As in any good household, there needs to be some house cleaning done to maintain order. Order is very important. Everything works correctly when there is order. Love leads to order. God, by his nature, brings things to order and desires we do the same. Even if you aren't religious, I'm sure you can agree that any society without order lends itself well to self-destruction.
Let me begin with a parable. There once was an ant hill full of ants. One ant was hit by the abdomen of another ant. The ant who was hit decided to hit back. The other ant then turned around to hit back, but since he didn't know which ant hit him, he hit another ant. The third ant did likewise, not knowing who hit him. Still another ant watched and, upon seeing the injustice, joined the fray. Eventually, the entire ant hill collapsed, and know one knew who to blame: everyone and the culprit all looked the same.
Our Fair Community
For some time now, the fractal culture has been dominated by what I would call the "free spirit". We, unlike ALL OTHER ART IN THE WORLD can share the bare essentials that replicate our art to its exact form. The only other form of art that can do something similar to this is 3D modelling, which cannot compress itself to "bare essentials". You either have the completed model or you don't; there's no set of generic/standard/common AND yet unique building blocks that, when assembled, construct 3D meshes in the same way that fractal programs can construct fractals.
This nature of fractals is due to the very basis of fractal design: math.
Because of this building-block feature of fractals, people are able to share parameters freely, allowing others to modify such parameters and create and discover new and unique shapes with math. This has gone great lengths to promoting creativity and discovery. However, this, and the ability to share parameters, has also allowed two critical things that are shaping the culture:
1) The mentality that "it's all free".
2) An apathy for design.
(1) is an error in presumption, but it's easy to make the mistake. Take this for example: A very sensitive artist decides to share their parameters with a user who politely asked for them, so long as they provide credit. This new artist creates an image and shares their modified parameters, giving credit as requested, but at some point, the original artist decides to put their old deviation into storage (or take it off DA). Out of negligence, the new artist may not have provided a link to the original work (or the old link might have been lost) or the link he provided broke, and he, unlike the original artist, decided to share his params under CCC or something free.
Then suppose along comes a third artist, oblivious of the original work (which he/she can't find or doesn't bother to view), but they see the license and think "Hey great! I can mod this!" They modify the parameters and, by coincidence, end up with something similar to the work of the original artist.
Notably, there are some popular fractal designs used over and over again, to the point where Xyrus' "tweak" journal seems hardly a reasonable measuring rod. Splits-elliptic and Xenophilic come to mind as the most popular choices. And just FYI, foci and bipolar are overly used final/main transforms and elliptic is WAY TOO overused for people to NOT accidentally stumble on similar fractal designs.
(2) Apathy for design comes from different causes. One might be just stealing for the sake of taking credit, but I wouldn't call this the largest fraction, much less a majority. I'm inclined to believe a majority of fractal artists are - ahem *cough* incompetent *cough* - when it comes to making new fractals from scratch. The reason why is obvious: there were almost NO good tutorials for helping people understand how fractals work. However, there are an abundance of "here's how to make fractal XYZ". Why the lack of such tutorials? Fractals are hard to explain. How do you explain math? I've figured out how, as I intend to publish on my blog, along with other fractal-related posts ( chronologicaldot.wordpress.com… ), and hopefully those posts will relieve some of the tension. I had to dig into the code to figure out what exactly was going on, and since then, I have had endless hours of experimentation. It's not easy to get something awesome in fractal art, especially when you have to learn it the way I had to. It's like driving in the dark with headlights that shine about six inches... at least until you figure out where the brights are.
This difficulty in art has caused many artists to prize their works like trophies, hiding them or, if they do publish, putting watermarks on them or only posting small versions, and all with tight licenses.
What I perceive has happened is what happens in many artistic communities: the divide. Unlike in other communities, however, skilled fractal artists look more like magicians than the professionals in other art forms. Ours skill is a kind of "black magic" (my pun is based on my "driving in the dark" analogy), whereas in other communities, it's more of a question of either reading manuals (as in 3D modelling), Googling and looking up the right equipment (as in photography, to say nothing of the artistic eye in that), and/or studying tutorials and others' work and just buckling down and working hard, knowing exactly how to get the end result (as in digital or traditional drawings). Digital art, for example, is not guesswork for the structure of the image, as can be the case with fractals. Believe me - I tried guesswork and it didn't work. When you design something digitally, you determine the image based on your own likings and preferences without guessing if the overall shape of your design is going to turn out as you expected. When you refine it, the refining process is all in front of you - no guessing in the dark to see if you got it right.
Artistic communities tend to result in three groups: the pros, the aspiring, and the rest. The pros can do what they want, and while they may always be learning, at this point, they add to their tool set more than to their general understanding of a composition (Don't take that sentence too literally, please). The aspiring are those who spend time learning the skill, in many cases quite a bit of time, but their work is noticeably "not the greatest". The aspiring artists may enjoy tutorials at first, but the farther they go along, the more they desire explanations, not just the Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 approach. The rest are those who never really try like aspiring artists. They have no desire to become the best, and consequently, their art always remains amateur or sub-par (except in lucky cases). Some of them don't want to be pro and never wanted to be to begin with, and some have simply given up. Still others are simply testing the waters to see if fractal art is something they might be interested in.
It is in these crowds we can see different mentalities. Incidentally, it is the same crowds as you find in any art community. (Note: These are not meant to be representative of everyone with shared sentiments, lest I be making straw men. They are generic mentalities that seem to be common to or partial mentalities of many people I have encountered.)
While it is true that this crowd is at all levels, I find that, in many cases, artists who are "good"/skilled/talented/pro tend to be more possessive than their not-so-skilled counterparts, styles and years of experience set aside from consideration.
The mentality goes something like this:
1) I created it, therefore, it is mine.
2) I can share it or keep it secret if I want.
3) I should be recognized as the creator.
4) I have the right to tell others what to do with my work.
Points 1-3 are naturally agreeable. Point 4 I will return to later.
I've mixed the carefree with those who "love"/advocate freedom since both love freedom of action. There are different reasons for why people hold this stance. Some people are blissfully ignorant, some are apathetic, some are realistic, some think it's better, etc. etc. Ultimately, these people promote a culture of sharing. Sharing is fun and enjoyable, and everyone benefits in some way. The mentality might be something like this:
1) I do this for fun.
2) Sharing is fun because we all benefit.
3) (in the case of fractals) It's just math art.
4) Everyone shares, so it must not bother most people.
Points 1-2 are true. Point 3 was discussed a little, but I will return to points 3 and 4 later.
In any community where beautiful art is made, there will inevitably be jealous people. If fractal art was considered only suitable for desktop wallpapers, this would be less of a problem, but this crowd, though smaller, would still exist. This crowd thrives on the idea of being given credit for things they did not do. This crowd does not go away.
However, in handling this crowd, care must be taken to avoid confusing them with the Free-Minds, since the Jealous tend to hide under that banner as an excuse for their actions. What tends to happen is that people make the mistake of lumping together Free-Minds and the Jealous, which makes enemies of the Free Minds, and the jealous don't care.
The mentality of the jealous is simple. It goes something like this:
1) If I use the art of someone else, I can get credit without having to do any serious work.
2) I can get away with what I do because the odds of being found by the artist or their supporters are extremely low.
Other mentalities are not mentioned primarily because they are not as dominating.
A House Divided Against Itself
"If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand." - Jesus, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.
There has been for some time arguments and bickering in the fractal community over various things, but aside from the usual directly-stolen-art complaints, I have never read complaints about similar parameters. Instead, I hear complaints about software. For me, it all started quite some time ago with a rant in a developer's journal about what someone said to him about his software, and he was basically complaining about the complaining. The post wasn't directed to anyone in particular, but what happened was similar to hanging a rack of dirty underwear on top of one's house. It wasn't directly shoved in anyone's face: it was publicly displayed for all to view. I naturally took offense at it - it was unprofessional, undignified, and, as far as I was concerned, inexcusable. While I did manage to resolve my differences with the developer, it left me with a bitter taste of the dark side of the community (in particular, too, what was written about in the developer's entry), of which, up until that time, I don't recall ever having experienced.
For some time, I have considered the fractal community the best community on DA. Our art is the only art that:
1) People are very friendly - the best on DA
2) People rarely use fractals for lewd, immoral, or outlandish images
You don't make porn with fractal art - you have to make a manipulation to do that, and even that, I've never seen done. DA's homepage is covered in all kinds of things, many of which I find detestable. The fractal community is the one community I know I can come to and see the best of colors and shapes - the best visuals in the world - and not have to worry about skipping anything because "it's not moral" or "it's not my preference".
However, what we may find ourselves treading on in the future depends primarily on how we handle our present situations. Several things need to be addressed, as I have begun doing with this post.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is how to build up. It's easy to try to tear down. What am I referring to? People. Build people up. Mean words tear down. All too often it is easy to throw mud, insults, and pin the blame on someone else. Doing this accomplishes only one goal: it makes the other guy hate you. What was the real objective? Getting even? "Punishing" for "injustice"? Or, if you're thinking like me, was the real objective in an argument to get the other guy to see your point of view? If you want someone to see your point of view, don't call names, don't cuss, don't swear, don't mock, and don't say or do anything that you know you wouldn't appreciate if you were in the other guy's shoes. If you try these things, you're defeating yourself, your own aim at continuing the discussion in the first place.
Next, all too often, I see people resorting to cussing over various things, even little things.
People, do you know what cuss words are for? Cuss words are not for merely expressing an emotional state, as so many people blindly accept. Words are meant for other people to hear. Cuss words are meant for instigating an emotional response in the other person. That's how words work. Don't like it? Sorry, but it's a fact. If cuss words weren't for other people to hear, people would say random meaningless stuff all the time to vent their frustration. The fact is (and you know this too), when you cuss, you want (even if secretly) the other person to sense your frustration or emotional state.
If you prefer to cuss, here's an exercise for you: Instead of cussing, try writing/saying "snot ptootie" instead. I can almost guarantee (depending on your mentality) you will find yourself grinning and on the verge of laughing because of how silly it is. It lightens the mood.
On a related tangent, people tend to use things like "damn" and such for descriptions of images or in regular conversation. It seems like most people forget the definitions of these words, so let me post them for you:
Keep these in mind the next time you want to say these words.
The next things to address include the disregard of artists' wishes. This will be covered in another section.
Finally, presumptuous activity is something that needs to be seriously addressed, and for that, I devote the next section.
Those Awful Presumptions
Find something similar to what you did? - Don't assume it's based on yours. Don't assume it's a copy of yours. Don't assume you did your work first.
Find some parameters? - Don't assume they were given to everyone. Don't assume doing anything with them is "perfectly fine". Don't assume they work with the software you have.
Find something free? - Don't assume the author is the original. Don't assume the artist doesn't care what you do with it. Don't assume the artist knows what you could do with it, desirable or not.
Someone do/say something you didn't like? - Don't assume you understand entirely what they meant.
I could list a variety of assumptions and such that people make on a daily basis, especially regarding fractals. These assumptions could end up leading into unforeseen problems, because, as we all like to think, "I, of all people, am right." Statistics says you will probably be wrong in your lifetime. Statistics says you will probably be wrong more than once. Today may be your unlucky day. Want to avoid that problem? - Question what you think is true. Carefully examine the situation. Ask questions.
A simple PM is fairly easy, but since "it's out of the way" or there's some other excuse on our mind, we find it easier to deal with things as they happen and hope we can get away with one. "Oh, it won't matter" or "This isn't very significant, is it?" are excuses we come up with for negligence on our part to really examine a situation.
We need less presumptions, more contemplation... being more considerate, more... courteous.
A Community of Love
"Courtesy is love. Politeness is grace." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
In all my years on DA, I don't think I've ever seen a critique or comment on a piece of art that says, "This sucks" or something to that effect. Not to say it doesn't happen, but it is so infrequent that I've never seen it. This fact has made me quite proud of this community, and I hope to continue to find kind and considerate people here. But to preserve such a community, sometimes it is necessary to remind everyone what it is and how it works.
The Golden Rule of "treat others as you want to be treated" was taught to people who loved themselves. In other words, it wasn't meant for psychopaths and people who want to hurt themselves. The whole point was that those who wanted good things should give good things to others. What Jesus is promoting here is the establishment of a self-supporting system. It's a system that works.
We have an economy. Why does an economy work? One guy buys goods from another, and the other buys goods from the first. While the economy isn't so simple these days, that's the essential idea. The economy is supposed to be a self-supporting system.
In the same way, a community of people need to be supportive of each other in order to maintain the order, peace, and harmony of the community. For this to happen in a community, there needs to be courtesy - thinking of others.
It is important for this community, particularly since this is an artistic community, to be considerate of artists. And, at the same time, it is equally important to be considerate of the other interest groups and mentalities, the inexperienced, the possessive, the aspiring, the free-minds, the professionals, the newbies, etc. We ought to take the desires, requests, and perspectives into account whenever we post artwork online, whether it be on DeviantArt or elsewhere.
That said, it is important that we continue to strive to understand the mentalities of these different groups as well as the situation we are now in.
Let us think about what it means to be courteous. It is courteous to open the door for someone. It is courteous to be considerate. It is courteous to give someone the benefit of the doubt (that is, understanding they may see things differently than you). It is courteous to step aside so another can receive a blessing. It is courteous to show up to work in modest clothing.
There is something that I call "professionalism" that (in my book) carries with it a lot of baggage, so-to-speak. When you are a professional, you should act like a professional, talk like a professional, be respectable as a professional, and respect others. If you don't, you can't expect others to do likewise. When people think of "professional", they often think of the "show" more than the integrity or respectability of the professional. It is sad that these days professionalism is seen as a suit and tie below a set of lying lips. Professionalism was meant to carry a kind a kind of prestige for who one was and at the same time be courteous.
Showing up to work as a professional meant included wearing suit because a suit was respectable and considerate. It was considerate in that it was modest. If your boss didn't like skull and bones on a shirt, then any employee who showed up like that would be offensive. The same could be said with T-shirts and loose, "casual" clothing. A suit an tie was the way to show respect for one's employer because the employer wouldn't have to put up with the -distasteful- clothing of his employees.
These days, that ideal is disappearing, and it's harder to convey the idea of courtesy in business when the world is being dominated by selfishness.
Selfishness is considering and caring only for one's own self. It is the opposite of love, but it is a great way to tear down order.
How can we be courteous to each other?
When it comes to artists, ways we can be courteous are:
1) Ask if this is original artwork, so we know the original creator.
2) Request permission/blessing of the artist for usage of the artwork. (This is nice to do even if the artwork is labeled CCC.)
3) Ask what sort of things the artist doesn't mind that we do with the art.
4) Inform the creator of our intentions / things we plan to do with the artwork.
When it comes to our audiences as artists, ways we can be courteous are:
1) Not posting things (and/or with restrictions) that make others jealous of our work or promote an atmosphere of jealousy.
2) Not taunting or boasting with "trade secrets".
3) Sharing methods and ideas for constructing fractals.
4) Making an effort to understand the desires of our specific audiences, especially our devoted followers, and reaching out to them.
When it comes to the community at large, ways we can be courteous are:
1) Not spamming, boasting, or showing off our work on the art pages of other artists.
2) Not engaging in self-promotion, but seeking to promote the work of others.
3) Drawing attention to aspiring artists.
4) Taking the time to provide insightful, politely-expressed critiques when requested.
Participation in events, especially those you are subscribed to, provided that they are not too numerous, can be an expression of courtesy because you are considering the efforts of the person organizing the event and showing them that their efforts were not for nothing.
There are numerous expectations we have when we encounter other people. We would like to expect the best from them, but yet we think we can "be who I want to be" and somehow the other person is supposed to understand. Life doesn't work that way. It works more like this: If you are rude, some people will be nice to you anyways, some people will ignore you, some people will hate you, some people will be rude back, and some people won't care. If you are nice, you get the same thing. The difference is that if you are nice, there is a higher chance that people will be nice to you. If you are rude, most people are going to comply with their human nature and be rude in return.
This past July, I wrote a post dealing with how to talk to people in response to what your computer does: fav.me/d7t36vz Called "Courtesy, Copyright, and Computers", it basically outlines a subsurface mentality that lends itself to the promotion of negligent file-sharing. But the lead point is one of realism, and it concerns how computers work. That section of the article is a must-read, as it is important to anyone with expectations about DA.
You have some expectations as an artist, as a member of the audience, and/or as a businessman / someone selling something. You often expect the other party to understand your mentality and comply, but that's not how life works, as I said. We've basically returned to the idea of presumptions (yes, more problems with them). Only this time, it's our mentality in question, not merely our perception of the artwork.
At this point, I'd like to return to those points I mentioned about the Possessive and Free-Mind mentalities. These points reveal expectations on certain sides. Points 3 and 4 of the Free-Mind mentality were: (3) It's just math art. and (4) Everyone shares, so it must be ok. The Free-Mind expects the community to be free by default. If parameters are shared, it means it is free to change.
Think about this for a moment. No one owns "spherical". It's a math function. Someone might claim the code for it, but there are various different implementations, so there's no duplication as far as I can tell. The effective math is the same, but not the way it is done. Since all variations are this way, no one owns the building blocks. What is controlled are the parameters. This is an XML document, the specification of which is per-program-based now, noting the differences in software. Rearranging this document file and changing the values by 0.00001 units in places can result in the exact same fractal but a different document. The only real similarity is the output image. That said, outside of the image and the parameters, everything else is "just math".
What isn't "just math" is the time and effort that went into getting the math organized correctly so that the image could appear that way. This time and effort is often forgotten about because the final outcome is nothing more than 1024x768 pixels or a 4kb text file. Courtesy tells us that it is wrong to disregard such effort, inasmuch as the result may have been determined entirely by math. At the same time, it is absurd to think we "own math". Last year, someone tried that stunt and it didn't work ( www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/… ). No one owns math. But what is going on in fractals is more than just math: it's an arrangement of the pieces. That said, it's an algorithm of sorts. However, supposing that one wishes to achieve a similar result, he must use the same math. There is no way around it. It's the same as if you had a bunch of +1s and wanted to reach +2. To reach +2, you will have to add two +1s. There is no way around it, even if that +1 + +1 is a sub-step.
Point 4 of the Free Mind is also one that isn't courteous. It isn't courteous because it is assuming.
The expectations of artists are also notably high. The possessive artist point of view is one that deserves another article in itself, but addressing point 4 is the most important because it deals with an understanding, not only of art, but of life itself. As a realistic, I have argued against this "rights" mentality on numerous occasions, but more recently I have written down my argument against it in a kind of summarized form.
Let's Get Down to Business
As a casual artist, I understand the joy of sharing with the community, watching it grow and thrive, and being part of a giant movement in history.
As a businessman, I understand the desire to profit, the desire to make a name for oneself, and a desire to have a supportive fan-base for a variety of reasons. From a coder's perspective, people provide benefits and bug-reports.
I understand both sides of the fence. One mentality balances out the other. Reasonably, I have to ask myself, "Is giving away everything free going to help you or are you just going to be another artist?" On the flip-side, reasonably I have to ask myself, "Would you pay for something like this? Would you like it if someone showed you nothing and had you trust them as being great? Would you like it if someone showed you their best and yet didn't help you one iota?" With those things in mind, amongst dozens of other thoughts, I have to formulate the correct response that is most beneficial to both my audience and myself. The result of my realism leads to a set of compromises that I have to live with. At the moment, that means most of my best artwork has remained private until I decide what I want to do with it. At the very least, however, it means I will not make the mistake of posting it on DA and then realizing sometime later that doing so was an irreversible mistake.
Take some time for a moment to think about those areas in your life that you have not been courteous in. Is there something you can do to act more courteous? You may be able to restore your relationship with someone or build a new one. Ultimately, your actions build upon each other. Note that people don't usually remember words, but they do remember how they feel about you. Little acts of courtesy build on each other, which can result in beautiful friendships and a pleasant and polite atmosphere for our community.
Good night everyone, and have fun fractalling!
I may have written more, but it is very late right now and my hand and arm have carpal tunnel.
My apologies in advance if anything sounded odd, or there were spelling errors, or if something looks wrong. It's very late, as I said, and I'm tired.