New Start-Up LBRY is Complex Solutions to Simple Problems


I’ve spent some time trying to work through this popular AskMeAnything today from the creators of LBRY: We’re the nerds behind LBRY: a decentralized, community-owned YouTube alternative that raised a half million dollars yesterday – let’s save the internet

What’s the Problem?

The best I’ve been able to narrow it down, the main issues that LBRY seems to be trying to address are:
  1. Corporate ownership of distribution channels.
  2. Content Producer’s ability to maintain IP and control over distribution/advertisement of their own content
  3. Content Consumer’s inability to connect with and support Content Creator through traditional forms of paper/non-digital currency

What’s the Solution?

According to the OP, /u/kauffj, self proclaimed Chief Nerd:

LBRY helps move the internet from corporate and government control and back into the hands of everyday users and people.

So… MAKE THE INTERNET GREAT AGAIN? Back to this idealized time, back when it wasn’t in control of the government and corporations? It should be noted that government institutions, more or less created the internet, mainly through universities funded by military contracts. I’m not 100% sure what we’re going back to.
I’ll say what LBRY isn’t saying, since the AMA is being run by self-proclaimed Nerds and not us smooth-talkin’ marketin folks:
LBRY helps move distribution away from the advertisement and personal data-driven marketplace (think YouTube and Facebook) and allows people to support their consumption either through literally hosting content through their ISP or by paying creators in a newly created blockchain cryptocurrency.
These guys are trying to create a blockchain/democratized media distribution platform. I applaud them for that effort.
But… plot hole: why does there always have to be a *MORE COMPLICATED* solution to what is essentially, a very basic problem?
This comes from some incomplete thinking. Basically: there’s a technology problem and we need a technology solution to solve it. But by creating an incredibly complex solution (seriously, just scan through this “ungodly essay”), what is the likelihood of it’s adoption? What is the likelihood of accomplishing your stated goal of “saving the internet?”
In design, we have a basic tenant that SIMPLE = GOOD.
That’s the Steve Jobs line of thinking: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”
Other theorists claim that Elegant is the enemy of Good. Or that Elegant is a Privilege. Both have a strong argument.
But what matters most, to the Realist, is: Will People Adopt this New Technology? Or, Who the Fuck is Going to See This?

The Mythical “Way-It-Used-To-Be”

The most democratic form of media distribution is oral history. Storytelling. Then, perhaps, carving letters into stone. Soon, though, motherfuckers be charging me for stones and chisels because I’m lazy and I don’t want to carve my own tablet.
Unfortunately, the reality is that communication channels have been controlled by the rich and powerful for a long time. Literacy is a relatively modern invention, and even then, literacy is mostly wasted on the internet. The scribes were paid for by royalty or religious institutions. The art was paid for by the patrons. Even the printing press, a major step forward in democratic knowledge spreading, was controlled by the elite.
Knowledge and language are not inherently democratic. The hackers write that, “information wants to be free.” I’m not convinced. Anarchists want information to be free.
More importantly, the trend throughout history is that Information wants to be hidden, often in jargon or complex equations, in secret languages or offline servers. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German broke apart the seams of society. Our financial systems are encoded in a secret language spoken by those with MBAs and international finance backgrounds.

Information, when left to it’s own devices becomes more complex, not less.

It’s exhausting, no? Why should it be that for Information to become Free, it has to become immeasurably complex? It doesn’t have to be that way, and it hasn’t always been the solution.
I think that LBRY has great intentions but poor execution, because you can explain it to your Grandma and you can’t interrupt a broadcast with it. They need to keep simplifying.

For Inspiration: Hack the System

The first point is to stop fighting technology with more technology. Use the existing tools to create interventions in the here and now, on the distribution channels that already exist.
If the well-educated and now, seemingly, well-funded team behind LBRY went a little deeper, peeled back the onion, they maybe wouldn’t have to create entire new protocols. Rise up, make art, create interventions. These Anarcho-capitalist solutions are so much more insane than the opportunities to create interventions.
An open-source peer-distributed digital protocol hits all of the bingo boxes for a solution I’d be very eager about. I recognize that LBRY seeks to create a brand new means of distribution and that these interventions mentioned above utilize existing protocols and technologies, so it’s not exactly their solution.
Democratic distribution exists: buy a projector. Invite strangers to a space to view your media. Or surprise them in public. Send out free CD’s. Share. But raising capital to create a system this complex?
This is the problem with making an apple pie from scratch. First, you have to invent the universe. Their stated goal is to take back the internet. Is LBRY really the best way to do it?
Wesley Wolfbear Pinkham is co-creator of Optimystic Media, a co-op for nomadic media professionals. He is a graduate of the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures.

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