Monday, April 14, 2008

Banned by Bambi!

Wow. Nothing like a good e-drama to get your blood pumping.

This weekend I got an email informing me that my subscription to Bambi Blaze's sites had been canceled. I contacted the billing company and they said I should talk to the webmaster. I went to the websites and couldn't get into some of them, but found a message on ExpansionMansion's forum login page:

"Sorry Inflate123, you are banned from using this forum!
The user Inflate123 has been banned for linking from M & L Productions websites to his blog where he spreads disinformation & negative propaganda regarding M & L Productions in an effort to promote his own agenda."

My initial reaction was disbelief -- there was some server maintenance going on this weekend, so maybe something got mixed up. And maybe my credit card ran out -- we've been consolidating our cards and bringing down our debt, so maybe I forgot and canceled the card that was on the Bambi subscriptions.

Um, nope. I've been banned for the reason stated above. And I don't really know what it means.

Well, I do now, or I think I know now. I started looking at what I have done or said that would have been taken as "disinformation" and "propaganda" and I found it -- it was what I call "opinion" and "constructive criticism." I wrote this blog entry six weeks ago, offering my take on the state of Bambi's videos and the appearance of a new actress on the scene who might give her some healthy competition, and therefore give the community more and better options. This isn't even the first time I've suggested that Bambi could improve -- I did it in an earlier blog post, too.

Surely they wouldn't find my opinions so offensive that they'd just close my accounts and ban me from the forums? There had to be more to it. And since I didn't get any direct communication from Bambi's crew, I kept thinking, and I think I figured it out.

I created a decent-sized library of original inflation sound effects while working with Cyndi Irresistible. After Cyndi's vocals were done, I went looking for sounds and didn't find ones I liked, so I set up a microphone and grabbed some pumps and balloons and pieces of rubber and made my own, to better suit the stories. It's not much but I've always been very proud that I was able to get the sounds I wanted, so I've been kind of protective of the library. I planned to share some of it on the Yahoo group dedicated to this niche topic but I ultimately never undertook the Herculean task of uploading 700MB of audio files individually and didn't want to get trapped into the "that's great but can you make one like this" thing that often happens.

When Taylor posted on looking for input from the potential audience, I chimed in and even offered use of my sounds. (Bambi's videos traditionally use "wild sound" -- the hissing and the stretching sounds of the actual costume props, which is one aspect I like -- and not post-production effects...though I notice that the most recent one I saw -- "Enchanted Garden," released March 31 -- was specifically promoted as having custom sound effects.) Taylor's team said yes to my sounds and offered me some of her existing work for as a license fee. In essence, "We'll take your sounds, you take some videos." Sounds good to me.

Here's what I'm guessing caused the problem. Taylor's producer asked if it was okay if he gave me an on-screen credit for use of my sounds. I said sure -- I own the copyright on those files and there were no legal problems surrounding their use. Why not? I put effort into them and with Cyndi currently on extended hiatus, I was glad to see them used again. A credit was a nice gesture, especially considering I'd already been compensated with porn. You can see the evidence here.

I think the combination of the blog post six weeks ago -- one nobody even commented on in that time, so I didn't think it was particularly influential -- with my name appearing in "the competition's" video made the Bambi camp think I'd chosen sides. Since I linked to my blog from her forums and my blog contained something a mix of praise and negative feedback, and the blog talked about Taylor, and my name then showed up in a Taylor video...that I must be using Bambi's forums to spread -- what was it? -- "disinformation & negative propaganda regarding M & L Productions in an effort to promote his own agenda."

Okay, then. Time to come clean: My compensation for letting Taylor's team use my sound effects library (I simply FTPed my recordings and that's where my involvement ended -- I didn't record anything new and I didn't help with the video's production at all) was about $25 or $30 worth of complimentary Taylor video downloads and a thank-you line in the opening credits of one of them. I guess I'm a cheap date -- it's not like I'm seeing profit sharing or something. It was a content-for-content swap, which is kind of how this whole community started.

By contrast, I was paying $28 a month to see Bambi's stuff (a total of $600 to date), which, um, I'm apparently not paying any more. I have no problem with money-for-content swaps, mind you, and I do remember thinking about writing a script for Bambi, and maybe even bringing that up with Bambi, but even if I did articulate it, I never actually got around to doing it. I think it's the false assumption that I'm "working for the competition" that caused the problem. But I'm not really "working for" either side -- I'm just a customer. I suppose it's a little telling someone they can't buy Coke any more because you spotted them drinking a Pepsi.

So, that's that -- the long version, so I never have to tell it again. I haven't heard directly from Bambi's camp; I wrote to Dr. Curvy but I haven't heard a reply yet, so this is all conjecture until (if?) I get a response. But what's done is quite obviously done and the choice has been made for me.

I'm going forward with the following stuff in my head:

1) A business has the right to refuse service to anyone, and I really do support that. If they wanna kick me out, that's their right. I am not going to fight it because I am not actually entitled to anything. The internet is not actually a democracy, even though we all like to think it's at least a meritocracy. The people who pay the server bills do make the rules, and that's not an injustice.

2) I'd sent in direct feedback to Bambi on her videos last year, with ideas and suggestions for improvement for some of the same deficiencies I called out in my blog post. I didn't get that same courtesy here, and I wish I had -- if I could have explained what I just explained here, it probably would have worked out fine. By not knowing there was a problem, I wasn't given the opportunity to solve it.

3) Banning me doesn't actually change my blog post, the areas where I'd like to see Bambi's videos improve, or my desire to offer constructive criticism to the creative community. I'm a critic -- I mean, I'm really a critic in everyday life, I write entertainment reviews for a magazine -- and that's not going away. I don't feel that what I said was unfair. It's not "disinformation" -- it's just editorial information. And I have the right to post that as much as they have the right to refuse me service. I think my banning actually caused more people to read that blog post than if they'd just left well enough alone.

4) Every time I write a review on my day job or a story in my other life, I expect to hear negative feedback as well as hoping for positive. Any and all content creators who release their work publicly (especially commercially) should be prepared for the same. If you feel threatened by customer feedback, you will not succeed. This is a song I've sung before. Twice.

5) What a drag.


Prophet Tenebrae said...

I have to say, I don't think that even the misapprehension that you were a "collaborator" is justification for banning without warning someone who has financially and otherwise supported her.

I'm sure that people who might have previously been inclined to write off a *certain* debacle with sturmzone as a mere misunderstanding may be less inclined to think so.

ddtifulness said...

I just read your blog entries criticizing Bambi. Not only are they completely fair, generous, and constructive criticism, but I find myself in total agreement. Like you said, their effects are fantastic, and it's clear they put a lot of work into it, but there is always room to improve.

What they posted isn't just petty. It's actually libel unless they can back up their claim that you're spreading some kind of disinformation. I didn't see anything incorrect in there, and if they've got some specific issues, they can jolly well point them out like adults and ask you politely for an edit.

Those of us who have been in the BE scene since the beginning will always stand beside you. You were there before anybody, far braver than most, a true pioneer. This is just no way for her to treat you in particular. It's completely disrespectful and inappropriate.