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What's good for one isn't necessarily good for another.

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29 October 2012

Yahoo! Contributor Network Internet Censorship October 2012

Well. I knew the day would come when what was once an amazing writing outlet passed away. All amazing things pass away. Perhaps that's part of the allure of the amazing, it seems eternal until it fades (as all things do). You may wonder at the cryptics, the seemingly coy conversation starter, but fear not, I shall explain.

I realized it had been some time since I last submitted anything to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. I've got 91 pieces published through their site. I fancy stopping at 100. Now, some of the pieces are a testament to my status as a novice freelancer and were originally published by AssociatedContent.com.

AssociatedContent.com was an incredible place full of user generated articles, creative writing pieces, product reviews, etc. They had a fairly simple payout plan and an openness, an equal place for equal voices. Fellow content producers (CPs) acted as peer reviewers, part-time editors, concerned users flagged articles, private messaged or commented to the author about the quality, accuracy, or some line that resonated (whether good or bad).

In the beginning AC was unique. It was a place for liberated users to create a library, a database of thoughts from around the world. When I first joined (September 2007), AC didn't offer payments to people living outside the U.S. But, it wasn't about payment as much as platform. Don't get me wrong, payment is important, even so, writers don't write for money. They write because words are their life's blood, if they don't write they'll die. (Maybe I'm melodramatic, I'm a writer). Payment just helps them eat.

A writer today, writing online, can make decent money, if they can quickly pop out hundreds of 400 word articles on the most mundane subjects known to human kind. AC was a dual layered platform offering the article poppers a place to make residual income on their work and a place for creative writers to also make residual income on their work. AC offered upfront payments for certain types of non-fiction work (for article poppers), though the nominal payments weren't usually enough to compensate for the legwork.

I knew early on that if AC became successful enough the risk of buy-out would rise exponentially. I also knew that buy-out generally came at the expense of platform. Things always change when new ownership arrives. It's the golden rule of corporate buy-out politics: Find something that is awesome, then buy it out, change it up, mutate/destroy the awesome, and drag it out until nothing is left, then discard the damaged awesome. Rinse and repeat, in the name of profits.

When I found out that Yahoo! was poised to purchase Associated Content, I was emotionally confused. On the one hand, Yahoo's interest gave a legitimacy to AC that wasn't really there before. On the other hand, Yahoo was a different type of site, catering to a different audience. I wanted to be excited for AC, for the other content producers (CPs), for myself as a CP. Even so, I couldn't get excited. I knew. Yahoo was a large conglomerate already branded with a specific type of audience in mind. Buying out AC offered quick access to countless "quality" CPs and countless "non-quality" CPs. The first order of business would be renaming the site, the second order would be converting/synching the systems, and the third order would be weeding out the "non-quality" CPs (a two-step process involving changes in the submission guidelines and introduction of content editors). Technically, these orders of business could be done in whatever order fit Yahoo's interests.

Well, suffice it to say that the Yahoo! Contributor Network (formerly AssociatedContent.com) changed their name, switched AC's CPs to the Yahoo! platform, altered the submissions guidelines, and added content editors (not necessarily in that order). Thus, they began the process of weeding out those CPs they felt were "non-quality" or not suitable for Yahoo! Contributor Network. In this process, they also began the heavy-handed task of internet censorship.

I have a confession. Some of you may be taken aback. Others will just nod in understanding. I cuss. I swear. I curse. I use profanity. I'm a recovering sailor. I do not use profanity in every single piece I write. I do use profanity in the appropriate places within my writings. For example: Should a character in a story stub their toe, the realistic response would be: "Fuck! That hurt."

As a realist, I capture reality. Unfortunately, reality doesn't bode well with censorship. Thus, while I wrote for AC (uncensored), I was able to produce content like: Foul Language, Cursing, and Swearing are All Parts of Speech. (This article is part of the AC archives that were transferred to Yahoo!). Unfortunately, pieces like this are no longer possible on Yahoo! Contributor Network. This article would have been declined during the submission process because of "vulgar language."

This weekend I submitted two poems. One had no cuss words, the other had "shit". Both poems were initially "declined" by the editor(s). The poem without vulgarity had no feedback/reasoning for why it was rejected. For that poem, I added a keyword tag to the keyword section, additionally I added a period and capitalized the word following the period. I resubmitted and the poem was published immediately. Since there was no feedback, I can only guess why it was declined (I suspect SEO/keywords). You can read the newly published poem at the following link: Aching, for One Whole Minute.

The second poem (with "shit" in it), I have deleted from the Yahoo! Contributor Network submission process. They asked me to remove the "vulgar language" and resubmit. However, I refuse to be censored. I'd rather delete the poem from their platform, than to change a single word. I will find another outlet for that particular poem. I believe the only time my poetry (or other work) should be edited is when there is a blatant error. The word "shit" was intentional, thus no error, thus no change will occur.

For your amusement, here is a picture of the decline notice:

Yahoo! Contributor Network declines Finley's poem "Unseen Future Unfolding" for "vulgar language" 28 Oct 2012
And, for your reading pleasure, here is the poem I refused to change for the Yahoo! censors, I mean, editors. (Please note: I do not harbor animosity towards Yahoo! Contributor Network, nor their editors. My aim is to point out that censorship changes the intention of the writer and the intention of the written piece. Additionally, I'd like to highlight the point that altering a "vulgar" word compromises the integrity of the piece. In my poem, "shit" could be changed to a number of equivalent words all amounting to a stinking, steaming pile of fecal matter, none of those words capture the essence of "shit" better than the word "shit." Besides which, the act of making this change would be an admission by me that I think censorship is okay - censorship in the land of 1st Amendment rights is not okay).

Unseen Future Unfolding

While watching mytube Neil d. told me
my reflection is not present, but past.
That light travels there and back.
That light is the length of past sight
which is really now sight reflecting
past view. If, then, we each seek the past,
perhaps it is because we can only see
what was before. Now—though we may
be deep in it—is really the unseen future
unfolding around us, and we, though
super computers, can see but a second ago.

Space-time, then, limits our abilities to see
Now for what is truly there. We can
surmise, we can assume, we can project,
we can even prophesize. None of which
changes the sick beauty found in the reality
that we are inherently designed to see
the immediate past and to make assumptive
and presumptive decisions regarding the
immediate future based on that past view. 

We strive and drive forward with the urge
to live Now. But, we are bombarded by the past.
So much so, that many try living in denial, as if
past never happened and future doesn’t exist.
I think sometimes: Is it a sickness? An ailment?
Some sort of “I don’t give a shit” disease?
I couldn’t be happier that Neil broke it down.
It explains such as could never be explained.
It explains how and why even though some deny,
they repeat, verbatim, like their playbook
came from the first game ever played
on a SAP waiting to be taken into slavery.

All they see is the past. All we see is the past.
Not the long ago. Not, eons, nor ages.
But, seconds, maybe minutes. Well, I take
that back. When we look at the stars we see
explosions from ages, or eons, that long,
long ago. Don’t we dream while we look?
Hope while we stare? And for that instance,
when we zoom so far back we can’t fathom
the timeline, is that not when we know the future?

~Monique Finley

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