Spoiler Alert

Just so I don’t spoil it, we’re all going to be talking about spoilers:

Release of 13 Episodes Redefines Spoiler Alert

Netflix’s all-at-once release of the Kevin Spacey political thriller series last Friday has raised a thicket of questions. Chief among them: how can viewers who binged on all 13 episodes in one sitting talk about the show without ruining the season for others who might wait weeks or months to watch it?

Netflix’s release strategy went against the grain of “social TV,” the catchall term for viewers who virtually watch TV together by chatting along in real time on Twitter, Facebook and other Web sites.

Waaay back on rec.sport.tennis, spoilers — often spelled spoliers — were already a big deal. Some people taped tennis matches to watch later, while others wanted to discuss the results right away. Naturally certain posters, we’ll call them trolls, rushed to publish any results as soon as possible so they could get attention from people who didn’t want to know. Hence the trolls fed on a staple thread of:

Sampras beats Agassi!!!

Don’t put spoilers in the header!!!

Don’t read the newsgroup if you don’t want to know!!!

What ever happened to courtesy???

Bwahaha …. this is the internet, junior …

Rinse and repeat.

One attempted solution was false spoilers. Someone would post Sampras d Agassi and Agassi d Sampras. The problem was that we all knew who was trying to help and who was trying to spoil, so it was all too clear which spoilers were accurate. I eventually stopped reading rec.sport.tennis, so I’m not sure if those threads ever ran out of steam.

I do understand the social aspect of watching TV. In elementary school, we all talked about the latest Man From U.N.C.L.E, or whatever during the next day’s lunch. So if you’d missed the show, you were left out of the conversation. My wife and I often watch the same shows when we’re apart and talk about them later. Except that I don’t watch Bones unless she’s there, and she doesn’t watch Grimm unless I’m there.

Her family were all late to the Downton Abbey bandwagon. She and I saw the first two episodes, and liked it, but didn’t keep up and had to play catchup ourselves. So now we have the DVDs of Seasons 1,2 & 3 of Downton. Why Season 3? Because my wife shows the episodes to her mother in the middle of the day, then loans the DVD to her sisters.

I’m not sure that social media spoilers are such a problem. Many friends on Facebook do love DA, and a few post comments every week. Anyone with the DVD could reveal some key plot twist, and spoil next week for everyone, but would risk being defriended.

Unmoderated comment sections are another matter. Anonymous commenters behave much more like usenet posters, and many of the same trollish behaviors carry over. But unmoderated comments seem to be on the way out, collapsing under their own weight.


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