Sometimes you have to sit back and say, “Damn, this internet
thing is cool.” I mean, obviously we all know it’s pretty handy. You
can send e-mails on it and steal music and read newspapers
for free. But occasionally you get reminded just how
cool it is, in the world-shaking, society-defining sense of the
word. Like when you go to
Something To Be Desired is what happens when a bunch of
people decide it’d be neat to make a TV series, only
without the TV part. Instead they put up each episode on their web site,
where you can watch it for free. A drama-comedy set around a
Pittsburgh radio station, Something To Be Desired is clearly
being made with very little money but bucket-loads of talent and enthusiasm,
and it’s totally addictive: you download one ten-minute episode
and then you have to find out whether Jack and Dierdre are
going to sleep together and before you know it two and a half hours
have passed, you’ve watched the whole thing, and you can’t believe you
have to wait two weeks for the next episode.
Before the internet, I never would have seen this. In fact,
it probably wouldn’t have been made, because why spend the time
and money producing a series that has very little chance of ever
being broadcast? But the web offers creative people a new way to
drop their work directly in front of an audience.
There’s no need for pitch meetings, for agents, for attending industry
events in the vain hope of networking with someone who can get you a meeting
with someone at a studio; instead, you just produce something,
stick it on your web site, and if it’s any good, ordinary people hear
about it and come check it out.
This is the vanguard of a major decentralization of the creative arts
industry. As the internet evolves, hundreds of thousands of
amateur artists are going to forget about trying to batter down
the closed doors in Hollywood, the networks, and the publishing
industry. Instead, they’ll just publish their work on the net.
Some of it will be brilliant. Much of it will be terrible. But
all of it will be given a real chance to find an audience,
a chance that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. And, damn,
Clearly I didn’t think this through. I now have to write a six-volume
series chock full of appalling characters just to satisfy all the people who
wrote me annoying “Um…” e-mails. It was meant to be a deterrent, dammit!
Now stop it!
Okay, that’s enough. At first I thought this was kind of funny. Then
it wasn’t so funny, then it got irritating, and now it makes me want to hurt
someone. I’m talking about the practice of starting a post with “Um.”
This is particularly virulent on technically-inclined mailing lists
and forums. It goes
like this: a person posts something—a comment, a question, anything—and
some other guy thinks they’re wrong. But he doesn’t just come out and
say that, oh no. First he says: “Um…” Like this: “Um…
Word won’t run on Linux.”
This is meant to convey the impression that the initial post was so mind-numbingly
stupid that at first he couldn’t believe it was actually meant in earnest.
Then, as he began to phrase his reply, he had to pause to ratchet down
his intelligence a few levels so that the drooling simpleton who had
uttered such idiocy would be able to comprehend it. This created a pause
which had to be filled by “Um.”
Only that’s not what happened at all.
If you’re having an actual
conversation with someone, sure, you might say “um.” But if you’re
typing out a post, what the hell are you doing? Are your fingers
operating independently of your brain? No! You’re just being an
Maybe I could deal with this if it only happened when genuinely brilliant people
wrote messages to real morons. After all, geniuses
aren’t supposed to have social skills. But it happens all the
time. This is the exchange that finally sent me over the
#1: Happily seen that Gentoo has released 2004.2.
I’m now using 2004.0 and I wonder whether it is necessary for me to
migrate to 2004.2 from 2004.0.
#2: Uh.. if you do an “emerge -uD world” then you too will
have all the bonus’s of 2004.2…
#3: Really? I think simply doing this won’t change my
It’ll be still point to ../usr/portage/profiles/default-x86-2004.0, isn’t it?
#4: Um, its a symlink… change it to point to the new profile
No! No! Not “Um!” The first guy was right, goddamn it!
You can’t “um” him when he’s
right! What is this um doing? It’s a totally
This is a cancer of the internet, I tell you, and it’s got to be stopped.
Please. I can’t take much more.
(P.S. If anyone writes me an e-mail like “Um… Word can run on Linux
if you use an emulator,” I’m going to name a really bad character after