Ashlee Simpson’s Lack Of Talent + Internet As Community TiVo

(Link goes to a local mirror of the 20MB DivX AVI of Ashlee Simpson’s performance on SNL. Faced with a dangerous lip sync track that she wasn’t expecting, she responded by…doing a jig. Then blamed it on the band.)

A lot of noise has been made over the past few weeks about “podcasting”, which is essentially automated downloading of audioblog posts via a syndicated feed. There are some that are trying to label it as the Next Big Thing in internet communication – and ignoring all my complaints about the process (not user friendly, lack of engaging content, not enough hours in the day to listen to all the streams, unnecessary bandwidth usage), I think there’s something else that’s becoming more engaging: ad-hoc peer to peer trading of media in nearly real-time.
Now, this is not completely new. Amusing videos of fuckups on television or other media have been traded online for ages. What’s matured are the methods and the quality. The time gap between the infamous Nipple Seen Round The World at the Super Bowl and when hi-resolution pictures and/or video were available online was roughly 5 minutes. Jon Stewart’s Crossfire appearance was downloaded – we’re talking just counted downloads – by more people than the number who actually watch Crossfire. To a smaller extent, similar swarming happened when President Bush claimed during the third debate to have never said he wasn’t concerned about Osama Bin Laden – before the debate had even ended, video proving he had said just that was making the rounds.
The above Ashlee Simpson clip has appeared online, and will spread virally, getting mirrored and having its quality increase as time progresses. (The clip I’m mirroring is actually the third version I saw.) NBC had to shut down their bulletin boards temporarily (and apparently edited the West Coast broadcast of SNL, which is only providing fodder for people to distribute it further); Simpson’s own boards have turned into a war zone.
What we’re beginning to see is effectively an online flash mob with a purpose other than just performance art. Here there is a targeted payload, a specific file or event that is being transmitted. Adding to the newness of this movement – and one thing that may boggle the minds of those who are brain-locked about what p2p is – is that everything is being doing with existing protocols. The actual movement of files is being done by BitTorrent, HTTP, FTP, or streaming media servers. The notification – letting people know it exists and why they should care – is handled by blogs, IRC, link farms such as, and message boards.
Because this is occurring with ordinary internet protocols, there is no barrier to entry. Anyone can spread the word (as I’m doing here). Anyone can mirror (again, natch) or provide their bandwidth for seeding a torrent.
Again, none of this is anything new – it’s been going on for years. But this dynamic, ad-hoc, viral peer-to-peer media distribution seems to be rapidly supplanting “traditional” peer-to-peer services like Limewire or Kazaa, at least for materials that can be shared via Fair Use.
With no single source of control or limiting factor, it’s the best sort of decentralized system: thousands and thousands of independent agents working together to achieve one goal. Even if that goal is laughing at talentless hacks like Ashlee Simpson or Tucker Carlson.