Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Facing Up to the Future

Are blogs and websites dying? There was a time when a website or a blog stood for the height of instant gratification as well as self congratulatory satisfaction. A paper might take a day to cover a story but a website or blog could do it instantly. Still, it was just a different means of publishing. Film, book and music sites and blogs still went to the trouble, and still do, of writing entire reviews, articles and essays upon which the reader could kindly, or harshly, comment and converse. It was a different way to get the information out there but the information was still presented in essay length format.

Now there's Facebook and Twitter and the actual published content itself is changing. No more essays, just a few sentences, a link to a video, a picture. Twitter limits its users to 140 characters. Others will follow until surely a service will come along that allows only posts of single character emoticons. In the face of this heavily abridged competition how much longer can the the blogs and websites survive? My guess would be as long as Facebook and Twitter do. You see, to turn the phrase around a bit, I come not to bury Facebook but to praise it.

I am by most standards a technology hold-out. I love new technology and am fascinated by anything new that comes along and promises change but I always wait to join in. I still remember the lessons of my childhood as I watched friends and neighbors spend hundreds of 1970s dollars on Texas Instruments calculators that three years later cost only twelve bucks. Or VCRs in 1981 for 900 dollars that by 1984 cost around two hundred. Or computers. Okay, computers I couldn't wait on. I worked on them in the eighties in classrooms and at work and in 1992 finally decided I had to have one. I still remember the cost too. For a 420 megabyte hard drive (tip-top of the line in 1992 I'll have you know) with 4 megabytes of ram and a 386 processor I laid down $2400 dollars. Yep, two thousand four hundred dollars for something that my daughter's DSI could out-maneuver in two thirds of a nanosecond.

Yes the lessons of cost depreciation have stayed with me even as the new internet technologies increasingly come free of charge. It's not the price obviously that holds me back but the idea that the first folks in have to deal with the bugs, the screw-ups and the mindless "I have to be first with everything" blather hounds. And so it goes with Facebook. I held back, waited. Waited to make sure the kinks were worked out by everyone else and to make sure it wasn't just a flash in the pan I was going to devote time and energy to only to have abandon it all and start over somewhere else. When I was satisfied that Facebook was "settled in" so to speak, I joined. And I'm glad I did.

My visits and pageviews here at Cinema Styles haven't changed. If anything they continue to slowly increase. Same with The Invisible Edge although while I am at home with my daughter for one more week while she is not in camp it will continue to receive only one update a week. And my photo blog Unexplained Cinema, which I just recently redesigned for visual consistency, has really taken off and has even been featured on photo websites I am proud to say. So my blogs are doing just fine. Of course, there is a difference. The difference is that the conversations that go on in the comment section have shifted to a more suitable forum, Facebook, leaving the comment section for actual comments and conversation about the post itself. But that's not the biggest difference. The biggest difference is the freedom of having two different forums to post in depending on the subject.

There was a part of me that felt odd basing an entire post around a thought like, "I think this scene is brilliant" or "Wasn't this film underrated?". Facebook affords me that opportunity and the same opportunity for every other film blogger. Just yesterday Kim Morgan posted the dueling banjos scene from Deliverance and a terrific discussion followed centered around the film and several of its scenes. I myself put up a scene from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid about a week ago and also enjoyed the conversation that followed. Facebook has also allowed me a place to post pictures that I don't necessarily want to devote an entire post to on Cinema Styles.

Aside from that there are elements of Facebook that amuse me to no end. One is the way comments are archived. Once a comment section exceeds four or five in number, Facebook publishes the comment the posting party made and the last one or two with a "view all comments" option in the middle. This has led to a favorite Facebook game of mine, the "What in the hell happened between comments 1 and 17?" game. You know, first someone posts a status update of "Greg thinks Chaplin's best work was CITY LIGHTS." Then the first comment says, "A true masterpiece but I think I prefer GOLD RUSH." Then there's the "view all comments" option. Then below that is comment 18 which says, "Exactly! That's why I will never eat an infected cow's heart again!" You don't know what happened between comment 1 and comment 18 and you almost don't want to spoil it by clicking on "view all comments."

Things I could do without on Facebook are the endless multitudes of mindless applications that apply to nothing useful at all, for me at least. But as a forum for quick thoughts on film and discussion of ideas I love it. I really do. Things have changed quite a bit since I started blogging back in early 2007 and I assume they will continue to change, to evolve, to endlessly move forward. I look forward to it. And I look forward to continuing the conversation on film in a forum that gives blogging a whole new face.