K.B. Spangler and Christopher B. Wright Discuss CleanReader on Twitter

Submitted by C B Wright on

I'm going to add a little context, but for the most part I think the tweets should speak to themselves.

Yesterday I heard about a service called CleanReader, but didn't pay too much attention to it. This morning K.B. Spangler, a fantastic web cartoonist AND author, had some very clear opinions on it:

I, on roughly half a cup of coffee, replied:

This led to the following conversation, which I enjoyed a lot, so I want to save it here, for semi-posterity.

NOTE: Some of the tweets are a little out of order, because there were times when we "interrupted" each other in the middle of multi-tweet comments. I've grouped the multi-tweet comments together to make the conversation easier to follow.


Comments are active for 30 days after publication. If you wish to comment after 30 days please use the Forums.

I thought at first @revvoice

I thought at first @revvoice must be some kind of service that would track a conversation for you and email it to you or something afterwards ("review voice"?) :)

If I buy a physical book and

If I buy a physical book and magic marker out all the offensive words, is that any different and is that not my right? All this does is automate the process for digital media.

I think you do have that

I think you do have that right, yes. That said, I do think it's reasonable that writers get pissed off when you do.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

People have been choosing to

People have been choosing to alter(mutate/butcher) the meaning of messages for about as long as language has existed. CleanReader is just a way of outsourcing the task. We've already have Nanny apps to filter out bad sites/content from our viewing pleasure whether they be you basic anti-virus/anti-adware to corporate tools such as WebSense. CleanReader is just a step in being more granular level of that filtering. I can imagine a tool in the future that will detect cleavage and hash over it so that certain sensitives don't have to see what their beliefs dictate they shouldn't see. I guess it is all what were are sensitive to. "Why are you blocking my nice unobtrusive root kit? you won't feel a thing"

I am one of those people who

I am one of those people who would alter media to make it even digestible. I mean, I am already mega-selective about what triggers my ick filters and causes bad reactions. There's a reason I only read two webcomics these days, and it's because I can count on them to contain content that doesn't trigger me or turn me off from the point of webcomics (which seems to be "have fun considering new ideas").

I know this service undermines some level of *~*^^*~*integrity of the page*~*^^*~*, but it is the difference between me purchasing your book and not buying it at all. It's the difference between "Oh, look, surprise rape and lots of swearing" and "I can handle reading this and continue to be a functional person instead of someone who just had every trigger tripped." Were I able to customize the app to make my own substitutions, even better.

Also, ye gods, I'm glad to not read K. B. Spangler's work after an attitude like that.

Would the other author - or

Would the other author - or you - have the same objection to an app that checked an unread book for the presence of such language and reported presence or absence and, perhaps, frequency, to a reader before he or she bought the book? That would have the same trait of allowing a reader to filter for things he or she did not want to experience, without involving any direct alteration of the book itself.

I think it would be fine.

I think it would be fine. Honestly, I think this thing is "fine," I just don't particularly like it much.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

Totally agree, once I have

Totally agree, once I have something in my possession, I can do almost whatever I want with it. I can take Curveball and change all the names of the characters to be names of different vegetables if I like.

The copyright issues kick in when I start redistributing my modifications, however not a minute before. Authors can complain all they want about their "vision" being altered. If you don't like that, well, sorry, but tough. The fact that people are using cleanreader means that they already don't agree with your vision and have a different picture of how it should be anyway, so your vision is already disputed.

Look at it this way: you are making a product that you want people to buy. If cleanreader means more people will buy your product, that means you are expanding your target audience. If you are in this for the money, you should be thrilled. If you are in this for spreading your creative vision, well..., lot's of people apparently diagree with it. If you are disappointed in your vision being rejected, I can understand that.

It's copyright, not "personaluseright".

Yes, but let's not take this

Yes, but let's not take this in the other direction and claim that writers have no right to be pissed about it. I mean I understand that anger. If you make deliberate language choices and someone decides to remove those choices it does change your work, and it's a perfectly valid reaction to irate about that.

Someone is publishing a version of Huckleberry Finn that replaces a very nasty racial epithet and replace it with "slave" (and it also removes the coarse term "injun"). And you know what? I fully believe that while it probably makes the book more palatable to some audiences, it also lessens the work by removing the sting of casual racism that exists even as Huck describes someone he considers a friend.

Someone has the right to modify that, but I feel I'm fully justified to be angry enough about it to call the person who decided that would be a good idea a fucking idiot.

There is tension in this relationship between artistic creation and audience interaction, and the tension is important. It can't be removed in either direction.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

The more you associate with

The more you associate with any behavior the more it rubs off on you. If you hang out with people who say fuck every other word you will start to use it more. If you move to a different area you will start talking with the local accent. If I wish to avoid this phenomenon by adding a filter so swear words become %%#^%< I might actually read it, and no that doesn't block the author's intention from shining through.

Also Perry Mason has more adult themes than the bloodiest and nudity filled CSIs. It is the topic of people abusing others for profit that is adult and not how it is shown.

Very true, that is why I

Very true, that is why I choose to use chat filters and the like. I have a certain set of morals, and those include sticking to clean language.

I don't want to keep seeing bad language. No, I don't fear bad language, I just don't want it to start getting into my head and start coming out of my mouth so easily. I refuse to be controlled by it, so I stay away.

No criticism is implied of the source/speaker, I don't presume to judge them. This is just a personal thing I do with the media I consume. If I can't do that for something that needs it, I simply won't consume it.

Ultimately, this is a

Ultimately, this is a question of what the extent of a copyright holders rights are -- and perhaps what they should be. The edited version of a work is a derivative work, one which has not been approved by the author for distribution. I think the author should have the right to say that a work is only available as written. I have no love for the censor that tries to prevent certain ideas from being heard.