Fluffy's World
Essays and Stories: Chapter and Verse

The Poor In Spirit
by Cathy Faye Rudolph

It's an audible sigh, a low one that will turn the head of my youngest child. The sigh is usually accompanied by a facial wince, a long exhalation, and bowed, tired shoulders. That sigh is a mirror of the spirit, daunted by harsh and strident demands.

I find I sigh that way more and more these days. And it's usually while I'm reading messages in conferences and forums on electronic services.

I was on AOL today, reading in the HSC conference. The uploading of original graphics generated by users of HSC products, like KPT Bryce, Tools, and Convolver, is encouraged. It's a chance for the artist to get some recognition, and, if the art is good, it's unabashed advertising for the product. Admirers and "students" of the products are welcome to download the pictures.

The Bryce rendering program is unusual in that picture production by the software results in two files: one, the actual pretty picture as a PICT file, and the other, the scene file. The scene file is the more important of the two, archivally speaking: if the PICT file is lost, the scene file can be re-rendered to produce a new picture, but if the scene file is lost, the artist can only hope to try to recreate the entire scene from scratch. The scene file contains the scene, the objects, the textures-it is the entire group of resources needed to render the picture.

Give your scene file to someone who has Bryce, and he can reproduce your picture.

Lately, there have been strident calls from HSC conference readers that artists who submit wonderful and creative Bryce pictures should be required (or strongly encouraged) to upload their scene files as well. The justification given for the demand is that those wanting to learn how to use the software, or who want to know how an effect was achieved, should have the right to see how accomplished artists use the software, and further, use portions of those wonderful scene files for their own benefit-all for free.

The strident calls have recently taken on a rather caustic tone. "If an artist keeps a scene file to himself, or herself, then we'll know they're the kind of person unwilling to help others, someone who thinks they can keep their secrets to themselves and be better than the rest of us" is the essence of the new undertone.

No longer is the fun in the discovery and testing of the program, in getting the written description of the latest neat tweak and trying it out yourself. The "fun" these days would appear to be in having someone else give you the work already done.

One of HSC's new offerings, Convolver, has a built-in learning and reward system. It's not long and involved: you get a little red star for learning, or even tripping over, some of the more intricate or involved features in the program. With the star might come some additional controls or features. I deliberately did not "go looking" for the stars when I began using Convolver, but all five stars had shown up after two sessions of use. I thought of it as time well spent getting to know the software.

Yet, during a 30 minute visit at the HSC booth at Seybold, I heard the same question from Seybold attendees, over and over: can you bypass the learning system, and get right to five stars?

Each time the staff member demoing the program would explain that the stars are a way to give the user time to learn how to use the program, but the response would always be "but I want everything up front."

Sigh. I want it all, and I want it right now--that seems to be the sentiment.

Are we becoming so poor in spirit that a generous offer of information or creativity is refused because it's not formatted or accessorized just as we wish? Are we reduced to demanding "info-Burger Kings," where we can get everything just the way we like it, right now? Are we prepared to pay those who offer us their time or examples of their expertise with the coin of deprecation or suspicion?

Will the poor always be with us?

from And Another Thing... © 1994, 1995 Cathy Faye Rudolph.

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Last revised: August 16, 1995 by Wayward Fluffy Publications.

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