The Social Network, And My Single Biggest Regret From University

Let's get one thing straight: I was slagging girls on LiveJournal way before Zuckerberg did.

This isn't something I'm proud of (you should never be proud of hurting people's feelings), but every time a story hits the news about some kid getting expelled or suspended for something they wrote on their blog or facebook or myspace I think to myself that I was ahead of the curve.

So when I was watching The Social Network, and their rendition of the fall of 2003 included that, The White Stripes' "Ball and Biscuit", crappy parties thrown by AEPi, and the line "you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole." I just about applauded in the theatre because of how much it resonated with me. The last movie I saw that clicked with me on so many levels was (500) Days Of Summer.

The rest of the movie... eh, not so much. It was good, but it's a little hard for me to personally relate to the story of a guy who's worth over 6 billion dollars (depending on the actual value of Facebook, which is another question for another post). A guy who has a crazy idea in his dormroom and starts pursuing it aggressively... that I can connect with.

Or at least, I should've been able to.

Fall 2004. Podcasting is slowly taking off. I'm listening to Adam Curry, Michael Geoghegan, Leo Laporte... even submitting a podcast or two of my own, which I recorded on the crappiest computer microphone you've ever seen.

One afternoon, spurred on by having seen Primer, the first few episodes of Lost, and the boredom of my globalization class, I came up with an idea - a personal podcast that wasn't. A few weeks of daily podcasts to build a listenership, and then we gradually start slipping the weird and occult stuff in in the background. Once it became clear that we weren't producing a real podcast but just telling a good yarn, we could jump around with different timelines and narrators to keep things interesting. There'd be murder and mayhem and sex and it'd be relatively easy to keep it low-budget because we'd be doing it all without video - YouTube didn't exist yet, there was no way to cheaply distribute huge amounts of video, and I didn't have the energy/budget to do something that big. Nor was there a cheap way to distribute audio. RSS enclosures made it possible for people to subscribe to a podcast, but the data still had to be stored and served. And I was a university student seriously considering dropping out to become a plumber.

In retrospect, I had more than enough wiggle room on my student loans to make it happen - a couple thousand bucks would've been enough to buy decent recording equipment and hosting several times over. But I was so scared of it blowing up in my face that I never pursued it seriously. I never got the hosting or the equipment, I never started breaking down the plot I had sketched out into episodes that needed to be scripted, I never started casting drama majors to take on the different roles I had in mind. Looking back I can think of a dozen more reasons why it wouldn't have taken off - but because I never did anything at all on it, a year and a half later when Lonelygirl came around not a single person said, "Hey, this is kinda like that podcast that guy did a while back... what was his name again?"

The point is this: if you try something and fail, the experience you gain from that failure has value. Boomer Esiason doesn't have a Super Bowl ring but they still bring him in as a commentator every Sunday. If you don't try, you won't fail but you won't succeed either, and no one will think of you when they want to pursue something similar to your idea.

So, if you're reading this, and you have a crazy idea, please try and make it happen. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll be better for having tried.


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