You may or may not be aware of a thing I started doing a few years ago called the Sad Bastard Music Club. Many of my friends and people I follow on the internets periodically release mixtapes for people to download or listen to. Historically, I’ve done this as well and, being a DJ at heart, I enjoy sharing music with people. But, well, people don’t download things, and being able to share something regardless of where you are or what device you’re on is kind of cool, so the Sad Bastard Music Club is a series of Spotify playlists and if you sign up for the newsletter, you get notification of when they are going out.
The name comes from a sort of inside joke being that “I only listen to sad bastard music.” The logical conclusion if I only listen to “sad bastard music” is that any playlist I make would, by definition, be “sad bastard music”, presumably because I’m a sad bastard. And while typically I define “sad bastard music” as being anything sounding like Nick Cave or The Cure, I try to be a bit more diverse on the Sad Bastard Music Club playlists because, in reality, I listen to, and enjoy, a lot of different things.
I also enjoy listening to a diverse group of artists. It’s actually a bit of a point of pride that I try to make an effort to have diversity (be it gender, ethnic, or sexual identity) in the music I listen to and the music I share. And this was something I wanted to particularly include, from the beginning, when I started doing these Sad Bastard Music Club playlists on Spotify.
A few months ago, I actually went through all the various SBM playlists and ran some numbers. The result was that I still have work to do. It was a bit of a surprise as I was sort of patting myself on the back for how well I felt I was doing in making sure the playlists were pretty balanced.
Some notes on how I ranked the data:
Any group or artist where the primary (lead) member, or the lead vocalist, was female was ranked as female. Obviously this is a bad practice from the beginning — just because Blondie is led by Debbie Harry doesn’t change the fact that there are a bunch of dudes in her band. But, in the case of Blondie, Debbie Harry is very much the primary focus, as is the case much of the time with mixed groups. It’s a vanity metric, but you need to draw the line somewhere, so I drew it there.
Artists where a man and a woman got equal billing or representation (a good example is The B-52s) were classified as M/F. This also includes groups of mostly men with a female guest vocalist.
I added a “T” classification for artists or groups that identify as non-binary or gender fluid or include a member who identifies as such. Le Tigre and Against Me! would fall under this category, although in some cases I had to make assumptions because I was not sure how they identified publicly (as with the case of IAMX, which I listed as T because Chris Corner presents as gender fluid but I’m not sure what they would describe themselves as).
The result is, still, 51% of artists on Sad Bastard Music Club playlists are male, and that number is bumped to 58% if you include artists in which women get equal billing with their male counterparts.
I’m not going to diminish the win here — this is far better than the music industry’s representation as a whole — but I, personally, can and should do better. I hold myself to a higher standard than just what’s normalized.
My first reaction was “wow, I would need to do all-women SBM playlists just to right the ship” — and then I caught myself. So what? What’s wrong with that. With the music industry being male dominated for generations (and I’ve given presentations that mention precisely these numbers), what would be wrong with focusing on women for a few iterations? While there may be a lack of popular female artists in pop music, there’s no lack of actual female musicians and they can, generally speaking, benefit from any amount of publicity or exposure they can get.
Coincidentally, as I started thinking about these things, just a couple weeks ago Spotify tweaked one of my “Daily Mix” playlists to be predominantly women artists across a variety of genres which I have been really appreciating.
The next Sad Bastard Music Club playlist — which I plan on publishing this week — has a majority of amazing women artists and, moving forward, I want to continue to keep gender parity when I’m making these playlists.
I get a lot of emails. An overwhelming amount, in fact.
A lot of the time, I have myself to blame: they are from lists I signed up for (intentionally or otherwise) or places I have made purchases. Most of the time there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom and I just need to muster enough energy to go through the hundreds of emails and hit that link.
But sometimes, the emails are more personalized — like, actually written by a human being, not a robot — and those are far more difficult to get rid of. Here’s how an email like that might go:
I read your article https://jazzsequence.com/category/ministry-of-music/ and was really impressed! I have a site that has similar content and since you write about music, I think it might be relevant to your readers.
Can you take a look at my article at http://totallyfakemarketingwebsite.com/music-therapy/ and, if you like it, link it from your article? If you could that would be great! Looking forward to working with you!
Now, on the internet, when you are confronted by an unsolicited email or private message, you basically can do one of two things: ignore it, and hope that it goes away, and respond to it (either positively — “absolutely, I will definitely link to your content!” — or negatively — “hell no, take me off your list”). If these were sent by a robot, ignoring it would have no consequences. You could happily delete the email and go on with your day. But these aren’t sent by a robot, they are sent by a human. And dealing with it in any way other than an outright “go to hell” will result in a followup email.
I was wondering if you had a chance to read the email I sent you last week. Looking forward to hearing from you!
I want to not feed the trolls, but, it turns out, these content marketers aren’t trolls
It’s at this point that the internet rule “don’t feed the trolls” shows cracks. I want to not feed the trolls, but, it turns out, these content marketers aren’t trolls — they are some other kind of creature — and not feeding them, doesn’t make them go away. Because continued, conscious ignoring and deleting of the emails they send will just result in more emails…
Just checking in to see if you had considered my offer. Let me know what you think!
I haven’t tested how long these will go on unchecked. I usually give in and respond after the second or third iteration. Sometimes, I forget and it’s the fourth or fifth. But I haven’t found a point at which they don’t keep sending followup replies. At some point, if you want this person to stop emailing you, you’re going to have to hit the reply button.
Don’t call me a Monopoly player
It was one such exchange I had this week. I got an email from one of the two partners running gamecows.com. Now, looking at their site, I can’t tell what their business model is. Maybe it’s through affiliate links, although I don’t see any. Maybe they are just trying to build up a collection of list-icles to go on their resume for future writing gigs. There’s no advertising on the site, just a newsletter you can sign up for (and I’m not signing up for the newsletter just to test this experiment).
Whatever it is, I got an email from them that linked to my games list page. Now, this is not a post. This is not an article. This is literally just a list of all the games that I own. It’s an experiment, and it’s a demo of my Games Collector WordPress plugin, and it’s a way for people to see what I have already, so if they wanted to get me something I don’t already have, there’s an easy way to figure out what I do have (that was the original reason I built the plugin, other features just expanded from there). There’s no content to speak of, and there isn’t even anything relevant to link from — the only links that are on the page are to Board Game Geek as a way to provide more information about a game. I suppose I could link to them in one of those, but I’m not trying to link to a review, I’m linking to a game description. I could link to Amazon if it wouldn’t then look like I was trying to profit from the game. I could link to the game’s website, but then I’d have to track down every game publisher. BGG has out of print games in its database, which makes it a much easier and more central place to get information about games. And much less biased, given that any reviews that appear on BGG are from people who’ve actually played the games and aren’t trying to profit in some way from their review. The more popular games have multiple reviews.
Anyway, this isn’t an ad for Board Game Geek. I digress.
The email was asking me to link to their review of Dominion (see what I did there?), a game that’s definitely one of our favorites. But, again, even if I did want to link to them, I have nothing relevant to link from. Not on that page. It wouldn’t make sense to link to their review of Dominion from my listing of Dominion in my game collection, it would be more confusing because it would be inconsistent with the other games on the page. Plus it wouldn’t be impartial.
I might have originally intended to respond, just because it was about games and I like games, but I didn’t. And so, sure enough, the second email comes. Except this one comes with a bite.
Chris, did you get my last email? If I don’t hear back, I’ll assume you’re more of a Monopoly person. Nothing wrong with that of course. ;)
Now, it should be obvious that I’m not a “Monopoly person” just by looking at the page they linked to. If I was, there’d probably be several incarnations of Monopoly on the list. There are not. I have distinct memories of losing horribly and being angry at my Dad for winning so overwhelmingly and feeling like a failure at the game and as a human being as a result of Monopoly. Monopoly is not a fun game. Unless by “fun” you mean one person wins and makes everyone else’s lives miserable — which describes a lot of board games of the past, Risk is another great example of this. I make it a point to avoid games like these at all costs.
What’s more, if you look at the history of Monopoly, it wasn’t supposed to be fun. It was designed to illustrate the evils of capitalism, not how great capitalism is. According to Wikipedia “it was intended as an educational tool to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in private monopolies.” Even their own about page mentions “the family-destroying dynamics of a ‘friendly’ game of Monopoly.”
I was angry at yet another of a long series of unsolicited emails from which there is nounsubscribe
This was an obvious baiting tactic, and one that, I felt, was particularly offensive, given that it was coming from someone who claimed to like games, directed to someone who (I should think, given that there are 100+ in our collection) also likes games, and is very much not a “Monopoly person” — something that should be obvious if you actually read the page you’re requesting a link from. So, like a chump, I took the bait. And I wrote a nasty email. Because I was pissed at the implication and I was angry at yet another of a long series of unsolicited emails from which there is nounsubscribe.
A possible solution
Here’s where the story shifts from the norm. Normally, I would respond to one of these (nasty or otherwise) and never hear from them again. In this case, that didn’t happen. On some days, I would be even more exasperated, but in this case, I made an implication that “if you just write good content, the traffic will come” which I know, really, isn’t the case. But I also know that emailing me, is not going to give them a bump in their traffic. My site doesn’t get traffic. You’re better off soliciting, well, Board Game Geek for one, to get links to your site. Or Geek and Sundry. Or, I dunno, anything else, really, because I hardly get hits on this site, and definitely not enough to make an incoming link from jazzsequence.com result in a higher ranking on Google. You’d be just as good building your own site, call it sequencejazz.com and write your own incoming link for all the good my Google juice would do you, which is the other reason why these emails exhaust me.
So they apologize for striking a nerve and I apologize for being an asshole and I said something like “I wish there was a ‘do not call’ list or something for these emails…” And this is where the real nugget of wisdom happens.
They shared with me the name of the tool that they — and many other content marketers — use to gather emails: Hunter.io. By all appearances, this seems like a fairly legit way of gathering lists of email addresses to spam send your wonderful emails to. They boast 200+ million email addresses in their database, all tested for sendability and ranked with a score. They have a search tool right on the front page their site where you can search by domain and get a list of results (with parts of the name blocked out, although with some social engineering you can figure them out a lot of the time). Go ahead and try your own (assuming you don’t have a Gmail account) — you’re probably in there.
You can even find the sources for the email addresses, and here’s where it gets really interesting. Their email finder lets you type in a full name (first and last) and a domain and it will give you the matching address. This is easy and you can do it right now to get an actual individual’s email address from, basically, anywhere, provided you can give those two things. But the sources, for me, were the most revealing. Two of my results had the tag “Removed”. I don’t really know what this means, perhaps just that my address no longer appeared on those pages. Those were my ancient ReverbNation page and a tag archive for the term “art” on jazzsequence.com! (And not just any tag archive, but, in fact, page 2, randomly.)
My email address got entered into their database because I committed a piece of code. That code is open source and includes my email address and this is considered fair game.
The remaining (not removed) public listing of my email address is on Trac. Yes, plugins.wordpress.trac.org. So, to summarize, my email address got entered into their database because I committed a piece of code and standard practice for copyright and GPL notices in code is to put the author’s email address in the code. That code is open source, and therefore exists on the internet, and because that code is on the internet, and the code includes my email address, this is considered fair game to add me to a database of 200+ million other people who can be spammedreceive unsolicited emails be emailed by this company’s users.
Hunter.io has a contact address — [email protected] — but when I emailed it, I got an auto-response that it couldn’t be delivered. The message response was, get this, “Leave failed, not a member.” This seems to imply that, because I am not a member of the service, I can’t email their public email address. Fabulous. Isn’t that fabulous?
I did a bit of digging and, through a FAQ on their site, found that the Claim page on their site is how you can (attempt to) remove your address from their database. By entering your address into the form, you are “claiming” that address, and you can then either edit the preferences on the address or request that it be deleted entirely. Alternately, it’s entirely possible that you’re just adding your email back into their database, I guess time will tell.
At any rate, I claimed all of my email addresses, even those that didn’t come up when I searched for them. I don’t think it will block them from being added again in the future if they get indexed again, but hopefully it will null the existing matches.
If you get these emails, too, go to Hunter.io and claim your address. Bookmark the damn page and do it again in six months. I’d recommend writing a nasty letter to them, but I tried that and it bounced, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
After several months of thinking, procrastinating, conjuring reasons to not start a podcast and waiting for the idea to sound like a bad one (it didn’t), we decided to get our act together and get serious about the idea. I put together some notes, we came up with a format, we decided on a day of the week to record episodes and we’ve recorded our first three (two are available to download/listen to, one is scheduled for next week).
I have been peripherally interested in podcasting for a while but I am less inclined to do a solo venture (who wants to listen to me talk?), but doing one with a couple of my favorite people sounded like something that would keep my interest for a while. Plus, since our topic changes episode-to-episode there’s less of a chance that it will get tired and boring, both for us on the podcast, and (I hope) for anyone listening.
I celebrated my 1 year anniversary with Human Made a few months ago. I wrote up a review for our company P2 but realized I haven’t said much over here. The following is a slightly edited version of that one year recap.
Last year, the Monday following Thanksgiving was my first official day as a Human. I think it’s poignant that my anniversary at Human Made falls in line with Thanksgiving (leaving the historical context of the slaughter of thousands of Native Americans aside for a moment) because I have much to be thankful for.
I have a tendency toward antiauthoritarianism. I stopped working traditional 9-5 jobs because I always ended up in these awkward situations where I (intentionally or unintentionally) challenged authority and ended up getting myself into trouble of one sort or another. It happened pretty consistently until ultimately I decided to start freelancing so my only boss was myself. I bring this up because since moving from freelance to agency work, I have gotten into similar situations (though not nearly as extreme) and it comes from having fairly strong opinions and wanting to voice them and then expecting that someone actually listen to and acknowledge those opinions. This was a fundamental difference in moving from a normal “backend developer” to “developer lead” at WebDevStudios — suddenly, when I became a lead, my opinions and thoughts felt like they mattered. People were listening when they weren’t before. And it made me more inclined to try to champion the ideas and opinions of the developers on my team(s) because I knew that I was often their only representative to make sure their ideas were heard.
Imagine how refreshing it feels, now, to be here at Human Made, where — as far as I can tell — we’re all extremely opinionated, we all demand that our ideas be acknowledged and, hey, they actually are!
More than the work, more than the dedication to open source, more than the people — though I love you all dearly — this is the thing I am most thankful for in my first year (of many!) as a Human. The acknowledgement that we are all valuable, that all of us have ideas that are valuable, and that we all deserve to be treated with compassion and understanding and empathy. I truly feel valued here and I am thankful every single day (and sometimes, still, a little amazed — am I dreaming?) to be lucky enough to be part of this truly inspirational and awe-inspiring team.
When I applied to Human Made more than a year ago, I really expected nothing to come of it. I had loads of imposter syndrome but I knew what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I was pretty clear on that, actually. I wanted to be treated with respect. I wanted transparency in the company and processes and I wanted the ability to speak up if I had ideas about the company — or what it was doing — without fear of retribution. I wanted the acknowledgement that I am not my work, I have other commitments — to my own open source contributions, to WordCamp and the local WordPress community, to my family, to my own health and sanity — and that those things
Human Made was one of the few companies that actually ticked all those boxes. And I was a little shocked and disbelieving when Tom replied to me and that Joe gave me the time of day and somewhere in that process I was given a trial project and that everyone on that project was so amazing and warm and that, despite feeling like I contributed basically nothing to the project because it was such early days, I still hear, a year later, that some of my code is still there and valued by the team.
Back when I was freelancing — which was before Automattic really exploded, when they were still <100 people — I would longingly gaze at their Work With Us page. I would read stories about what the work environment is like, drool over the benefits, talk to Automatticians and generally try to suck up as much information as possible about Automattic. I said, that right there is my dream job. And that was what I aspired toward. I applied numerous times for various positions, went through a couple interview processes, even did a trial project once, but nothing really fit. Eventually, frustrated, I put it on the back burner for a future attempt “when I’m ready”, still ultimately thinking that Automattic was my dream job and that I would apply again, if they’d still have me.
I no longer think that Automattic is my dream job. Or even remotely close, if I’m honest. My dream job is working for Human Made. And I am thankful to all of you for welcoming me, for valuing me (and each other), and for making this team truly the best to work with and the only gig I ever want to have.
I got an incredible amount of positive feedback for this post, including the following which makes me feel like I’ve found the right place:
You represent Human Made so much for me that I couldn’t imagine HM without you!
Since I wrote this, I met about half the company again at WCUS in Nashville where we hung out, visited a record pressing factory together and had our first US-based end-of-year meal. Every day I feel lucky to be a part of this incredible group of individuals.
I have many words and feelings I want to express, but before I do, watch this, if you haven’t already. It’s important to witness what happened in Charlottesville and who these people are. The reporters at VICE who documented this are incredibly brave and deserve a medal.
The opposite of alt-right isn’t alt-left.
The opposite of Nazi-ism isn’t Communism.
The opposite of white supremacy isn’t white hatred.
I was a punk rock kid in high school. Punk is very much the music of teenage rebellion, of pushing boundaries, of clashing with the system. It’s also an identity thing — punk is about not caring about other people’s expectations of what you should be, it’s about making those choices yourself, no matter how brash, how loud and how stupid.
I bring this up because I was remembering a Black Flag song yesterday, “White Minority”. At the time, I assumed it was sarcastic, because I was 90% sure Black Flag wasn’t racist (they had a Puerto Rican singer for a while, after all). But the lyrics aren’t clear on that point:
We’re gonna be a white minority
We won’t listen to the majority
We’re gonna feel inferiority
We’re gonna be white minority
White pride You’re an American
I’m gonna hide Anywhere I can
I knew a couple “white pride” punk kids in high school. It’s one step away from the skinhead punks I’d see hanging around Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. It’s one step away from the “white nationalists” in the VICE video. In fact, honestly, I can’t even say it’s a step away, really.
At the time of the song, lots of people thought it was racist for what I’d see as fairly obvious reasons. But Greg Ginn, the founder of Black Flag and author of the song, said no.
The idea behind it is to take somebody that thinks in terms of “White Minority” as being afraid of that, and make them look as outrageously stupid as possible. The fact that we had a Puerto Rican (Ron) singing it was what made the sarcasm of it obvious to me. Some people seem to want to take it another way, and somehow think that we’d be so dumb to where a Puerto Rican guy would sing it and it would be–I don’t know how they could consider that racist, but people took it that way.
But in the same interview, he says later that he really doesn’t care that much about that song, in particular.
It’s not a kind of song that has a long term emotional impact or value to us. We don’t even play it all the time.
This is the kind of careless use of words and language that comes with white privilege. Greg Ginn never experienced racism first-hand, but you can bet his Puerto Rican singer, Ron Reyes did. He never thought seriously about skinheads and Nazi punks taking his song and using it as an anthem to promote white supremacy and ethnic cleansing and thought it was “obvious” that it was satire, that he’s making fun of those guys. But if you put an angry, weight-lifting white dude with a shaved head like Henry Rollins in front of the band, it takes on a different meaning and the satire becomes (even) less obvious.
Apologizing or explaining later “oh, that’s not what I meant” doesn’t change anything if people use those same words to incite violence. Donald Trump’s words are being interpreted very favorably among white supremacists whether he knows it, or cares, or not. And that’s what brought us here.
I am pissed.
I dreamt about Nazis last night. I had a Twitter rant in my head the other day that I didn’t write down because I start to form thoughts together and something new happens and I’m having that thing again that happened at the beginning of the election where every minute it’s some new, horrible thing, and I can’t stop hitting refresh.
I have been ashamed by the religion I was born into.
I have been ashamed of the gender I was assigned at birth.
I have been ashamed of my color.
But until this year, I have never been ashamed of my nation.
We have literally gone to war to defeat Nazi ideology, to defeat the concept of a “superior race” and now we have an American President who defends people who agree with those things.
I remember this sketch from Saturday Night Live after the election where a group of white people and the token black character are watching the election results come in.
This is literally us right now. How did this happen? You weren’t paying attention. This has been happening for a long time and we sat there, being complacent and thinking all our victories were won when we elected our first black president.
I’m not perfect either. At the rally for solidarity I went to Monday night, organized by the Utah League of Native American Voters, three people, dressed all in black, wearing masks and carrying a flag I couldn’t read entirely came up behind us and I was nervous. There were counter-protests happening and I wasn’t entirely convinced that they weren’t trying to infiltrate the rally somehow. It took me a minute to realize they were latinx. And even after that, and after realizing they were applauding the speakers, my unease did not entirely lift right away. It wasn’t until we were walking back to our car after the rally that it hit me — they were most likely covering their faces for protection. The same reason many people were saying it’s dumb that the white supremacists didn’t wear masks Friday night (and are now suffering the consequences), and the reason the original KKK wore hoods: to protect their identities. If they were undocumented immigrants, they could be deported. Hell, in this country right now, even if they weren’t undocumented they could get deported. And again, I’m struck by my white privilege. And my ingrained racism.
It’s nice to say “I don’t see color” but that’s like saying “I don’t see gender” or even “I don’t see flowers.” Unless you’re actually blind, you see color. It affects you. Maybe you don’t allow it to affect you, maybe you are fighting with all your might for it not to affect you, maybe you really, really don’t want it to affect you, but it does. And the sooner you can acknowledge that, the sooner you can be able to recognize that this is not a new problem. This is a 200-year-old problem.
I used to believe that in order to be a good person, I needed to be tolerant of everyone, even if I don’t agree with them. This extended, I believed, to people using the power of freedom of speech to spout hatred and intolerance. “That’s their right, I can disagree, but I can’t take it away.” While it’s true that I can’t take away another person’s freedom to express themselves, remaining silent is condoning that behavior. I learned about the paradox of tolerance, a philosophical concept that says this:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
Remaining silent is the same as allowing intolerance to take hold. It’s easy, and it’s easy to justify under the banner of “free speech” but it is just as violent and just as destructive as driving a car into a line of protestors.
It strikes us, as Americans, as harsh to hear that in Germany you can get arrested for making the Nazi salute. Our knee-jerk reaction is that that’s a civil rights violation. But the Germans know what happens if that kind of thing goes unchecked. They know how easily it starts and how quickly it can spread to hysteria and get out of control. And maybe that doesn’t even entirely solve the problem, but it sets a precedent: these ideas are not welcome here.
I don’t have any solutions and there are many problems. I am just as tired as you are. I am read the news by white men on TV. I am represented in government by white men. People I follow on Twitter, friends of mine on Facebook, speakers I bring to WordCamp are white men (thankfully not all of them). But I am listening. And I will continue to listen. And I will try to use my privilege to fight.
When there was news of a counter protest at the rally Monday night, a lot of people said they wouldn’t go. There was a threat of violence, some white supremacists taking pictures of guns and threatening to bring them. I went anyway. Because, you know what? Living in constant fear of being attacked is what it means to be a person of color in this country. And until that changes, we need to do everything we can to shape this country to match our beliefs and the ideals that we are all created equal, every one of us, and that we are indivisible.
The thing that has always given me the most pride in my nation has been the thing I learned about in elementary school — that the United States is a melting pot. Everyone comes from somewhere else, and it’s when we bring all those people together and mix up all those ideas and beliefs and values that we create something that is ours. To be American is not to be white. It is to be multi-cultural. We need to build bridges not tear them down.