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Tue, Mar. 29th, 2011, 01:41 am
Asymmetrical warfare works both ways

Commenters don’t care if their comment is deleted.

I blanked it last week, because, frankly, it sounded silly: a 13-year-old girl has just made a music promo that suddenly went viral on the basis of how bad it was. The link to the article isn’t working for me, but Boing Boing’s summary is probably good enough for now: despite the promo being horribly bad, it’s very difficult to parody because it depicts, pitch-perfectedly, the reality and aspirations of its 13 year old target market.

(Yes, I am aware of the irony of using the phrase “pitch-perfect” when discussing a company whose business model involves relentlessly auto-tuning the vocals of teenagers who can’t sing.)

The comments to the Boing Boing article are full of parodies, and contrary to the article’s claim, some of them are pretty good. Appositely, most of the successful parodies succeed by using well-worn tropes - take a bubblegum pop song and turn it into something else by slowing it down and changing into a minor key. (Bonus points if you convert the protagonist from a happy 13-year-old girl into a wrong-side-of-20-something unshaven slovenly guy, although that’s strictly speaking a video job and not an audio job.)

And there are plenty of people pointing out that, these days, camera and audio gear is cheap: Rebecca Black’s parents paid $3,000 to record the song and shoot the promo, and with the state of technology today it’s completely reasonable to assume that the company involved made a fat profit.

To a certain degree I feel sad that technology has produced this; not for any rational reason, but because I remember my father being in the “music video” business. (He always referred to them as promos, rather than videos, possibly because that better referred to their inherent advertising nature, but more probably because many of them were shot on film, so the term “video”, referring to video tape, was actively misleading, dammit).

But then I look at other videos by the same people that uploaded Rebecca Black’s “official video”, and I realise that they’ve got the last laugh after all. Because they’ve gone to all the related videos, and marked every single comment as spam.

No, seriously. trizzygg’s YouTube channel currently links to four “official video” videos, presumably produced on behalf of teenagers with more parent’s money than sense. And the video that’s currently the promoted video for this account is full of comments. But not the others. They’ve all been mass-marked as spam by, presumably, employers or employees of a business who knew that they were temporarily getting more attention than they wanted, and who knew that Youtube comments are a drive-by phenomenon: people come by, comment, and then have no interest in ever following up their comment.

Which makes it a no-risk, no-brainer to claim that those comments were spam. Hardly anyone will be banned by this - the algorithms will realise that this was a false positive, an erroneous diagnostic of a real person being a spammer - and therefore nobody will notice. But conversely nobody will realise that a certain user is deliberately, and probably automatedly, tarring real people with the brush of being fake.