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Tuesday, December 18, 2012 :: Tagged under: pablolife essay culture. ⏰ 9 minutes.


Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄


small<>Originally written on December 18, Newtown hit me very hard, then I got wrapped up in holidays. Actual publish date is January 4.

tl;dr I still believe all this but feel people who watch game streams with ad block are acting supremely entitled because there are workarounds, and compared to "theft" of mass media the inconveniences are fewer, and the producers are more cheated.</small>


[UPDATE (2013-7-2) Jake responded! There's still a lot I disagree with, and I could fisk those parts, but it's really not worth it at this point. I think we just diverge on how we frame certain things, and I think it's better to focus where we have common ground. I really appreciate the dialogue :)]


I got into a Twitter disagreement with a good friend, Jake Eakle, mostly over this tweet of mine:

Considered working in eSports when I decided to change jobs, but goddamn can eSports fans be entitled asscactuses reddit.com/r/starcraft/co…

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

To which he responded:

@srpablo I thought the top comments raised valid points about problems with twitch ads. I have to refresh streams too often to leave AB off.

— Jake Eakle (@jseakle) December 14, 2012

And I:

@jseakle I don't disagree with the points, or that it's a teensy bit annoying. But they cry bloody murder over it, and it's many ... (1/3)

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

@jseakle streamers' livelihood. Many act cheated that this service that of continuous free content isn't just perfect for a few ... (2/3)

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

@jseakle minutes/hr of content, so cheat providers. Dunno, growing up with TV, I find it hard to agree with conclusion/tone. (3/3)

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

And he:

@srpablo It's a similar issue to content piracy. You can rail against the entitled selfish thieves trying to (cont) tl.gd/kbl9bn

— Jake Eakle (@jseakle) December 14, 2012

(I'm not putting this on twitlonger, because I prefer the data in my own space).

So I promised a rebuttal in a similar long-form vein as the Twitlonger post:

@jseakle Agree almost entirely, have for years, see similarities in morepablo.com/2010/08/making… insufficient in this case, at this scale, imo

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

@jseakle might update blog for longer argument, but short: ads work as model, $5/mo subscription option removes, diffs with general piracy

— Paul Meier (@SrPablo) December 14, 2012

and here it is!

Summary, and a brief aside.

First, I still agree with all this. No use arguing right vs. wrong on these questions, prefer working over non-working, and in the case of mass media assets like pop music, Hollywood movies, and royalties for scripts, the current system is not working.

Note that this doesn't mean I would pirate or endorse pirating: my opinions in the previous post were concering a proper attitude as a producer trying to make a living, not the morality or a judgement on the person obtaining the assets. I didn't state my opinion of that person or their actions.

Here's where the two posts differ: in the tweet that set it all off, I was stating my opinion, at least as in concerns game streams, and more clearly so we don't miss it: given the state of media, if you're running an ad blocker during a stream, you're being entitled (in my opinion, unjustly) to free entertainment and the labor of artists. And, well, I think it's a dick move, so I don't do it, and hope you don't either.

That said, here's why it's a more complicated situation for me than the standard case of mass media, where I'm much more forgiving.

This system works for artists, actually.

In the last post, I hinted at the fact that the last system didn't only provide inferior service for consumers, but cheated artists as well:

A fringe benefit of this is that you no longer have to deal with middlemen taking big cuts, and stealing. Hollywood accounting means that you could still, technically, lose money on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson and the estate of JRR Tolkien had to sue to get any royalties from the movies). It’s how TLC could sell 10 million CD’s and still go bankrupt. The bad old days were bad for artists too. So leverage the technology, and work for yourself.

See the Wikipedia page for Hollywood Accounting

In game streaming, these "highway roberry" practices by middlemen are much harder to perform than in traditional entertainment spheres. So when Warner Bros. or Sony Music tell me that I'm stealing from Rihanna, I know they've got her and every other one of their artists on a short leash, and I'm actually stealing from Hollywood fatcats who give them fractions of a penny of my $20 CD or DVD purchase.

(note: the not-incorrect theory is, those "fatcats" actually need to be there for the work to get made at all, and deserve their share of the money too. Sure, okay. Certainly the creation of art isn't enough on it's own, and there's a whole industry around packaging, marketing, distribution, and the like. I'll expose my bias for content creators here: I can't prove that a system where they get more of the money for their work is "better" since creation is only part of the process, so I'll just state I have an emotional preference for rewarding content creators, at least more than the current system does).

Given this, I feel a fair bit worse running AdBlock while watching Grubby's stream because it means mah boi Manuel is losing more money for entertaining me (for FREE mind you... but that's later) then I would be depriving Kanye were I to downloaded his entire life's work, proportionally speaking.

(SECOND note: this doesn't mean Twitch.tv or Owned3D don't take a cut here. They're the fatcats. But that cut is substantially less, since a) they are in in direct competition with each other (and tomorrow's startup) in a low barrier-to-entry market, and therefore can't collude as effectively ("it's just how it's done" can't be pulled off), and b) they're calculating artist compensation by automated processes based on precise measurements like ad impressions. Hollywood accounting is possible when you can make a few "big scores", for which you need a legal team to create a confusing contract based on fungible definitions, and an accounting team to enforce it... Basically, yes, they take money, but they're playing a game that only works when they create a system where it is much harder to screw you).

[UPDATE (2012-01-17): So as soon as I say this, Owned3D comes to light as being an asshole. So you can still screw artists over. Hopefully the market corrects this, and they either change their behavior or people move to Twitch/YouTube/UStream/LiveStream, or Owned cleans up their act. But if not and this continues, well, this overall point of “better for the artists” becomes less valid.]

[UPDATE (2013-07-02): In case you don't know how this story ends, Owned3D went out of business (leaving many contracts unpaid) about 2 weeks after the above story broke. So the market did correct for it, though this leaves Twitch as the clear dominant player.]

So while I don't do it, I don't feel that "stealing" from the big labels in traditional media is the same as stealing from the artist, but in game streams, it's much, much closer; close enough to give me pause. That said, if you're still so annoyed by the ads...

Put your money where your mouth is and subscribe.

If you click the link to Grubby's stream above, you'll notice a Subscribe button for $4.99. This means you watch that stream ad-free for a month, and give the streamer a bigger payout per-user than they get via ad impressions. So if you really wanted to watch ad-free and weren't afraid of participating in capitalism (where both the producer and consumer benefit from a transaction) why is this option never mentioned in the comments to threads on AdBlock?

A big reason I don't own a TV or subscribe for cable is because I watch streams regularly enough that I wouldn't use it. If a basic cable subscription costs $60 (that's conservative, from what I hear/remember) you can support 12 streamers for that cost and watch 12 streams without ads, ever (cable subscriptions often cost more, especially with HBO, sports packages, &etc.)

I have no data for the premise that few people subscribe, for all I know it's a very popular feature and tens/hundreds of thousands of users do it. I'm skeptical though, because it virtually never gets mentioned in any threads about AdBlock, and all the people who know AdBlock is costing TeamLiquid 50-60% of their ad revenue never mention or seem to care that all their grievances for watching ads could be remedied with the cost of a fancy drink at Starbucks.

I know not everyone is a software developer like me who can afford the cost of of a cable subscription, but if you still choose to just block the ads, also remember...

It's a growing industry.

Not to become the "STOP KILLING ESPORTS" kid, but... if you like eSports, why are you engaging in a practice that actively hurts its business prospects? It's a brand new form of mass entertainment, still on pretty shaky ground, and this bubble could still pop. Just ask Jason Lake or Alex Garfield or Marcus Graham, because they lived and invested in a world of $500,000 Counter-Strike tournaments, only to watch the whole thing pop around them.

(Here's a great interview with Jason Lake, where he mentions "the old guard" of eSports. Included because, again, the scene has gotten this big before, and collapsed hard. You could similarly ask Koreans how MBC Game is doing...)

I think voting with your wallet is mad effective, and when someone creates a good or service that I like, I see no issues with purchasing that good or service if the price is reasonable. And while I was pretty happy before video game streaming was a thing, but I'm much happier with it. So I think you should turn off the AdBlocker if you think the price is reasonable. What was that price again? Oh right, it's

30 fucking seconds.

Like I said before, this post is less logical than the "works vs. doesn't" post from before, and more opinion as to "why it's entitled." I've tried to make a persuasive case as to why this has different feels from the traditional media piracy argument: namely, this hurts the artist more directly, we have an opt-out that still supports artists, and the artists we're punishing happen to be pushing the frontiers and forgoing more stable livelihoods for something that doesn't have to exist, entirely for my entertainment. But here's where it gets the most opinion-ey, and where it motivates me to call most of those people from the thread whiners and asscactuses:

It's minutes of ads for hours of entertainment, for no money at all.

Nowhere else do you get this value proposition: you can pay out the ass to go to a movie to be entertained for two hours (with non-blockable ads at the start) that barely support artists onscreen; you pay for a cable subscription to have the privilege to watch a sitcom episode with 23 minutes of content and 7 minutes of commercials.

Or you can watch a minute or two of ads for every 30-40 minutes of game? Is it really that painful? You're getting this for free, and it's available all the time.

I agree it can be annoying as hell sometimes: I scream at my monitor when it doesn't work (sound on ads never works as it should, pre-roll means you can miss something interesting, repetitive ads, glitches mean the ad never runs but the screen blocker does... oh I could go on), but really, you'll just stop supporting an industry and its risk-taking content creators whose growth has contributed to some of the best entertainment you've had in your 20-odd years because you can't stand a minute of pre-roll ads?

There's a word for that: entitlement.

While not specific to Jake's Twitlonger post (he never mentions TeamLiquid or PPV) it's especially baffling on a site like TeamLiquid, where it's mostly banner ads that are getting blocked, and triply baffling when you remember the bloody murder that Starcraft fans cried when MLG went for a pay-per-view model, and started charging for HQ streams in 2011. If ads are blocked, where do they think the money will come from?

Ultimately, I won't argue over the use cases (pre-roll meaning you can miss something crucial, bad sound, etc.) because I wholly agree with them being aggravating. I just don't see how you can miss the greater context enough to think it's worth blocking ads.

Specific responses to weak sauce from the Twitlonger

Just picking at some straggling lines, things that made me "wat" a little:

"Sure, I don't *have* to be able to do that. But since I can for free, I'm going to."

If we didn't have an effective police force, I very well could assault, thieve, and pillage from you because there'd be no governing law to stop me.

And I agree with you! It would be more effective for people to form a police force than to simply tell me to stop.

It doesn't make me less of a dick, or not entitled, since I've still taken people's shit and they had no say in it. While the stakes are lower, it remains an unpersuasive argument -- it's like people saying if one doesn't believe in God, why would anybody be good if there's no Hell and Judgement to fear?

Because we want to be good -_-

"And since I'm going to, it just makes sense for twitch to build their ad model such that I can keep giving them money while I do it."

Agreed, as per above re: police force. But know if Twitch/Owned and the scene as a whole continues, it'll be despite your consumption of the product, not because of it, and that just seems twisted to me, especially since we like the work they do.

I'll bet nobody wants the sound on their ads to work as much as they do, but the fact that they haven't fixed it yet suggests there might be more to the problem than appears at first blush (software is like that, natch).

Finally, it's questionable whether "I don't like your price/model, but I like your good, so I'll take it by my terms because I can get away with it in this case" is really ethical in the general case.

"This really isn't a defense of my actions."

I find it very odd that when I ask why you do this, you provide a not-defense of your actions. But I think it signals something else, which I'll get to next...

"feel free to think I'm a freeloader and hate me for it."

Oh, I definitely think you're being a freeloader.

Here's the thing: I think you know it, too, as per the "not defense" quote. But like extremely wealthy people who refuse to pay taxes, you've created a mental model of the world that makes your choices of convenience also Ethically Sound. But when asked to defend that model, most of what comes out are simplifications, or non-defenses.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I absolutely don't hate you for it. I have tons of disagreements with my friends over issues with much higher stakes (like the eternal fate of my soul, for instance), but don't hate them as people as a result.

"I don't even really disagree."

Then why do you do what you do?

"I just think that time is better spent working out mutually beneficial solutions."

Why not both? The people at Twitch/Owned know (and care a lot more than you do, believe me) that they can get much more viewership and revenue from their existing viewership if they come up with a model that isn't as annoying.


Sorry for the delay, Newtown and holidays hit me hard. Thanks for engaging me ^_^

Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄