain about the public illegally copying music online, female artists are proving better than their male peers at using it to communicate directly with their fans. And at the vanguard of this phenomenon is Lily Allen, the solo artist whose big mouth repeatedly gets her in the news.

Later in the article they say this:

Until recently, Pallot herself looked after her online presence, whether on her official site or others where she could promote her music and videos. She was responsible for putting tracks online, but also used the internet as a platform for communicating with fans. It is here that women seem to have the edge over male artists, as they tend to be more comfortable about being open about themselves through message boards or blogs.

Well, it would be nice if female musicians finally got the edge in SOMETHING, but given my modest familiarity with the research on sex differences in communication, I have to be a bit skeptical here.

What research finds again and again is that there are some gender differences. Think of men’s communication as one bell curve and women’s as another. Most of both bell curves overlap. There’s stuff on the tail end of either that is more likely to come out of one sex or another. But the overwhelming majority of our communication just isn’t as different as people like to imagine it is. It ain’t Mars and Venus, it’s Earth.

On the other hand, it’s been argued that from early on, we little girls get trained to attend to maintaining relationships while boys get trained to assert themselves and know more. So maybe there’s something to it.

What’s more, it’s well known that even when men and women act the same, they’re evaluated differently. The brilliantly assertive man is a pushy bitch. So maybe the unwritten rules of acceptable or appropriate blogging are different for male and female bloggers. Maybe women who don’t share their feelings when they blog are seen as holding out while men who do are seen as wimpy? Maybe women who talk about partying after the show are seen as floozies while men who do are seen as cool? Maybe women who do share their feelings are seen as creating meaningful connections while men who do are seen as needy?

I don’t think it’s true that men aren’t as good at connecting with fans through the internet than women, but it’s a provocative claim, either way.

What do you think?