On the opinion of the internet

Among the great things that Twitter has given us (instant worldwide directed mass push communication) there’s the tendency to oversimplify, to dumb down, and to manufacture soundbites. That soundbite culture, already a poison for news media, reduced common opinion to a win/fail mentality where there can’t possibly be something that’s mostly good, or which some people enjoy while other people do not.

So, for example, an opinion held by someone in one part of the world may be retweeted to others, worldwide, who may not be terribly well informed about this particular topic and receive this opinion as fact. One example: I recently received a tweet that went something like this:

“In the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray, who won? Streaming.”

And that might well be the case in the US, where Blockbuster went bust and the video shop is a distant memory — Netflix and streaming (Netflix or otherwise) have killed it. But in other parts of the world, say, Australia, it simply isn’t. Few people have the bandwidth for streaming movies on a regular basis, and fewer still have the ability to play them on their television. We don’t have a Netflix competitor worthy of the name, and the iTunes store has a much thinner range of content, very little in HD. We also have a thriving real-world video rental market, where physical stores still distrubute real discs, and where Blu-ray sits right there on the shelf next to DVD for every major release and many minor releases. On a Tuesday, everything’s $1 or $2 if you go to the right place.

So, while the US-centric “discs are dead” perception might be valid for them, much of the rest of the planet makes do with a physical distribution method for just a little bit longer. Quite a lot longer if we don’t get an NBN any time soon — if I can’t stream Blu-ray quality I’ll just wait for the Blu-ray, thanks very much.

There’s a second opinion pushing Blu-ray down, that the discs themselves are burdened with the studios’ need to add bullshit and “enhance” the movie-watching experience. Certainly, companies rarely improve things by getting between me and an entertainment experience; last night, I disconnected the PS3 from the net so that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World would even play — it just sat there “loading” while it had a net connection. Now, I don’t particularly care if my net connection was flaky or their server was down, this is just not good enough. Between that and the endless, painful PS3 updates, it’s very tempting to leave the plug out. We’ll see.

Still, the movie rocked. Fantastic, 10/10, brilliant, incredible, innovative, unexpected and funny. And much better in Blu-ray than any other distribution format. It would be a sad, sad thing to lose support for the best (still flawed!) format available here because it doesn’t suit people in other parts of the world. Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen — Blu-ray players can replace DVD players but not vice-versa — but “buzz” has enough power these days that the perception of a problem is enough to kill a product.

HD video is just one of the many things discussed on social media. If you’re on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen headlines presented as opinions (alone or with acronyms like LOL or WTF appended) and had your opinions influenced, even if you didn’t have time to follow the link. Beware: your opinion is not the only one out there; even limited awareness of contrary viewpoints will go a long way. One-line solutions aren’t enough.