April 8th, 2011
Thing a Week 29: Code Monkey
Yay, monkeys. This is not autobiographical, but I did indeed used to have a job writing software. VB! MS SQL! I affectionately referred to myself and my co-developers as code monkeys, especially when a client asked me a question that I didn’t want to answer (“What do I know? I’m just a code monkey.”). Now this part is important: tomorrow morning I leave for a week long vacation in a sunny place, and I don’t know how easily I’ll be able to access the internets. I think it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get anything posted, so I’m giving you notice now: I’m taking the week off, I think. If I am in fact unable to post anything, I’ll refund a dollar to all you paying subscribers. The rest of you will just get nothing for nothing, which seems fair.
PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: The four weeks ending with this one included Re: Your Brains, When You Go, and Code Monkey (let’s just ignore Madelaine for a second shall we?). That’s remarkable to me. In my head the good ones were more spaced out, but clearly they clumped together pretty closely sometimes. This was the glorious Summer of Thing a Week, I can hear my carefree attitude in the writing and recording. The financial picture was starting to improve and the story that I was telling was getting some traction out there on the internet. There was nothing to worry about anymore - OR WAS THERE?
Next to Baby Got Back, Code Monkey was the biggest and fastest explosion. This song best exemplifies the synergistic advantage I had over anyone else trying to do something similar: I wrote funny songs about geeky subjects and distributed them directly to geeks over channels that only geeks were using. This was by no means A PLAN, it was rather a happy accident that resulted from my actual interests and aptitudes. I used to be a software guy, Code Monkey is about a software guy, and other software guys heard the song because they subscribed to my RSS feed, or because they read slashdot, or because they knew how to use torrents once my site got snuffed out by all the slashdot traffic. You notice that this did not happen to When You Go, also a pretty good song. People who wrote about “JoCo as Master of the New Music Economy” often overlooked this phenomenon, and I myself failed to recognize or understand it at the time either. And I’m not just being modest here, I really think this wouldn’t have worked without all these pieces in place, reinforcing each other. In the case of Code Monkey, the content fit the story fit the delivery system, and suddenly everyone who had a job working with computers was hearing this song and forwarding it along to their geek friends and co-workers.
Luckily, I was on vacation while all this was happening. I went to the island of St. Martin with my family and a group of friends. We ate croissants every morning by the beach and didn’t have the internet, which was great. Sometime mid-week I went to an internet cafe and tried to use the weird French keyboard to catch up on some of the emails that were flooding in, but that wasn’t fun so I stopped. The week prior to this Len Peralta started doing his Visual Thing a Week images. The week after this I got slashdotted, wrote some music for a bit John Hodgman did on the Daily Show, and discovered that someone was selling Code Monkey merchandise in CafePress. It was all getting kind of nuts.
I’ve said before that a successful song usually sent me into a tailspin, that writing a good song would make me start second guessing myself in a way that made it hard to write anything good for a little while. I’m looking ahead a bit and detecting a little quality valley coming up, and I’m guessing this was the first of many “death by success” moments in my career. A good problem to have, to be sure, but no less frustrating. I will complain about it in detail in the weeks to come, do not worry.