So unlike some people in my feed, I was totally expecting this day. I’ve been looking for work since April and have checked the Vine jobs page regularly since I know a few folks there. Also following the news with Twitter I am not remotely surprised at the imminent demise of Vine.
Instead of shooting off at the mouth, let me share with you an email I sent to Vine when I was suspended Feb 15 – a year ago.
Dear [Vine Employee],
So my time on Vine has been pretty interesting. I started doing this for fun because I wanted to have somewhere to work on my writing and learn how to edit. After a few months I realized that there’s actually a non-trivial niche market for this combination of nostalgia and comedy/satire. Early on in my time at Vine I saw an explosion of creativity and I met some incredible people. I was a believer in the platform because I felt like if someone can make you feel something, or make you laugh in 6 seconds or less – they’re doing something right.
Then out of nowhere I was featured on the Comedy page (about a year ago almost exactly) and all of a sudden I had this huge captive audience. I met even more amazing people and started to actually think about turning this stupid thing I was doing into a larger part of my life. I invested in an Adobe CC account (50 dollars a month). I started asking around for more tapes so I’d have fresh material to use for the channel. Also – the process of digitizing, encoding, watching, editing and writing the jokes may seem simple – but it’s pretty intense. If I had to estimate each tape I record can yield somewhere between 3-8 good vines – and each individual vine probably takes about 20 minutes to get ready. I share this not to pat myself on the back for wasting an immense amount of time doing this – but because I really believed enough that this was of value in my life to invest that time.
I had a lot of hope for the platform – I was hoping that it would be a fertile ground to find creative people and help promote what they do. I had plans to expand to a few new channels (that I’ve since started working on elsewhere) for some musical projects and some other non-copyrighted found footage work I was planning on doing. I always recognized that even though I feel as though my usage of copyrighted material absolutely falls into the category of fair use – others may not see it the same way. I do have a lawyer who I consulted about this who handles IP related issues who intimated exactly this sentiment to me.
So lets fast forward to about…..4 months ago. I’ve done pretty well on Vine. I’ve been featured a few times on comedy a bunch of times on Weird. A few things happened which really really turned me off.
1. It seems that Vine‘s business model favors making huge stars out of a small handful of the population while burying others. The new feature releases are a great example of this. When I saw that Spotlight was added I thought “Great! This will give Vine an opportunity for some of the really talented artists, musicians and animators to get featured and get some attention. To my disappointment this has overwhelmingly been used to continue to promote the “Vine Stars”. These people already have millions of followers. What is the point in promoting them?? The rich get richer… (Note: I did see Alicia Herber on there once which made me very happy as she is a unique talent)
2. Very ironically given my current situation there are some parts of the DNA of Popular Vine that really bother me. I went all the way through the #VineYear3 feed, as well as the trends page, and I noticed in both that there were a number of vines that seemed to promote bullying, violence towards kids, and other things that really bother me to the core. When I tell people that I do what I do on Vine who are relatively unfamiliar with it I can’t tell you how many times I get something to the tune of “Do you make Deez Nuts vines?” I just think that strategically Vine has made a decision to forego art and intellect and has kind of sunk to the lowest common denominator of chasing 1. fame and 2. eyeballs.
3. This is the part where it gets semi-personsal for me 🙂 I had a few accounts impersonating mine:
Considering I started to take this semi seriously I followed the appropriate channels and reported the vines and then reached out to someone at Vine. Since I can’t get into my VM’s I can’t tell you exactly how this is. I said “Is there something we can do about this – I’m worried about what these accounts are going to say. Also Impersonation is clearly against the rules on the Vine rules page”.
The response I received was pretty troubling – but also pretty enlightening. It was effectively “You don’t create your own content – so there’s not really much we can do about it.”. I launched into my legal defense of fair use and got mildly defensive about the pretty intense process I go through to do this stuff – but the message was sent. After having spent countless hours and a non-trivial amount of $ working on building my channel on Vine – it just made my heart sink. At that point I decided to keep working on my channel for the friends that I have there – and to try to continue to grow the audience so I can cross-promote once I get my other projects going. Why throw away a resource like that?
I’ve had conversations with many folks who are kind of in the same boat as me “I don’t really LIKE Vine anymore – but I have this big audience here. I’m going to try to get people over to Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter/etc”. Trying to log on the other day and seeing the suspension was the cherry on the sundae for me. I actually was off all weekend for the first time since before Christmas and had planned on watching some stuff and making jokes. When I tried to log on – honestly – I thought for a second “maybe I should just let this go and move on.”
Frankly – your response specifically and the fact that you cared enough to reach out and even ask what you asked today means that at least there’s someone at Vine that cares enough to hear what I have to say. Thank you for that. I hope you had a spare hour to sit down and read through this whole thing. If you’d like any clarifications or further feedback (as you can tell) I’d be more than happy to talk about it!
And here is my follow up:
Before I got distracted by more shiny objects I wanted to lay out what I observed when I went through the Trends page. I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t get this out there now – it would float away into the ether :-). No need to respond to any of this – just wanted to give my two cents.
I’m assuming this has to be a Vine curated page. As I’ve mentioned I am not specifically offended by any of these things. I’m a pretty big proponent of free speech on the internet though I think Parents need to do their job to make sure their children are behaving appropriately and monitor their actives. I just wonder if all of this leaves the right impression and drives the right behaviors from your audience. I’m sure much of the Vine team sees this all as aggregation of the behaviors that they’ve witnessed – but you can’t discount that what people see on these pages (the main pages of the Vine site/app) will also drive user behaviors. After all – who doesn’t want to be the next chloe lmao?
Bullying/Violence toward Children/Women
The first thing I clicked when I hit the page:
An overweight kid getting bullied for having a bad haircut. As someone who suffered horribly from Bullying as a child anytime I see this sort of behavior it upsets me. I try to intervene whenever I see a situation where someone is being bullied. To see this being promoted as one of the ‘top trends’ is very disappointing to me. To me the message here – is “Be really mean! Make fun of people for being different from you! If it’s really mean and funny it can become a meme and you can get famous!”.
My analysis about it is that this stuff happens organically – and Vine captures it after the fact. But if I were in your shoes I’d work harder to promote the people who are treating their subject matter – and their audience with respect.
Also there are a lot of vines that have been promoted showing children who are presumably all OK getting in potentially really horrible accidents:
Also the one where the older brother jumps into the younger one with an exercise ball comes to mind. I think actively encouraging this sort of thing – eventually becomes a dangerous proposition. You can take no ownership of the outcomes but if kids try to remake that vine to get attention and something goes horribly wrong how does that end?
2: The ‘Bitch’ Section
So my wife is an avid feminist (I try to be too – though I’m not quite as knowledgable as she and her friends are) and when we were talking about all of this last night she pointed out to me that 3 separate ‘top trends’ have the word Bitch in the title:https://www.dropbox.com/s/aflzbvj69bsw5q4/2016-02-15_13-44-05.mp4?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/p8bh4wruwpfyvj6/2016-02-15_13-43-02.mp4?dl=0Now I know that there are positive arguments to be made for using the term under certain circumstances- but all of these seem to be women calling each other Bitches. My wife saw this and was immediately turned off. I understand that this gets into some treacherous cultural territory – but I’d ask again: Is this what Vine wants to promote? You could have picked any meme-y trends that have popped up. 3 with Bitch in the name? I’m not sure…3. Sexualization of underage kids (particularly girls)Here’s the thing that upsets me the most. I have a 4 year old daughter. Since she was born I’ve been very sensitive to the sexualization of children. We know that Vine is a young platform. It seems like there is a reasonable expectation of free speech as long as you respect the rules.So I’m no prude – honestly I don’t really care much about things like that in general but here’s a Vine that’s being promoted as a top trend where an underage girl talks about getting Nasty Butt Naked:
Assuming her Wiki page is right she was 17 when she made that Vine. Again – I support her right to free speech even as a minor – but do you want that to show up on one of the three pages you can click when go to http://vine.co? Should Vine be pushing a trend that literally is a minor talking about having sex? I don’t know about that either.
As I mentioned above – no response necessary to any of this. It’s really just a braindump of a lot of the things that have been bothering me over the last few months. I’m looking forward to finding a time that makes sense and talking through any of this stuff. I’m personally less interested in the ‘woe is me – why won’t @vine promote me’ piece of this discussion than the substantive discussion about what Vine as a platform could potentially be.
So I’ll miss my Vine friends – but I won’t miss the cesspool that Vine became once the Vine Star revolution took hold. Farewell old friend.
-Tucker a.k.a. OG VHS