Retiring from 'sad' on twitter
Before moving to San Francisco an older friend had given me the name, which I carried as the title on my first business card: “Angry Young Man.” I had a tendency to practice “anger-driven development” wherein I would stay up late hacking away, determined to make something less shitty. I don’t think I have ever truly been an angry person, so let’s call it “playful cynicism.” I used this energy to develop two characters on Twitter through which I could vent my frustrations and make jokes about day-to-day stupidity in the tech industry. The most popular character and certainly my favorite: sadserver and its relative which I added later on sadoperator, are as of today effectively retired.
When I originally developed both of those characters, I was spending an inordinate amount of time maintaining systems. Like most who work in infrastructure and automation, I tended to be overworked and underappreciated, or at least I believed I was.
@sadserver was the dry, sarcastic, and irreverent personification of the servers I was trying to work on. Often times the jokes or retorts came from real life situations where I had inadvertently screwed something up, and @sadserver would playfully mock my frustrations. As I developed the character further, it took on a life of its own. As my career progressed, I spent less time working directly with infrastructure and more time working in the no-man’s land between Operations and Development, an uncanny valley of hilarity which further fueled @sadserver’s discontent and lamentations.
I fancied myself as a “Dev who could speak Ops” and created a complementary character @sadoperator. Unlike @sadserver, @sadoperator was meant to be a real person. Somebody who frankly, is sick of your shit. A year or two after I created @sadoperator I started to burn out, but didn’t know it at the time. The character became more cynical, saying many of the things I was thinking during meetings-with-no-end, responding to the news with sarcastic eye rolls, and becoming increasingly combative towards “management” and “dev” who existed as foils for the stories I wanted to tell. @sadoperator was a caricature of my own internal thought processes. Perhaps not the most healthy outlet, but for quite a while it continued to make me laugh.
As I recovered from burn out I continued to create content for both characters, but to do so I would have to indulge in cynicism even if I was really having a great day. I would look at something happening on twitter, I would let my eyes lose focus and put myself into a negative frame of mind; often times I would even get a chill. Soon enough I would arrive at a witty retort or comment to share with the tens of thousands of people following one of the two accounts. I felt almost like I was vacationing in a place of despair, all for the sake giggles on the internet.
I’m no longer angry like I once was. And I have actively worked on my own mental health, working to recognize the caustic effects of sarcasm and comedic cynicism. While I can still laugh at the tweets written over the last many years, I do not delight in writing them anymore.
It’s time to retire.
It has been difficult to decide what I should do with these accounts. Years ago I considered selling merchandise featuring some of the tweets. My first idea was to take this tweet:
it’s not “corruption”, it’s a database index REMIX.
I thought that an 80’s stylized MySQL dolphin standing at a couple of turntables would have been perfect, but I could never find the right designer. I eventually gave up on the idea of monetizing any of this silliness and instead decided to ride it out, enjoying it while it lasted.
Much of the other content I still am very proud of and is worth something at least to me, such as my Twas the night before Opsmas poem which I wrote in one sitting five years ago, lounging in rented cabin during a truly wonderful family Christmas vacation.
Or the short story I
wrote after mistyping some
curl incantation to a
A connection is established on port 80.
After a moment, four-bytes are received.
I terminate the connection.
The praise for that story from one of my own favorite accounts, Micro SF/F stories was exhilarating.
Another dystopian short story, inspired by the Google fall from grace and their “do no evil” motto which still plucks at my heart strings
They set out to make the world a better place.
Building more technology, more automation.
Optimizing it all, for sake of the machines.
Finished, the people had all gone.
Surrounded by their machines, they felt alone.
The world had become a better place.
Only not for them.
Twitter is an interesting medium in which to tell stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of telling stories or making jokes within its constraints.
In the end, both of these characters served primarily to entertain myself and some of my colleagues, a number of whom didn’t know who was the man behind the mask. It was always hard to hide a smile when somebody would share one of my tweets in an internal work chat. “omg too real!”
I don’t plan on deleting the accounts or selling them off to anybody, instead I am releasing all the content I have ever created on Twitter for these two characters under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareALike 4.0 license.
Please share, remix, or use these however you would like. If you use these tweets to sell something or make money in some way, please consider donating profits to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
I’ll leave you with this tweet, potentially my all-time favorite dark-but-true tweet.
Please don’t take things too seriously and do try to find reasons to be happy.