In the last weeks, life was a roller coaster. I neglected writing for the blog, the newsletter and promoting the new podcast episodes. Despite not promoting them, I recorded and published. As life is getting a little bit more stable again, meet the Tanzcafé episodes 2-5 with the amazing Olivia, Sina, Jaekwon and Chris Cross.
Recently I witnessed the question “Who is fact-checking you?” popping up on Social Media more and more. Not aimed at me, but at good people I follow. That question is a sign of ignorance and misunderstanding of the process. In my opinion, it’s a testament to one of the most underrated issues of our society: the missing ability to check and verify the information yourself.
What is fact-checking?
Fact-checking is an elementary form of research. If you are confronted with new information, you look for the real source of this information. If you get it from someone who just heard/read it somewhere and you don’t know where it comes from, you can not judge if the source is trustworthy. If you find the source, look if the statements make sense. Is it about what someone said in an interview? Check the interview, not an article about someone writing about the interview. About science? Is the source a scientific paper that quotes other sources, or is it a text that is all anecdote and no data?
Depending on what you are fact-checking, the process differs.
Why you need to fact-check yourself
Because you never know the reasons why other people do it. More often than not, so-called fact-checkers are on the payroll of governments, corporations, or NGOs with their own agenda, which is not revealing the truth but supporting their interests. These fact-checkers are just part of the propaganda machine.
If you can’t do it yourself, have someone on your team who can do it, or you lose in the information war.
Here is the absolute basic process if you want to get started with fact-checking yourself.
- Check Google and DuckDuckGo for the stuff you want to read about. We use 2 different search engines to rule out algorithmic bias or censorship. You can use any 2 search engines of your choice as long the second is not based on the first. If you can not confirm this info, just go with Google and DuckDuckGo.
- See if you can find the original source. Example: if it is about something someone said: try to find a video interview where he did. Then check if the video has been cut at that place. If yes, it might be out of context as it has been edited.
- If your results from multiple search engines align, you are good to go. Otherwise, you need to properly research the stuff.
I am doing a book promotion for Dance Smart, with a nice discount. If you liked Dance Smart and want to use it in your class or simply as a goodie for your students, this might be for you.
Order 10+ paperback copies and you will get 40% discount on the retail price (6 instead of 10 Euro).
It is up to you if you want to give them out for free, resell for 6 to give your students the benefit of getting them discounted or sell them for 10 and earn 4 Euro per copy.
The promotion is running from Feb 15 until Feb 28 2021.
Consulting alternative social media is one way to improve your research game. Recently we talked a lot about researching, asking better questions and making your own decisions. If we want to make informed decisions, it’s essential to have access to all information. Algorithms that decide which information to show us and what to withhold are detrimental to this process. Considering this and political censorship, it’s evident that the mainstream social media platforms and big tech search engines are not our friends when we want to see the complete picture.
Luckily, many projects are out there, who try to do a better job by providing decentralized and censorship-free platforms.
Why we need options
As mentioned above, we need alternative social media platforms to access as much information as possible. We need to decide what we want to read, instead of handing over this decision to automated processes or artificial intelligence.
The second reason is the necessity of free speech. If we can’t hear others opinions, we can not include their ideas in our thought process. Even if we disagree with statements, it is imperative to know them if we want to make well-informed decisions. We need to have discussions, even if they are inconvenient.
The disadvantages of alternative social media
The one critical disadvantage of projects competing with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and more is their smaller userbase. It devalues these platforms for doing business. A big user base is beneficial to find new customers or business partners. All the major players are built in a way that benefits businesses and advertising. For the savvy businessperson, that is the purpose of mainstream social media: find your audience and connect with them.
The second major disadvantage is the dark side of an uncontrolled environment – it is not a safe space. Every content is equal. Therefore you will find all kinds of offensive content, extreme and radical opinions that reach from plainly stupid over misanthropic, and straight-up illegal stuff as well as scams that are after your money. On the other hand, all of this is happening on the major platforms as well, you just don’t see it, because you never clicked like on one of those.
These unregulated spaces are a fantastic playground for everyone who is used to think for themselves.
Some basics to know about the tech
I want to clarify some terms that we use in this space, so you are aware of their meaning. Not too much depth and details, but enough to know about its implications.
Open Source projects publish the source code of their applications. Everybody interested can look at the code and evaluate what it does. The projects function is transparent. This transparency usually ensures that there is no hidden malicious code and fewer bugs. The opponents of the Open Source idea suggest that knowing a source code inside out makes it easier to exploit it, but in most projects, the opposite is the case. The communities working on and supporting these projects are effective in making their code secure. If one finds a potential exploit, it is often fixed way faster, than on proprietary systems.
Decentralization means that an application or system runs on many different computers, owned by many different people. In a centralized system, one server or many server clusters are owned by one company or entity. In a centralized system, the entity who controls the servers is in full control – like in a dictatorship. Decentralization works like direct democrazy as no single part of the network can change any rules alone. The strength of a decentralized network is in the number of people participating.
Blockchain is a technology that processes and stores data as a long list of so-called blocks. Usually, things are not deleted but kept forever, and the current status is the result of all blocks that have been added. The most popular use-case for blockchains is cryptocurrency, but we can use it for many things that are not cryptocurrency-related as well.
Here is my list of alternatives for social media in 2021
- Minds.com is an alternative to Facebook. Everybody who follows you will have your content in their feed. There are tools to boost your content to people who do not follow you. These boosts work via the Minds Token (ERC20) that you will earn slowly using the network. If you want you can also buy that token, but there is no need. Minds is open source and built on the blockchain.
- LBRY/Odysee is a blockchain-based decentralization protocol to host content. It can host all kinds of content, but right now it is primarily a competitor to youtube. There are many projects available, and you can start your own. You can access the LBRY via those apps or in your browser via Odysee.com.
- Mastodon is a decentralized, open-source version of Twitter. You can host your own Mastodon server. In that case, you decide if you want to connect it to the global network or run your own small Twitter competitor.
- Aether is a peer-to-peer alternative to discussion forums like Reddit. Its focuses on privacy, transparency and democracy. Content is online for six months and then gone forever. If it is important, you better save it. There are moderators on aether who are elected by the community.
- Diaspora is one of the oldest decentralized social networks. It is open-source and everyone can host their own version.
- DTube is an open-source Youtube clone. It has the same functionality to boost content to non-followers as minds has, and you earn their native crypto token if people consume and like your content.
- Bitchute.com is another decentralized Youtube alternative often attacked as a home for right-wing and nazi content. This is a side-effect of being decentralized, not censoring, and can happen on every decentralized platform. Also, there is a rumour of Bitchute not being decentralized. I could not find out if that is true or not.
- Signal is an open-source messenger that you can use to replace WhatsApp, the Facebook Messenger or similar candidates.
There are far more options out there than the ones I listed here. I went with the ones that I know personally and found the most useful in my own work. Do your own research and find the platforms that work best for your needs.
Closing thoughts on alternative social media
Be aware that you are entering the wild west of social media. You can find gold or catch a bullet on all of these social media platforms. But so can you on the mainstream ones. It is your responsibility to find the communities that work for you and make your life better.
Also, some of these platforms and apps are not as easy to handle or navigate as their mainstream counterparts. That and the smaller user base are the reason why they are only slowly adopted. But if you care for the information, that should not be an issue.
A job you hate is bad for your soul.
The headline is dramatic, I know, but so is the emotional impact of slaving away at work if you don’t care about it. Deep down, you think that the work you do is not worth doing. You know that there is something more fulfilling or even meaningful for you. If you don’t act on that, some of you (probably your subconsciousness – but I’m no psychologist so take the details with a grain of salt) will tell you that you are a loser, a slave or worse.
To lead a fulfilled life, you need to have the whole you on the team, not a part of you throwing punchlines to your head all the time. Trust me, I have been there, felt that, have quit the job and now life is better.
Deadlines can be a catalyst for good work if you care about what you do. If you don’t, deadlines create unnecessary and unhealthy stress. Most jobs nowadays consist of holding multiple deadlines a week.
Someone else defines that what you do is urgent, but you disagree because it is simply not important.
Living a life, you don’t care about
If you don’t care for the work you do and are working a regular 9 to 5, you spent most of your life sleeping and doing stuff you don’t care about.
That’s one of the things you should read again.
You can simply test out the waters.
There is no need to quit your job immediately if you feel that dance is calling for you. Start it as a side-hustle and see if you can earn some extra money. If you can, slowly decrease your regular work and increase your dance biz.
The good thing is: if you find out, dance is not for you, you can just quit the side-hustle or go back to a regular job. The commitment is not eternal.
Job security is a lie.
With any given crisis, you can lose your “secure” job as well. So there is no need to pretend it is more secure than doing what you love.
Build your vision
You either build your vision or help someone else build theirs. So you always help to make something. What reason is there to help to create something you don’t identify with. What reason is there to slave away in a job you hate?
You owe it to yourself.
You should treat yourself with enough respect to a least try doing something you love. You don’t want to look back at your life and wonder “what if I had become a pro dancer”, do you?
If you want to start the year with some reading, I have a list of book recommendations that I really enjoyed in 2020. Maybe there is something in there for you as well.
- Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.
If you have children or are teaching children in a class, this is a book for you. The content is invaluable, but it is a little bit difficult to read because the authors repeat the same topics over and over. Still my number one book for this year.
- The Practice: Shipping Creative Work.
The motivational kick-in-the-ass for creatives who are eager to make a difference with their own work that matter.
- The Neuromancer Trilogy.
That one is fiction. If you like the stories of the Matrix, this one is perfect. Neuromancer is widely considered as the birth of the Cyberpunk genre.
- Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion.
The right read for people who want to explore spirituality from a scientific point of view. Free of dogmatism.
- Japanese Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library).
A collection of tales and mythical stories. Full of metaphors about life.
- Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
An eye-opener in financial education. While I consider this book an absolute must-read, there is no need to read the others from Robert Kyosaki. Almost everything comes back to the principles explained here.
- Cryptocurrency – A Trader’s Handbook: A Complete Guide On How To Trade Bitcoin And Altcoins.
If you are interested in the techy domain of cryptocurrency and how it can become a valuable asset in your life: don’t leave this one on the shelf.
The links above are affiliate links. If you buy one of the recommended books via Amazon, I get a small part of what you pay as a provision. The price for you stays the same but it supports me and my work. That would be much appreciated.
On December 7, 2020, the IOC officially approved breaking as a discipline at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. That’s exciting news for competitive breaking, but the dance scene is ambivalent about it. There is widespread concern that the essence of our dance might get lost, once it gets drawn into the world of sports.
The risk of breakdance being part of the Olympic Games
The biggest fear that is around in the dance scene is that breaking will become detached from its cultural roots and the bigger part of the world will perceive it as an acrobatic form of sports, instead of an art form that goes hand in hand with cultural values. There is nothing we can say to debunk this claim. That is a possibility, but it is not inevitable.
How the wider public (outside the dance scene) perceives breaking will depend on how the competitions are judged and who the judges will be. If we are honest about this point, there is no difference to events that are happening right now. Depending on the judges panel, the character of events changes a lot.
Also, the mainstream media and therefore, the majority of people worldwide already perceive our dance as acrobatics and not a dance. When we ask random people about breaking, they have no idea what we mean. When we ask about breakdance, they know it is about spinning on your head.
The advantages of breaking at Olympia
With breaking becoming an Olympic discipline, its exposure will be much bigger. As mentioned before, there lies the risk of creating the wrong image in many minds. But if you pay attention to the discussion and the signs that Olympia sends out, they at least try to do it right. They call it Breaking instead of Breakdance, even though the majority of people are not familiar with that name. So they are, at least, aware of the responsibility.
The bigger exposure will create a lot of opportunities for dancers to earn more money and educate the public (if they choose to do so). The older generation will be able to judge and share their view about dance and culture. The young generation will have an additional platform to test their skills. This platform will most likely be the one with the most attention when we count eyeballs. This attention will lead to even more brands and sponsors come on-board for breaking, which opens up opportunities for people to make a living from breaking.
Will breaking change because of its inclusion into the Olympic Games?
Yes and No. We will see an increased focus on the athletic aspects of the dance. The young generation is already pushing the boundaries of what can be done. Olympia will only speed up this development, but it is not its sole reason. Breaking has always been a phenomenon living in the twilight between art and sports, and the aspect that caught people’s initial attention was the acrobatics. This will not change.
The jams, battles and gatherings were we celebrate the culture will not go away, just because there is an additional platform. Underground events that are true to the culture will still be around, and they are not competing with sports competitions. It will be in the power and responsibility of all the b-girls and b-boys participating in significant sports events, like Olympia, to represent our culture appropriately. This includes competitors, but also judges, consultants and even visitors who are familiar with the culture.
Manny talked to Red Bull BC One 2020 E-Battle Champ and World Final Runner-Up Madmax about the balance between being an athlete and an artist. Also, Tracy interviewed Ayane, talking about her point of view when thinking about Paris 2024. I highly recommend you read them both.
We need to play it smart instead of being stubborn
If we want to stay relevant in this thing, we need to play it smart, instead of insisting on being right because we were there before Olympia and other big players. There is a lot to do around big competitions with worldwide participation and media coverage. And we (as people that live in and love the scene) are not good at these things yet, because we never deemed them essential.
I am talking about commentators, analysts, documentation, physical and mental training methods, coaching, mentoring, own independent media coverage – no matter if it is written, video or audio – and many more things that are part of any big competition. People that cover sports for decades have that shit down, and we are just getting started. Of course, some single individuals and companies play the game already, but as a whole scene, we don’t. This could become an issue as people with no interest in the culture would coin the public opinion.
It is up to us to develop the abilities to fill as many of these needed roles as possible. Even for dancers that don’t compete, there are opportunities to bring their expertise and do jobs linked to their passion. Some might even find out that these new opportunities suit them better than competing themselves. The potential to make it happen is there. But it will be a rough ride to level up fast enough to be ready for the competition in 2024. One question remains: Is it important enough for us to try, or will we stay on the sidelines and hate about others making their moves?
Research is an essential component in most contemporary works of art and also in a lot of jobs that aren’t related to art at all. The opinions what research is and how to research appropriately vary by great lengths. This is my point of view on this topic.
Not all research is equal
Depending on your project, your requirements for research will differ. In a scientific paper, you will need to quote all sources, verify their credibility and do so as well for the sources of your sources, if you want to be taken seriously. When you research for an artistic project like a stage piece, it might be sufficient to find opinions instead of facts, so the need for verification of every source might not be needed.
If your art wanders into the fields of political activism (which is indeed often the case and the premise for the core of this article), you better dig deep and make sure that you are telling the truth or you risk to lose all credibility when it easy to debunk your claims. People tend to not believe people again, once they could find a lie themselves.
Tools of research
Access to information via the internet seems to make research much easier than ever before. This is partially true. It is easier than ever before to find info about every topic, but the quality of that information is not as reliable as it was in a time when putting out information was harder to do.
- Nevertheless, our research usually starts online. Google the topic. Make your search specific and not generic. If you consider censorship and filter-bubbles as an issue (you should) do the same search with another search engine (like duckduckgo) that is not based on Google.
- Search social networks, discussion forums, community pages and specialized sites for info on the topic. Don’t stop after checking Facebook and Youtube. These two platforms are owned by the biggest corporations that earn money, with your data and preferences. They cater strongly to what they think you want to read. Specific discussion forums and alternative networks that don’t earn money with your data should be your preferred sources online. Examples would be reddit or the social network minds. Which platforms you go to depends on the topics you search for. I already wrote about alternative social media platforms, if you want to dig deeper into that topic.
- Check out documentaries about the topic.
- During steps 1 – 3, you hopefully picked up some names of experts for your topic. Grab their books from the library if they published something, check their blog, social media and whatever is available. If possible, get in contact and talk or write with them.
- If they reference others in their work, repeat the steps above with those people as well. This can be a time-consuming loop until you really get to the point when you find the source of something.
- Don’t prefer one opinion over the other, just because it suits your point of view. Check all theories with the same enthusiasm and depth of research, until you debunk or confirm them.
- The fewer sources you have, the less reliable your information.
- The farther away your sources are from the origin of the information, the less reliable your info.
- Spreading false information will hurt your reputation.
- So will sharing misleading information.
- If you consider your topics to be the target of censorship and your primary sources are platforms that use algorithms to decide what they show you, you are doing it wrong.
In the end, research always comes down to asking the right questions. Only you can know what these questions should. Be honest to yourself and invest enough time to come up with everything important to your project.
Often we tend to feel that social media is keeping us from doing more important or more productive things. But saying social media is the problem is a serious misinterpretation of the case.
If we hang out online instead of doing stuff we want to do – the problem are our priorities. Because we just don’t want it enough. Facebook and friends can be ignored if we really have something to do.
Recently I made a Dance Espresso about that topic. Bottom-line: we need to be the master of our digital life or we will become it’s slave.
As we talked about showing our art to the world, the next inevitable step in the chain is receiving feedback. Sometimes because we ask for it, sometimes because people want to share their thoughts. Getting other people’s thoughts about our work is probably the best way to learn about things and improve what we do. Here are 4 crucial things to understand when listening to feedback, in Dance Espresso episode 4.
Don’t confuse the messenger for the message
We should be able to separate our personal feelings for the persons who feedback from what they are saying. Being likable does not make one’s opinion more valuable or right. More often than not, the most valuable input comes from people who don’t sugarcoat what they have to say. Try to give every opinion the same amount of thought from your side, no matter whose it is. And please, don’t get upset without listening.
Don’t take fighting advice from people who never stood in the arena
Try to get feedback from people who have experience in what you are doing. When we talk about dance, get your input from dancers, choreographers, producers, directors, or dance curators, producers. Everybody is quick to judge art. When applying this feedback, you should be aware of the audience you are creating for. If you want to reach the masses, listening to a lot of amateur feedback will help, but if you want to grow in your work, it might be a better idea to reach out to fellow artists.
Immediate reactions vs. well-considered feedback
The third point also depends on what feedback you are looking for. Today it is prevalent to present something and ask for feedback immediately. This practice gives you the first impression of the people, which can be what you are looking for. If you are doing a piece of work that is intricate and needs time to unfold in the viewer’s mind, giving them time is the better thing to do as the material needs to germinate to have its full impact. The more simple the matter, the less important it is to give people time to think about it.
A business sidenote: when you present a complex issue or solution with many implications, don’t pressure your colleagues into quick feedback without having the time to think it through.
Sort out some feedback
In the end, we are talking about your work. It is about your style, your view of the world, and your way of doing things. When a response makes no sense for you, goes against what you are trying to achieve, or simply is stupid. Please ignore it.