What #music2019 is about

You may have seen this story in Wired about how not entirely awesome working at there has been over the last three years.

In The Armies Of The Night, Norman Mailer describes an appalling performance that he gave as an anti-war speaker during the October 1967 march on the Pentagon.  He was drunk, belligerent, and foolish, and spoke for far too long, saying far too little.  When finally he returned to his seat, Robert Lowell, who was in the seat next to him, gave him a long look and said, "Every single bad thing I have ever heard about you was not exaggerated."

That is, in short, how I feel about the piece in Wired.  It is not exaggerated.

We still use Google Plus, believe it or not.  It didn't turn out to be the globe-spanning social network with billions of users that some were hoping for, but those people are gone now, and anyway, it turns out running a globe-spanning social network with billions of users is not such a great goal to have.  (The failure of G+ to set the world on fire is one of the great strokes of luck that Google has had in the time I've been there.)

But G+ is a useful communications platform among groups of people who have something in common - like, they all work for the same company.  (If your organization signs up for G Suite, you too can have your own G+ environment, though it's now called Currents.)

At the end of 2018, though, it was serving as a depressing-news amplifier. I was certainly complicit in that, diligently resharing and commenting on every bad piece of news that came along.  It was making me miserable, and even worse, it was making me a worse person.

It turns out that if you're sad and frustrated, constantly calling out the things that make you sad and frustrated doesn't help you feel better.  It can be necessary, particularly if they're things that people don't yet know about.  But it can also make you sadder, and feel more frustrated.  And it also gives you cover for exercising your worst impulses.  Am I resharing this information because it will be useful to people, or because it's making me angry and I want the people responsible to feel bad?

This January, I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world.  I had no right to complain about everything being terrible, I felt, if I'm not doing anything to make it better.

2019, I decreed to myself, was to be the Year of Music.  I decided that once a day, I would make a post about some musical discovery that I thought other people would enjoy knowing about.  And so I did.  I've made close to 200 posts with the #music2019 hashtag on our internal G+ instance.

I confined myself to YouTube for a number of reasons.  First, it's not much of a confinement:  nearly everything you could want to point to can be found there.  Second, it is universally available.  If it's on YouTube, anyone can see it.  You may have to sit through a preroll ad, but that's it.

Third, YouTube is having a rough time too.  It's a tool that anyone can use, wired up to a machine that makes money when people use it.  To keep it useful, it also encourages some people to use it by distributing some of that money to them.  The result is billions of hours of video, hard-to-measure quantities of money, bad actors, entitlement, arbitrary decisions made by systems that aren't anywhere near smart enough, contradictory enforcement of inadequately-defined policies, and the pervading sense of decadence that inhabits any human enterprise that is driven by money.

At the same time, that billions of hours of video encompasses a lot of stuff that's really, really good.  Music, especially, shines on YouTube.  There are lovely people creating lovely content.  There are vast archives full of things you could scarcely imagine that have found their way onto it.

I've decided that I want these posts to have a broader audience, and so I'm going to start porting them here.  Partly because this is because I've been asked to by a number of people who have left (or are planning to leave) Google and who want to keep reading them.  This is as flattering as it sounds.

As you'll see, a big theme of my posts is just me coming to grips with the fact that my co-workers tend to be several decades younger than me.  This is very difficult for me to wrap my head around, and that, I'm afraid, will be a recurring theme.


  1. What I find shocking, besides that statistic you mention about our co-workers, is that I've known you for nearly 30 years.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts