The Plan (NB: use ominous voice when reading post title)

Look, I may as well post about it. I’ve been planning it for months, and a whole swag of people already know, but this’ll make it official.

Sometime around early September, I’m planning on heading back to Melbourne, Australia, whereupon I hope to spend a few months bumming around on people’s sofas/the beach/relatives’ farms/etc, before going back to school in 2012 to study sound engineering.

Q&A time…

So I’m leaving Google, then? Yup, that’s the plan. I’ll have done a year there since Metaweb’s acquisition, and I’ve got a lovely new replacement, Shawn, who started a couple of weeks ago and who’ll be supporting the Freebase developer community going forward.

Why sound engineering? Because it gets me away from the tech industry, from sitting in an office all the time, and from the mind-boggling ennui that’s started to attack me whenever I think about software and the development thereof. It’s well past time for a change. And I’ve been enjoying myself so much volunteering at Gilman St that it seemed like something I’d like to pursue more seriously. Plus, it’s a field that’s at the intersection of technical/creative that really works for me, and I suspect that with the increasing digitisation of sound production my computing background will serve me well.

What sort of work do I want to do, then? I’m not going to commit to anything at this point, but stuff with a “startup” feel to it (to use the tech industry term), that harnesses grassroots participation and encourages disintermediation between artists and fans really appeals to me. You know the stuff I like — open culture, remix and transformative works, online collaboration and crowdsourcing, micro-entrepreneurism, activism, connecting people together. If I can’t find a way to mix that stuff with a background in Internet technologies and a fresh education in the tech side of music production, I’ll be very surprised.

Why Australia? Why not go to school in the US? Short answer: tuition in Australia is about 5% of what it is in the US for similar sorts of courses, and I won’t need a visa for it.

What school? What program/course? I’m looking at a Certificate IV and Advanced Diploma in Sound Production, which is a 2 year course offered by various TAFEs (Technical and Further Education institutions — UK readers please think “Polytechnic”, US readers please think of a cross between a community college and DeVry). RMIT’s course description gives a pretty good overview of the program. I’m also considering NMIT. If anyone happens to know anything about those two institutions/courses and can offer advice or opinions, they’d be very much appreciated. (Yes, I’ve emailed the faculty/admissions for both; no, I can’t make it to Open Day at either.)

Will I be doing X before I leave? (For values of X usually including certain conferences or places to visit.) I’m attending WisCon in Madison, WI in just over a week, and will probably be in Portland in late July during OSCON though not attending (I do hope to catch up with a bunch of my friends there, though). I am not planning to attend any other conferences/events between now and when I leave, nor do I have plans, or much time, for other travel at this point.

Will I be coming back to the US after completing my study? Maybe. The sort of work I want to do (see above) may lead me back to the Bay Area, if the visa-granting gods smile on me. Who knows? It’s also likely that even if I don’t move back here, I will visit occasionally if my budget allows.

And this is definitely definite? Well, it’s about 90% definite at this point. It’s possible that something might happen to completely change my mind in the next couple of months, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it.

So here’s where I ask you for stuff.

  • If you read this and thought, “ooh, that reminds me of $person who works in that field” or “I know a startup that’s doing stuff like that” or “I bet Skud would love to hear about $project”, I would love an introduction. That goes double for anyone/anything in Australia.
  • The courses I’m applying for are quite competitive and have an application/interview process where they want to know about your previous experience in the field. So I’m interested in picking up any related work I can between now and the end of the year. Do you know anyone who needs a hand or wouldn’t mind me tagging along while they work live shows, record demos, go into the studio, or whatever? Any kind of live or recorded sound work would be of interest. Volunteer/unpaid would be preferred for now — I can’t do paid work in the US outside of my primary employment, though of course I wouldn’t turn down paying gigs once I’m back in Australia.
  • Know anyone who’s looking for a housemate in Melbourne later this year? I’m thinking of splitting a 3br house in Melbourne’s inner north (Preston?) with one other person, but I’m open to other suggestions too. Looking for a grownup who pays their bills on time, but who’s also fun to hang out with. I keep odd hours and am a bit strange, but I’m pretty considerate and reliable as a housemate, as well as being a good cook.
  • Got a spare room or need a housesitter between September and, say, Decemberish? Mostly thinking Melbourne here, and more “need someone to feed the cats for 2 weeks” than “you can crash on my sofa for a night or two”, but any and all offers would be welcome.

Please feel free to email me ( if you can help me out with any of the above!

Mural showing a car driving on a highway, about to pick up a hitchhiker carrying a guitar.

Mural, on Treat St near 24th, in San Francisco's Mission District.

11 thoughts on “The Plan (NB: use ominous voice when reading post title)

  • Matt Zimmerman

    Congratulations! I’m sorry to hear you won’t be around in SF for very long after I get there, but I’m excited for you to be making a change. All the best.

  • Mel Chua

    Rockin’. I love the blending of your past lives into your upcoming new one – *this* is how to stride confidently into a new future.

  • Moose

    As a former live sound person, let me tell you — your past “life” with computers will come in use a lot with pro-audio. Everything is digital today, and computerized, and kinda scary to an old fart like me.

    (When I started doing live sound the first cross-over I used had *cards*, each one hard coded to a specific frequency. You put in two cards and any frequency below card 1 went to the subs, anything above went to the horns (upper end) and everything in between went to the midrange bins. Eventually we got crossovers that used *knobs*. These days you don’t even use a crossover, everything is digital signal processing. KIDS THESE DAYS!!!)

    Good luck, I have to say I’m jealous :-)

  • Gilles Ruppert

    Interesting that you’re moving from a tech job to sound engineering. I was a studio sound engineer and producer for about 10 years before moving into web development because I couldn’t take the 12 to 24 hour days anymore (combined with low pay). And yes, I was pretty successful and worked on pretty big projects with renowned artists.

    I hope that your experience in the music business willemstad be different. If you work on a great project it’s brilliant, but those are usually far and between.

    Best of luck with your new endeavours!

  • Paul Danger Kile

    If you are a social person, then that work might be difficult, because of how many hours you end up working alone. In the music magazines, they always show the engineer recording the band, but that’s a small part of it time-wise.

    I did some of that type of work when I was a college student, and was even offered a position at a critically successful recording studio, but I became a computer programmer instead. Software design is a very complex thing, so it involves a lot more communication than non-programmers suspect, and sound engineering involves less interaction than expected.

    I am not trying to talk you out of it though. For someone that loves music, it can be very satisfying, but long hours working alone is the downside.

    Obviously, Gilles was more successful than I, so he could give you a better idea of the alone time at that level of success.

  • Teck

    Hey mate, just been playing around on twitter, never really used it before, and stubmled my way here somehow. Not really computer savy, just enough to retrieve and send emails and do online shopping anything i can access with the click of the mouse. Anyhow, ever thought about becoming a chef, we keep odd hours and are known to be weird or strange, or even freaks.

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