Tag Archive | DeviantArt

The robots make some cool art, but human artists, please give yourselves more credit

A couple weeks ago, DeviantArt announced a new AI art tie-in setup, including a “My Art Is/Is Not Authorized For Use In AI Datasets” option that you could toggle for all your art.

It’s not clear this will do much, since there’s no way to force non-DA art-scraping bots to respect your setting. But the basic framing of “this is an issue that artists deserve to have a say in” is good! Having a major art-hosting website stand behind that framing is valuable!

…They originally auto-set everything to “authorized”, and didn’t have a bulk way to switch the settings. Meaning that anybody who wanted a blanket opt-out would have to set it one-by-one for everything in their gallery. And if an artist has died, all their work would be marked as up-for-grabs permanently. Oops.

After a hot wave of backlash, DA reversed course. All your art is auto-set to “not authorized” unless you actively say otherwise.

Honestly, this is the stuff that keeps me on DA. How many other websites out there will acknowledge “this decision, which was made by staff/stakeholders/the CEO/venture capitalists, is unpopular with our actual users, therefore we’re changing it”?

Tumblr? No. Facebook or Instagram? Heck no. Twitter? No, even before it got bought out by an egomaniac with unhealthy amounts of money. Patreon? …Okay, Patreon did it once, kudos to them.

Sometimes you’ll get a situation like Kickstarter, which announced their Totally Awesome Hypothetical Future Blockchain Protocol almost a year ago, and hasn’t developed a single thing since. I wouldn’t be surprised if, on the inside, they’ve quietly admitted it’s nonsense and given up on it. But that’s in response to “finding out the hard way over a series of months that they can’t actually wring a profit out of it,” not “listening to users who vigorously told them it was a heap of BS from day one.” And they’re not saying a word about it in public.

But DA has a quiet pattern of listening to users, and, when their big excited announcements don’t go over well, retooling their plans to address user concerns. Which I appreciate. It’s hard to find.

*

Look, here’s how I feel about AI art in general…

Hatsune Miku made her first stage appearance in 2009, and has been a wildly popular singer ever since. Here she is commanding the love and attention of a massive crowd in 2016, in a concert that lasted nearly 2 hours. She’s released chart-topping albums in Japan, and her adoring fanbase is international; she was booked for Coachella in 2020. (Canceled due to COVID, but I bet they’ll get her back.)

And if you explained this to anyone who’s not in the right nerd circles, they would assume Miku is a human.

She’s not! She’s a digital voice-generating program! You enter the text you want her to sing, set the pitches and the timing, and the software outputs a vocal track. Her concert appearances are in the form of a CGI anime girl, with a pre-programmed set of dance moves. She, and the rest of the Vocaloid franchise, are basically Animusic with a massive upgrade in processing power. (Also, thigh-highs.)

Kids who are currently in middle school do not remember a time when “humans pack stadiums to see a holographic robot singer” was a fanciful sci-fi premise. It’s literally just the world they live in.

And you know what we still have? Concerts with live human singers!

Computer-generated music hasn’t replaced human musicians. They have different strengths and abilities. They’re good in different ways. The one doesn’t make the other obsolete. Millions of songs produced with the Vocaloid software, over more than a decade by now, and they still haven’t put all the human singers out of their jobs.

Same deal with AI art.

Some of it is terrible. Some of it is pretty cool. It’s not as precisely controlled as Vocaloids, a lot of it is “turning the algorithm loose and having no idea what’s going to come out,” which is sometimes a drawback and sometimes the fun part.

Look at this robot’s best attempt to paint “Moon Knight drawn by Lisa Frank” and tell me that isn’t fun:

If you want a very specific image, AI art isn’t a great option. If you want to consistently reproduce the same character or setting across multiple images, it’s not great either.

Ursula Vernon — of Digger fame — has been making experimental comics with the MidJourney AI. it works! The reason it works is, she’s not a random non-artistic person who started with “here’s a comic I want to make” and tried to get the robot to produce it. She’s a brilliant comic artist with multiple series and at least one Hugo award under her belt, who put a lot of thought upfront into presenting the robot with “here’s a comic setup that takes advantage of your strengths, and doesn’t stress your weaknesses.”

In that link, for instance, you can see right away how it’s mostly disconnected vignette panels. (It also has human post-production touch-ups, and the art is tied together by human-written narration. More notes on her process at the end of the thread.)

So yeah, it’s gonna be fine. AI art makes cool new things possible, will lead to the creation of a ton of art that never would’ve happened without it, and some of it will even be good and worthwhile. It also won’t replace human artists. It won’t be the best option for every art-related job. Sometimes it’ll be a good-enough option — other times it just flat-out won’t cut it.

Anyone who thinks “just have an AI draw it” will be a magic answer to everything art-related needs to appreciate artists more. (Some of y’all are illustrators, who need to have more confidence in your own skills and potential! Others are just hacks. Probably the same hacks who thought “just put it on a blockchain” was a magic answer to everything finance-related, even.)

Advertisement

who turned off the summer?

Seems like the whole weather flipped a switch the other night. On Wednesday I had the windows open, computer sitting on ice packs to help it not overheat, and wasn’t layering up at all to go to work…Thursday, wham, I’m closing the windows, pulling out extra blankets, wearing a sweater and a coat to go out.

Nothing against sweaters, but oof, me and my two smelly cats are gonna miss having a fresh breeze going through the house.

*

Just as I get comfortable with “Kickstarter’s not going anywhere with their Mystery Blockchain Protocol, at least not in the foreseeable future, it’s still safe to run a campaign there for now,” then Deviantart turns around and starts flirting with blockchain nonsense. Deviantart! You were the chosen one the only major site making an active effort to protect artists against blockchain fraud! What happened??

…okay, okay, we know what happened. Current holders of crypto can’t actually get money out of the system unless they can convince new suckers to put money in, which means “bribing sites like DA and KS to drag in new suckers” is a good long-term investment.

Still a nasty twist to wake up to.

I know no amount of comments that outline how NFTs are a predatory pit of scams is going to outweigh whatever check they’re cashing from the crypto industry, but I left one anyway.

*

Spent the past week or so in a real downswing of low energy and high executive-dysfunction. I have all these small, relatively simple tasks to do, but getting over the hump to actually start each one? Gonna need to go take a nap first.

(The Fluff thinks this is a great deal. He loves an extra snooze. And Fiddlesticks doesn’t hang out on the bed, which makes it a nice safe territory where Fluff doesn’t have to worry about defending his honor as Top Cat.)

I’ve been trying to put “have a nap” higher on the coping-strategy list than “chug another energy drink.” Probably healthier! Not as good a deal for the to-do list.

…also, not a great state to be in when you’re gearing up for a crowdfunding campaign. But it’s not like I work better without a deadline. So we’re moving right along.

*

True story, the one thing I can reliably-and-consistently focus on right now is “writing more Moon Knight fanfiction.”

Using incentives like “you can write another chapter of Fic X once you finish Task Y” has been…moderately effective.

(I like this show a normal amount, I swear.)

Blockchain is a hexagon in search of a problem

There’s been an absolute deluge of Blockchain Space Nonsense news in the past couple of weeks. If you, like me, can’t get enough of it, Web 3 Is Going Just Great is a great source to quench your thirst.

But if not — indulge me for a minute while I sift out some highlights, at least?

Everyone and their dog has been sharing this video, but I’ll share it again. It’s good. Not just about NFTs, it covers all kinds of Hot Topics in crypto discourse right now.

I started watching it thinking “I’ve rubbernecked SO MANY terrible details about these already, more than enough to fill a multi-hour video, there’s no way it’ll also have new-to-me info that makes them worse.” Spoiler alert: it had new-to-me info that makes them worse.

They don’t understand…ANYTHING about the ecosystems they’re trying to disrupt. They only know that these are things that can be conceptualized as valuable.”

The Spice Must…wait what

So a group called “SpiceDAO” pooled a bunch of money in order to buy a rare copy of Jodorosky’s Dune — basically, a long pitch for this guy’s proposed adaptation of Dune. They paid ten times the estimated value at auction, apparently totally convinced that “buying a book” and “buying the adaptation rights” were the same thing.

(A DAO is like a co-op, but to join or vote on anything, you need to buy into the org’s crypto token. These folks also seem to believe “we’re voting on a blockchain!” bypasses any requirements for laws, rules, obligations, paperwork, or, like…basic planning.)

The first half of this Twitch stream has a great time exploring the legal faceplants, but if that doesn’t sound delightful by itself, skip to about 50 minutes in. See, when the DAO was thwarted in their plans to adapt Dune, they commissioned a derivative-but-legally-not-Dune script to film instead. The stream does a Dramatic Reading. Of the whole thing.

I don’t remember the last time I laughed this hard.

“I appreciate the boldness of charting a course utterly unconfined by professional advice or basic subject matter knowledge

No F@$king Thankses

By mainstream standards, these are not actually popular, it’s just that, right now, they’re loud: “only 400,000 wallets have ever interacted with an NFT, and far less actually own an NFT right now. The FOMO they’re creating to try and scam you out of your money, and the talk about how everyone uses/is abt to use nfts is all an objective lie. It’s all astroturfing.”

A token-trading front-end website called LooksRare turned out to have almost 90% of its trading volume generated by people selling tokens back and forth between their own wallets.

Twitter announced a new “connect your account to an NFT and we’ll make a Special Exclusive hexagon-shaped profile picture out of it” feature. People immediately started dunking on it by uploading pfp images that they cropped into hexagon shape on their own, for free. Here’s made a transparent template to help you nail the exact right type of hexagon, indistinguishable from the Special Exclusive ones.

(…at least, unless you zoom way, way in. Then you might realize it displays as 2 pixels shorter. Shhh.)

In news that will surprise exactly 0% of digital artists, a whopping over-80% of “created free” NFTs on the token-trading front-end website OpenSea get caught as art theft, spam, or other kinds of fraud.

Note: “free” here means “we haven’t actually minted the token yet.” All they did was create an entry on their plain old Web 2.0 product database. It’s not until a token gets purchased that they’ll actually create it (and at this point, somebody has to pay for it). Sites like OpenSea make a point of Actually Touching A Blockchain as little as humanly possible. If you think this might cause some exploitable security problems…congrats, you’ve put more thought into it than any of the people driving this train.

“DeviantArt has issued 80,000 alerts since August 2021, doubling from October to November, then increasing by 300 percent from November to mid-December.”

As of this writing, DeviantArt has caught 3 thefts from my gallery, and I’m sure there’s more to come. To be clear, thieves will steal your art from any website — DA is just the only site that makes the effort of tracking them down for you.

“you claim to place such moral stock in “artists getting paid” yet do not subscribe to my patreon, curious

Where Do We Crowdfund Now

My impression of what happened in the Kickstarter Management office back in December is just a guess, but it’s looking more and more plausible by the minute.

Their promise of “we’ll totally have actual details about our Mystery Blockchain Project in the next few weeks” has officially been replaced with “there’s not a definitive timeline for details about our Mystery Blockchain Project.”

Not in a public news post or anything, that’s just what Support is telling people who email with questions. (This isn’t the fault of individual Support staffers — they haven’t been given any info either. Kiiiinda seems like the Board is happy to use their staff as human shields, here.)

But, good news:

TopatoCo — which I have been pronouncing wrong all this time, it rhymes with “potato” — launched a beta-testing project for their own crowdfunding system. They’ve been a reliable player in the “fulfillment of webcomic merchandise” field for years; they have the credibility to start a crowdfunding platform from scratch and get the comics community on board.

So does Iron Circus Comix. Which hasn’t gone public with a platform yet, but they’re beta-testing one behind-the-scenes, and are setting up to launch a campaign on it some time in February. Unlike the “white paper in January!” promise, this one I actually trust.

Zoop is a comics-crowdfunding platform that’s been fully functional since mid-2021, it’s just been invite-only…until now. They kicked off 2022 by starting to take project submissions, and they’re actively developing the site to expand their capacity and support even more.

Keep an eye on all three of these! I know I am.

Blockchain is a solution in search of a problem

Someone showed the Kickstarter board a fancy PowerPoint presentation with lots of big numbers, they ran to invest a bunch of their own funds in a blockchain without stopping to ask their own devs if the tech had any value for what the site actually does, and now they’re desperately trying to justify it after-the-fact.

…that’s my current running theory, anyway.

More analysis of Kickstarter’s announcement here — including a bunch of background explanation, for people who still aren’t following what all the new tech terms mean.

When companies announce a vague “shift to blockchain” with no specific idea what they’re doing: “Back in 2017, we reported on the bizarre story of the Long Island Iced Tea Company rebranding itself as the Long Blockchain Corp. […] Now the Securities and Exchange Commission has revoked Long Blockchain’s stock registration, effectively banning the general public from trading its shares altogether.”

The big fraud in the heart of “Web3” discourse: “The cryptocurrency web3 starts with all our existing infrastructure. So I still need a DNS name, I still need a server, I still need storage, and I still have a distributed computation occurring between the browser and the server. So already I haven’t removed any of the gatekeepers from the conventional distributed system, showing the claims of gatekeeper-free decentralization are false. Web3 is only about adding an additional layer of complexity in the name of justifying the underlying cryptocurrencies.

Problem links about NFTs/”cryptoart” specifically

A few days after the Kickstarter announcement, I got my first alert through DeviantArt Protect that an NFT is linking to one of my drawings without my permission. So it’s been an inauspicious week for blockchain news all around.

(As of this writing, the NFT-selling site is entirely ignoring the copyright claim…but I do appreciate DA for alerting me that it was happening at all. This is what a site that actually cares about its creative users looks like!)

A breakdown of what NFTs are — in straightforward terms, not in wild/ridiculous metaphors. (Which, to be clear, aren’t wrong — it’s just that I know many people don’t find them helpful.)

My days of regularly sharing this link are coming to a middle: Here Is The Article You Can Send To People When They Say “But The Environmental Issues With Cryptoart Will Be Solved Soon, Right?”

You couldn’t store the actual digital artwork in a blockchain; because of technical limits, records in most blockchains are too small to hold an entire image. Many people suggested that rather than trying to shoehorn the whole artwork into the blockchain, one could just include the web address of an image […] Seven years later, all of today’s popular NFT platforms still use the same shortcut. This means that when someone buys an NFT, they’re not buying the actual digital artwork; they’re buying a link to it. And worse, they’re buying a link that, in many cases, lives on the website of a new start-up that’s likely to fail within a few years. “

2020: “The developers of non-fungible token project NiftyMoji pulled an exit scam as they have closed the official website, all social media and dumped their tokens on the market. Also the associated Coinbreeder accounts have vanished. The developers ran off with an estimated amount of one million dollars.

Alternately, the link could get replaced with something else. Say, a bunch of random photos of rugs: “I just pulled the rug at my NFT collection on @opensea. Nobody got hurt. It is pretty easy to change the jpg, even if it does not belong to me or it is on auction. I am the artist, my decision, right?”

“The Billion Dollar Torrent,” as it’s called, reportedly includes all the NFTs on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains. These files are bundled in a massive torrent that points to roughly 15 terabytes of data. Unpacked, this adds up to almost 20 terabytes.”

Problem links about blockchains in general

Things crypto evangelists don’t like to talk about: “During a hard fork, software implementing bitcoin and its mining procedures is upgraded; once a user upgrades their software, that version rejects all transactions from older software, effectively creating a new branch of the blockchain. However, those users who retain the old software continue to process transactions, meaning that there is a parallel set of transactions taking place across two different chains.

In other words: there isn’t one single, central version of Bitcoin. It has multiple versions, and they’re mutually incompatible with each other. And yet, some people still believe blockchain is the magic bullet that will make every website interoperable. Suuuure.

Also, if you’re hearing anyone talk about how miraculous and unhackable anything blockchain is:

November 2017: “On November 19, 2017, more than $30 million worth of Tether tokens were removed from the official Tether Treasury wallet by malicious hackers. Due to this security breach, Tether has executed a newly hard forked version of the Omni Core code, which powers the Tether network. Why? Because this code refused to transact any of the stolen tokens.”

December 2021: “One of BitMart’s addresses currently shows steady outflows of entire token balances, some worth tens of millions of dollars, to an address currently labeled by Etherscan as the “BitMart Hacker.” In a follow-up tweet, PeckShield estimated the losses to be $100 million in various cryptocurrencies on the Ethereum blockchain and $96 million on Binance Smart Chain.”

“it is not new to me. im a distributed systems engineer & programmer. ive been building shit like this for decades i serve a playerbase larger than most countries and have built networks spanning the globe. blockchain is old news. it is my job to find new technologies and use them if they’re better. these are not. they are bad, embarrassingly bad.”