How can we deal with the depression we’re feeling after Quora’s recent removal of question details: the way they did it and the damage to previous answers?

I delighted once or twice in doing drive-by gloats of threads in which Top Writers have just been shocked to discover that Quora doesn’t particularly care what they want, and peppering comments with repeated use of the word “fungible”. That’s dwelling on it, though, not really dealing with it.

I’ve worked at raising consciousness about what happens here, in and beyond those drive-by gloats. That’s still dwelling on it, though, and Quora has no shortage of fresh missteps to document.

I’m trying to move on from answering too many questions about the Removal of Details, which is one way.

I delight in making fun of Quora Inc., which is another: Nick Nicholas’ answer to What was the last thing you wrote by hand?

I write impossibly obscure and detailed, Medium post-like answers to non-personal but snowflakey questions, that no computer could feasibly extract meaning out of, and no canonicity is relevant to. Like Nick Nicholas’ answer to What is the so-called Greek word Albania/Αλβανιά (derogatory word), and from what does it stem?; or Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why didn’t the Greeks convert to Catholicism under the Latin Empire? Those were fun. Those were long. Those were not addressed to Quora bots. In some ways, in fact, those are the postludes to my Der Krämerspiegel.

It’s a somewhat stretched analogy (which I’ve used here once before). Let me work through it.

Richard Strauss: Der Krämerspiegel, Op 66

Unfortunately, in the contract for Opus 56, he had unwisely allowed a clause to be inserted giving Bote & Bock the rights to his next six songs whenever they might be composed.

Becoming increasingly at loggerheads with the firm, Strauss prevaricated for as long as he could. […] But in 1918 he found himself threatened with a court case. By then he had in his desk drawer the six Brentano-Lieder, later published as Opus 68 (see Volume 5), but he had no intention of surrendering such a magnificent set to Bote & Bock.

Instead he turned to Alfred Kerr, a well-known Berlin literary critic, who in March 1918 produced for him a witty set of satirical verses lampooning music publishers, and mentioning many of Strauss’s principal enemies by name. By May Strauss had set all twelve poems to music and dispatched them to Bote & Bock, who not surprisingly refused them out of hand. […]

It is easy to understand why the cycle is now rarely performed, given that the texts consist entirely of in-jokes, and that the lion’s share of the music is given to the pianist. But Strauss’s music is well worth savouring, not least for its humorous references to Strauss’s own works, such as Der Rosenkavalier and Ein Heldenleben, and especially for the beautiful prelude to the eighth song and its reprise as the final extended postlude. This has a history quite independent of the cycle, as Strauss revived its lyrical, Schumannesque theme nearly a quarter of a century later, in his opera Capriccio.

Michael S. Hurst did his PhD on Der Krämerspiegel in 2007: Interpreting Richard Strauss’s Der Krämerspiegel from the perspectives of the performers and the audience. The sense he makes of that postlude: it’s Strauss telling his publishers, “this is the music you could have had from me, if you’d only treated me with respect.”

Write the content you want, because it makes you happy, and it makes the people you’re trying to help happy. What Quora wants is secondary. It cannot but be secondary: we write for us, not for D’Angelo. It’s not like he’s paying us to write here.

Make yourself proud of what you write here. That’s the best revenge, and that’s the best way of getting over it. In particular, if you’re here to help specific question askers, and not a canonicity bot, then strike up a conversation with them in question comments on what they’re after. That’s still allowed.

And if that becomes untenable, *shrug* take your content elsewhere. Strauss did end up reusing that tune, after all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *