San Diego is to Los Angeles as Canada is to the United States—it has all of the good stuff with none of the crap. Among its assets must be counted the fine quality of its geeks. There were only a few locals at the Web Apps Summit but boy, did they ever take good care of the out-of-towners.
Gema from Digital Telepathy acted as both tour guide and chauffeur in taking some of us visitors downtown when day one of the conference wrapped up. After sampling some of the local tiki delights, a bunch of us were finishing up the evening with a tipple in some bar or other when, through some series of digressions that I can’t quite recall, I happened to let slip that I had never experienced the peculiar ritual that is karaoke.
- karaoke (karēˈōkē)
- A form of entertainment, offered typically by bars and clubs, in which people take turns singing popular songs into a microphone over prerecorded backing tracks.
- From Japanese, literally “empty orchestra.”
This was somehow misinterpreted as a desire to engage in said ritual and so plans were hatched for the following night that would result in the breaking of my karaoke hymen.
But before that, there was the second and final day of the conference. While we were all enjoying some excellent presentations, an odd phenomenon was manifesting itself in the cyberspace extrusion of our social circle (that would be the World Wide Web). There was a higher than normal count of rickrolling incidents occuring.
- To post a misleading link with a subject that promises to be exciting or interesting but actually turns out to be a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up” from one-hit-wonder 80s pop icon Rick Astley. Allegedly hilarious.
- A variant on the duckroll.
One of the finest exemples to date was executed by Daniel when he rickrolled a bowling alley full of geeks. While I didn’t observe anything quite on that level, it seems that Trammell’s mischief-making was curiously timed with Stan’s notice of avoidance. This was duly documented on Flickr which then became the site of a new vector of infection.
Cindy was sitting next to me at the Web Apps Summit and she expressed curiousity about the URL Trammell had posted. I didn’t discourage her from entering the URL in her browser which happened to have quite a few work-related tabs open. She seemed strangely displeased with her first-hand experience of rickrolling and twittered as much. That prompted a failed attempt by Tantek to rickroll me (although some people got caught in the crossfire). Things started to get out of control when the rickrolling migrated from Twitter to voicemail.
While the internet was being traumatised, the conference wrapped up and I began to concern myself with matters of the flesh, namely getting food and drink. There was food aplenty at the microformats dinner but that was quite some distance away. Once again San Diego’s geek community came through with flying colours. Keith, Derek and I were whisked away by Patrick Crowley and Edward O’Connor. I bet those guys throw a great BarCamp.
The microformats dinner was a most pleasant affair but let’s face it, it was really just the prelude to the main event. The prospect of karaoke was hanging over my head like a Damoclean sword. Throughout the day I had been receiving some consistent advice, namely that karaoke was a whole lot easier to bear when alcohol is involved. I began to test that theory as soon as our gaggle of geeks migrated to The Lamplighter, a suitably um… “character-filled” locale.
The question of what song I should butcher to pop my karaoke cherry had already been raised on Twitter and I was leaning towards the suggestion of doing some Johnny Cash (just as soon as my brain cells were suitably numbed). Then Cindy offered her solidarity: she would be willing to join me in a duet of Don’t You Want Me? by The Human League. A good choice: it would be hard to sing it any worse than the original.
Late into the evening and a few tequilas later, my name was called. Cindy and I went up on stage and I began to psyche myself up to deliver my best Phil Oakley impression. I watched as the wizened karaoke DJ tapped in the numbers to bring up the correct song. That’s when the rug was metaphorically pulled from under my feet. The unmistakable sounds of Never Gonna Give You Up began to play.
I had been rickrolled …big time. I had two options:
- Go with it.
What the hell? I thought, and went for option number 2.
I suppose in one sense, I wasn’t just the victim of a rickroll, I was also the perpetrator as I inflicted the song on a bar full of civilians who were completely oblivious to the memetic subtext. And you know what? I think I do a pretty good Rick Astley impression. That’s not something to be proud of.
Rickrolling wasn’t the only meme that was trundled out that evening. Despite Stan’s warning, we couldn’t resist a spot of flap’n’snap. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. As I reminded the Twittersphere …the internet is serious business.