The Other Internet

In this fantastic video, Dan Olson looks at the grossest parts of the publishing industry; the exploitation, the predatory behavior, the high tolerance of spam by publishing companies, and how grifters push freelance writers and voice actors into a gig economy nightmare.

Dan breaks down how these scams work—how they exploit people—but he goes one step further. He gets his hands dirty, and tries to keep pace with the ghost writers that are caught up in these scams by writing 1000 words a day, every day, for a whole month. He documents his experience to show precisely how these ghost writers are getting shafted and what kind of writing becomes of it.

Shocker! This whole system turns out to be a Jenga of grifts; one grift stacked on top of another, all the way down. It’s horrifying to me that there’s folks out there who spend their days trying to wrangle a quick buck out of the web like this and even more so that they’re joyfully exploiting freelancers like Dan describes.

When I first looked at the internet as a kid, I only saw this side of the web, and even then I thought it was all garbage. I could see how my family was using the internet as a grift, too. And outside of my family there seemed to be nothing on the web besides scams—I believed that the World Wide Web itself was a con. It was all advertising, spreadsheets full of stolen emails, spam, and viruses.

At thirteen I saw the internet as a human meat grinder of exploitation and I didn’t want any part of it. But videogames and books? They were free from the grift! I didn’t have the words to describe it then but I knew in my bones that Animorphs and Final Fantasy weren’t trying to steal my email address or credit card, they were trying to build something. They were clean, morally superior even, compared to this web of lies and deceit and desperation that I saw on the internet.

It wasn’t until my early twenties that it clicked for me: the web doesn’t have to be like this! You don’t have to participate in the con! You can make websites that are joyous and funny and charming, websites that don’t contribute to the meat grinder. You don’t have to steal anyone’s email address or exploit and coerce folks into giving you money. The world wide web could be—if we imagined it correctly—more than money.

Above it, somehow.

Whenever I tell civilians that I’m a web designer I get the sense that they place me in that other category, that other internet I noticed as a kid. I can see it in their eyes: Ah, so you’re one of those spammers, huh? And I want to shout NO! I am on the side of Neopets forums and Geocities and uploading mp3s of shitty songs onto your iWeb website. I’m on the side of blogging and learning about ARIA roles and finding a small circle of nerds that you care about but you don’t know their full names. I’m a part of this other other Internet, where hustle isn’t about making a quick buck and stealing from people but building something new and exciting from your bedroom.

I feel such rage and animosity towards these people who con and cheat and steal. They look at this incredible thing we’ve built together—a world tethered by HTML—and see it as yet another tool for exploiting people.

And so, for the record, if I may, disrespectfully, unkindly, repeat myself once more: fuck this con, fuck this exploitation and lazy hustle, and fuck this enormous Jenga of grifts.