Online, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff..?
“The Internet has become awash with echo chambers of the incapable, resonating to the pulse of an airbrush compressor humming disappointment from beneath a bench of broken dreams.”
The Internet, that place where if you look hard enough, you can find anything you need and more. Want to build the perfect model? Click that mouse! Need to know if that new kit is worth buying? Click that mouse! Click, click, click! We all use it, we all check it every day and chances are you’ve been swayed by the most vocal exponents in the ‘art’ of model making, whether you like it or not.
The Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice, where everyone can offer their opinions on all manner of hobby-related topics. The problem with that is that the Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice, where everyone can offer their opinions – and it doesn’t matter one iota if that person is a rank amateur, or a seasoned professional – on the the Internet, we are all the same. Apparently.
Except we are not and that’s where the problems really begin.
When I first took up model making, if I wanted to learn anything, I had to do so by reading monthly magazines or books that I could find either on a friend’s bookshelf or in the local library. That meant that the process was slow, the mistakes great and the need to experiment and trash more than I completed, an ever-present part of the hobby that I would enjoy for the next forty years. If I had a problem I had to work it out one step at a time – and this was at a time when kits fit where they touched and my idea of a high-end product, was a bottle of Liquid Poly 70 that I would spill over the desk with alarming regularity. I learned through trial and error and I never once lost sight of the pleasure I got from building models and cannot ever remember looking at a kit no matter how dreadful and thinking “I must complain to the manufacturer – that’s just terrible”. I cracked-on and learned to overcome the issues that befell each project as they arose – it’s just what we ALL did…
Learning to actually work with problem kits set me up to be able to do the same thing today. If a kit doesn’t fit together, I’ll deal with it; if the detail is not what I want, it can be added. And if there are problems with the instructions and a need to work out what the correct colours are, I’ll sort that out as well. But even if I didn’t already have that knowledge and skill, I’d learn. Why? Because that’s what you do with any activity: you learn the basics and then move on to more advanced techniques until you can build what you want, rather than build what your skill base will allow.
But of course that’s not always the case is it?
These days it’s hardly a secret that many modellers want to shake a kit box and watch as the completed model drops into their lap, perfectly constructed and painted. Gone are the days when fit issues can be dealt with without the first port of call being a forum or Facebook page to tell the world what’s wrong with X, Y or Z. The desire to be first to tell the world that a kit is a disaster is only matched by an often palpable lack of skill to do anything about it – even if they wanted to. The Internet has become awash with echo chambers of the incapable, resonating to the pulse of an airbrush compressor humming disappointment from beneath a bench of broken dreams. And heaven forbid you tell these vocal individuals that some basic skills would deal with the issues that you can see! Those comments will be shot down from the flack towers of their indignation; how dare you tell me that! I shouldn’t have to fill that seam – it should fit perfectly! You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!
You see, in years gone by you knew who to trust and who would tell the truth about a particular product because you could see what they had built, read about it and then absorbed their opinions.
It was simple.
Not so today.
Today there are so many voices it’s almost impossible to work out who is telling the truth and who is nothing more than a belligerent antagonist. When Ray Rimmell, Chris Ellis, Roger Chesnau et al, spoke, you listened. These guys had gravitas that reassured you enough to hang off their every word. Though each was a seasoned author in the magazine world, many went on to form their own publishing businesses and this carried on the good work they had started and that only added to that feeling of knowledge and understanding.
Today, none of that matters.
Today, the up-and-coming are just as likely to tell you to belt up and mind your own business, as they are listen to your opinions – irrespective of your knowledge or time in the hobby. Ego has replaced a desire within some to learn and in so doing, given voice to those that carry weight without ability, offering noise without results. And they tend to be the ones who are followed, whose words are hung upon, whose work is admired and shared, not because of an inherent level of skill or knowledge, but because they have the loudest voices, the sharpest fingers, the quickest response to even the tiniest of problems. Every inaccuracy is highlighted; every fault disseminated; every technique pulled-apart. You listen to these voices and if you don’t, they will shout louder than you. Louder and louder and louder, forever and ever, amen…
Even as a professional with twenty years in this industry I’ve fallen prey to the voices. Accusations that I am little more than a corporate shill paid to ensure a flow of samples and advertising fly around like angry wasps on a midsummer’s day, endless tirades made by those that have little knowledge of the world in which I work, made-up ideas replacing facts in the vacuum of their own misunderstanding. Buy a kit and that’s different. You can have an opinion then, because you have no vested interest, no backers to appease, no pages to pay for, no suppliers to charm. Oh yes, that’s different…
These days I’m finding myself zoning out the voices more and more. Although there are plenty of very knowledgeable guys out there who work really hard to tell modellers the truth about every facet of the hobby, there are simply too many stalking horses who let personal enmity cloud their judgement of almost everything that they examine. To some, the need for perfection overwhelms a basic understanding that such things, though pleasing in theory, are less than possible in practice. Constructional problems become disasters, a need to practice skills, an inconvenience and the offer of help and advice, an affront. But more than that, the need in some to be heard is way more important than a need to learn sometimes even the most basic ideas, so simple problems that most would deal with in minutes, are elevated to a place of importance that can last for hours. Why work on something to achieve a result, when you can talk about it instead? Well, because your hobby is building models, not talking about them and that kit you just publicly tore to shreds, is in the hands of someone else, the best available of that subject and looks great once complete.
But hey, who am I to say?!