I don’t like it, but it’s undeniable: Sometimes the best, most important things come from total assholes. Knowing that fact doesn’t make the assholes’ accomplishments any less important. I’ve always known that, but watching The Social Network really brought it home for me. I realize the movie was a fictionalized account of Mark Zuckerberg and the other co-founders of Facebook, but I can’t help but believe it captured something of his character, or lack thereof.
I also think he must be a visionary as well as extremely ambitious. He did what he had to do, no matter who he had to screw over. And if he hadn’t, we might not have Facebook. You could argue that the world would be better off. I personally avoided drinking the Facebook Koolaid for as long as possible. I didn’t necessarily want tons of people — even friends and relatives — knowing all my details all the time. I had privacy concerns. Still do.
But just when I had decided Facebook was a fad that I wanted no part of, TheSixtyOne (another remarkable website started by brilliant guys who turned out to be assholes) changed from an innovative music site with a vibrant community into a glorified web radio where artists and listeners could no longer communicate. Friends were suddenly cut off from one another as site owners James Miao and Sam Hsiung made a radical redesign with little regard for the artists and listeners, in exchange for investment capital. (I think it was also a disastrous business decision, but time will tell.) When that happened, Facebook became our lifeline, the best way to get back in touch with one another.
And at the moment it looks like the old T61 community still exists, waiting for another virtual homeland to come along and fill those needs for friendship and music discovery. Kind of ironic that the refuge is Facebook, a website started by a guy who might make T61s founders look like sweethearts by comparison.
But a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from. I guess in the end, sites like Facebook and T61 aren’t good or bad. They’re morally neutral. Like the Internet itself. I hate some of the changes the Internet has given us, but I don’t think I would want to go back to the way it was before.
Here are a couple of posts I wrote about T61 right around the time of the big site change, just in case you’re new to my blog or you’re feeling nostalgic: