October 7th, 2003

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On TiVo and Commercial Bullies

I just posted this to szasz's journal as a comment but long ranty bits like this deserve to see the light of day so I repost it here.
TiVo is such a fucking blessing to anyone who is sick and tired of commercialized consumer culture. It's one piece of consumer electronics that helps you ESCAPE that culture. If I didn't have TiVO, I wouldn't want to have TV at all, and there's some useful information that comes over the TV.

Commercials make me want to hit things. I get very angry and anxious when I see a commercial. James O'Brien and I were talking about this the other night when he stayed at my place and he mentioned that basically commercials are someone trying to bully you into doing something or listening to some spiel that you don't want to do or listen to. And our natural reaction to bullying is to get angry.

Anyway, TV doesn't make me angry anymore. I watch what I want when I want it without commercials. I don't have to feel like in order to see my favorite show I have to be anti-social and sacrifice hanging out with my neighbors. I watch my favorite shows while I eat meals or while I'm doing chores or when ever I happen to be on the couch vegging...NOT...when teh prime time schedule insists I be glued to the TV. And I only watch the really top notch good stuff that I want to watch, I don't have to settle for the crap that happens to be on as I channel surf.

My only regret is that I don't watch as much C-SPAN as I used to. It used to be that was my favorite non-commercial refuge so I'd always turn it on and learn cool stuff.

Oh I saw a demo of MythTV while I was in Seattle. This is VERY mature open source software that does just about everything TiVo does and a LOT MORE but on stock PC hardware. Ultimately I think you'd end up spending MORE on hardware for a MythTV unit than you spend on a TiVo but it'd be way more cool and hackable. I'm definitely building a box for this for my house.
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How to do it better?

Ok let's try to get something creative and useful out of all that silliness in my last (friends-only) post. szasz feels that some organizations "...work by figuring out, on its own, what it thinks it can get from contributors, and then TAKING IT FROM THEM. Rather than be true communities where people can get together and make a contribution, they've gotten nasty old lives of their own, like some kind of Terry Gilliam-inspired contraption."

How would you (not just szasz, but any of you) structure a community collective in a way that would prevent loud voices from dominating and the organization taking on a life of it's own that might get out of sync with the needs of the community? Key goals are that community members should have an easy time getting involved, should not feel overwhelmed by process and contention, and supporters who are not actively involved in the process should be able to trust that their support is going to a broad community serving organization and not just funding pet projects.

I happen to think that the IMC succeeds at a lot of this and that where it fails the failures are minor and represent interpersonal personality conflict issues rather than structural issues. If you are familiar with the IMC, do you feel that it has fundamental structural issues and what would you think might work better? Whether you are familiar or not, do you think it is possible for a community organization to solve/address the issue of personality conflicts in structural ways?

Brainstorm. Everyone promise not to debate anything raised here. I just wanna see exploration of different ideas. Wild proposals. Crazy utopian dreams. Pragmatic solutions. Cynical admission of impossibility. Whatever.