The other night I dreamed that I was writing a blog post with the title “No one wants to be free”. When I woke up, I realized that it was the perfect title for a rambling series of posts originally inspired by a NY Times article calling attention to the fact that so many people, especially creative ones, are expected to provide free content to feed the insatiable appetite of the internet and entertain that segment of the public that wants to do nothing but sit back like semi-conscious zombies and consume the content of other people’s brains.
Contrary to the title, some of us (including readers of this blog!) do want to be free to create according to our own vision, whether it be perfume, writing, visual art, music, or even science. The price of this freedom is often doing what we do for free, or at least from the precarious perch of a free-lance existence or a demanding day job.
As an independent perfumer, I’m fortunate not to have to be constrained by a wealthy corporation’s miserly budgets and explicit briefs to make conservative-trendy fragrances that smell familiar to mass-market consumers. I don’t have to make perfumes for detergents or deodorants. If I want to buy expensive osmanthus absolute, I can do so and use it to my heart’s content, and if I want to make a perfume that doesn’t smell like anything else in existence, I can do that, too.
I’m fortunate to have reached a position where I make enough through sales to continue to finance my creative experiments, even as my production capacity grows and sucks up larger and larger amounts of materials. I may not make a living as a perfumer, but at least I break even. This year I even had a little extra to buy myself an expensive treat for my birthday.
The thing that has set me off on my latest rant was finding yet another bug in Blogger. I wanted to do a new post on Arabian perfumes, but needed to know where I last left off. The search function in Blogger doesn’t work! I type in a search term and nothing happens. I sent Google feedback through the window that seems to be there for the sole purpose of directing complaints to an automatic deletion system. Do I feel better for having vented? No, I don’t, because I know it was futile.
Instead of tech support, Google has forums where users can post their complaints and have them addressed by other users. This means that Google has a lot of geek wannabes working for nothing, spewing out html workarounds for Blogger’s many bugs. Google doesn’t have to pay a penny for tech support personnel because these people provide it for free. The advice that users post may be inaccurate, incomplete, incomprehensible, irrelevant, or it might actually work, which is about the same level of help one would get from many “professional” tech support people. However, I really resent having to rely on self-appointed free workers for information and services that should be provided by the company. Google isn’t the only guilty party. It seems that more and more companies hide behind a firewall of anonymity while allowing customers to discuss problems among themselves and, if they’re lucky, stumble upon solutions.
Apparently the Blogger search function problem has been going on sporadically for a year or more without any resolution, but with extensive discussion on the users’ forum. Maybe it’s time to finally move on to another platform, even though I’d probably lose a lot in the process. If anyone has made a successful switch from Blogger to Wordpress with no loss, I’d like to hear about it.
I’m eternally optimistic but profoundly cynical, so I would like to think Wordpress is better, but expect that it has its own set of problems, most likely similar to those of Blogger, especially a lack of real tech support.
[Painting of frustrated writer by Leonid Pasternak; zombie, osmanthus, and chain-gang images adapted from Wikimedia]