An Open Letter to the The International Academy of Web Television

It’s been unlike me to be completely quiet about this. I received the first email and have ever since been on “the list” I guess. I’ve been invited to participate in the Streamy’s which you are concerned about and possibly run, I’ve been invited to vote on them, Rocketboom has been nominated on some counts, I think we were supposed to win one this year but we were unwittingly disrespected while accepting an award on behalf of Weird Al, but I think it’s all been said and everyone else started off their rants saying it had already been said so I think it has. And I personally didn’t say anything before because I could care less about awards shows.

Rocketboom did not participate in the Webbys this year because we did not want to pay the $200 entry fee per category required to nominate ourselves. This being public information, the fact that you have to pay to nominate yourself, I can see that the world has a different take than I do on being honored for their accomplishments. It’s certainly worth it’s price in the marketplace though. When we go out we always mention it because people seem impressed by it.

Anyway, so be it. Perhaps Rocketboom will apply in the future, whatever everyone wants to do, I’m going to remain indifferent on a personal level. I told the Streamys I wasn’t going to be there personally and to count me out with Woody Allen who tends to stay away from these kinds of things for similar reasons. I’ve never been to any of the meetings and never paid any dues.

If that was all you were doing at the IAWTV –  the business of awards shows  – I would have continued to bite my tongue.

But the organization apparently has another mission which is much more drastic, a mission that may jeopardize the most important aspects of this newly democratized medium you purport to protect. For your organization desires to promote single sets of standards, and exclusive methods along with best practices for the industry as a whole, as if there were such a thing, or for content creators or some other particular kind of exclusive group, a dangerous, controlling, limited and monolithic motivation to have in an otherwise vast sea of welcome openness and differences. From your bylaws:

The purposes for which this Corporation is organized shall be: 
(a)  To promote advancement of the web television industry; 
(b)  To further the common good and general welfare of the people engaged as 
professionals in the web television industry; 
©  To encourage the maintenance of high professional standards for web television professionals and to cultivate cordial relations among them; 
(d)  To act in a representative capacity for the web television industry; 
(e)  To develop specifications and standards for the web television industry; 
(f)  To encourage rapid and broad support across the web television industry for the use of the specifications and standards developed by this Corporation; 
(g)  To foster the development of high quality web television content; and 
(h)  To promote excellence in the web television industry through awards and other  forms of recognition. 

It’s unclear where the line is if there is any line at all with regards to who the iawtv is comprised of now and who it will end up being (i.e. who the people are behind the organization) and who the iawtv is supporting, and thus who you are by default going up against. Is it up to you to decide if everyone in the world should use a particular standard, like Flash, e.g.? Or an open-standard? Or no standard at all? How can you be sure you are supporting the right system when you encourage broad and rapid support of the specifications and standards that you develop? Already, there is one power struggle going on for control over your organization and separately, another power struggle happeing over who owns the Streamys. Please do not create yet another power play over the whole industry.

If online video was part of the Industrial Revolution I could understand the need for a union. People with dollar signs in their eyes can get kind of nuts and we must insure that workers are not getting their arms chopped off in machinery and that kids are not doing 80 hour work weeks at asbestos plants. Unions help protect employess from unfair conditions.

Or consider the recent news with ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers which has as their mission to protect and manage the rights of musicians. Unfortunately, ASCAP is now encouraging its members to fight against organizations like Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation because ASAP thinks these organizations are harmful.

And remember the writers strike? People who are members of the Writers Guild were forbidden to work by contractual law during the strike. Many writers discovered the internet because they had no other outlet suddenly. The writers who disagreed with the negotiating tactics of the Writers Guild had no choice but to go along with it, exclusively, right or wrong. They were stuck in a power struggle with no personal freedom beside a new world where there are no such rules.

I’m not suggesting that the IAWTV cease to exist. If people are interested in assembling to get things done to help support a new world of TV, even if the motivation is to be in control, then I would suggest, first, you 1) NOT create exclusive clubs with memberships that require payment to join, 2) NOT focus on awards shows that are competitive and leave behind in your wake 999% more losers than winners, 3) NOT try to determine what the market should be doing by promoting any one direction, 4) NOT try to determine what is supportive and what is not supportive for online video content creators or the market as a whole, 5) NOT create an organization that supports any one group while excluding other groups that are directly relevant, 6) NOT use antiquated methods of picking and choosing what is right and what is wrong for what is no longer a small league of players 7) NOT hamper the freedom of expression, technology, healthy competition, or the open market we have in place now called the internet which TV is only just begging to understand how to use.

Instead, DO create a place where people can go to get good information. Do aggregate data. List job opportunities, list online video resources, create a contacts database of people in related industries. Hand out awards for reaching predetermined technical benchmarks like a billion views or a $1M annual revenue, fund studies, establish conferences, expose what is inadvertently hidden…It’s so simple how you could help in a way that fosters positive value: provide a place to go for people to get data. This is not the age of mechanical reproduction. This is the information age. Provide information. Don’t create a charter of power, then find the people to manage the power, and then find the right issues, do it the other way around. Don’t start pushing your secular ideas on to the world and suggest what is right and what is wrong yourself. Do expose the options and display the aggregate totals without determining the action. Let others come to their own conclusions. Might I suggest you inspire but do not try to lead. No one should lead and everyone should be able to participate. Aggregate and filter.