Gingerly, I click "post" to share an e-mail that I sent to Google's e-mail address on Tuesday, under the subject line, "The Pending Deletion of a Journalist's YouTube Account."
I'm doing so, because I told them I would:
Dear Media Relations Team:
Before I begin: You are absolutely not the right person to be answering this e-mail. Except that I plan to publish this letter on my blog later this week, along with a full account of the Google’s response, and the (hopeful) resolution.
I write you as a freelance journalist who writes for The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other local and national publications; I’m also editor of Vital Speeches of the Day magazine. And yes, I blog about my life and work, at writingboots.typepad.com.
I write you in a spirit of sincere bewildered desperation the likes of which I haven’t known since I read Franz Kafka, back in my college days.
If that sounds melodramatic, I ask you how it’s possible to be overdramatic about the prospect of having much of one’s documented professional, personal and family history swept out of the universe, not by a wildfire or a flood, but by a corporation that actually has as its motto, “Don’t be evil.” (My motto is, “Don’t be one of those pseudo-literary pipsqueaks who invokes Kafka every time something goes wrong with a large institution.” Ah, we all slip up sometimes.)
To the point: I got the following e-mail at 5:19 a.m. on Saturday.
The YouTube account for firstname.lastname@example.org will be deleted on 10 Dec 2011 if you do not click the link below to upgrade your account:
As a reminder, you created a YouTube account for email@example.com but haven't completed the signup process. Complete your registration and upgrade your account by clicking the link above.
Once you've upgraded, you'll be able to log in to YouTube using the same account that you use for all other Google sites.
If you're having trouble and need some help, please visit the YouTube Help Centre.
The YouTube Team
Here’s the situation: I’m neither an early adopter or a late adopter, but what I call a just-in-time adopter. What do I mean? I hate to adopt new communication technologies, because my life is rich and full and varied and confusing and overwhelming enough, and I see every new technology as the straw that could break this camel’s brittle back. But I also loath being late—to anything—and so the moment that a technological innovation appears to me to be a permanent part of American life, well then I scramble like a man on fire to get into it.
In the case of YouTube, this mad spasm, along with my own technical ham-handedness, drove me to create three or four accounts, all around 2008 or 2009.
Well, actually two accounts, but with several different passwords and usernames.
(What’s the difference between “accounts” and “channels”?)
To tell you the truth, the only thing I really know is that I’ve created two channels—youtube.com/vitalspeeches and youtube.com/kleekonk—that, if “deleted,” as your e-mail threatens (or appears to threaten), would constitute a devastating loss. After all, I’ve curated about 150 contemporary and historical speeches for the Vital Speeches channel, and I’ve uploaded 142 original videos to my personal channel, kleekonk. Many thousands of people have viewed these videos, and thousands continue to rely on them for wildly varying professional and personal needs. (When I adopt a technology, I really adopt it.)
Anyway: I narrowly escaped the loss of one or both of these channels—again, I think—a few months ago, when another of my channels was threatened with deletion (I’m pretty sure). How did I pull this off? Over several multiple-hour sessions, I spent at least one whole working day trying to work through your FAQs and other online help-sites. I conducted every tried-and-true and experimental operation to consolidate my accounts. Nothing worked.
Finally, near frustrated tears, I called Google’s corporate office and expressed myself in all the dizzying detail you see above. I was told flatly that the company does help people with these issues over the phone. I pleaded: Can you help me, or transfer me to someone who can? “No,” she said. She didn’t hang up. She fell silent. Leaving me to say, after some more long seconds, “Okay.”
(Are you starting to see what I mean with the shopworn Kafka reference?)
I saved my channel once (I think) and regained my temporarily lost ability to post videos to it with an inelegant and convoluted workaround that employs wife’s work e-mail account to access the kleekonk channel.
But now I face this new threat.
Do you see that I really do need to sort this out with a fellow human being, on the telephone?
The essential question that person could help me answer—and as I imagine him or her, he or she is warm and good-natured, with a sense of humor, yes, but mostly a mind to get on with her day—would be this: If my “account” expires, does the channel associated with disappear, or does it stay up, as long as it is associated with another account? I don’t care if the unfortunately-named “slimmyfucker” account expires; I only care that my YouTube channels, accessible to me through other accounts, stay up.
That’s my question. Here’s my request: Tell me everything is going to be okay. And if it’s not, tell me how to fix it.
I’ve tried to figure this out online. I have failed, perhaps through my own incompetence. But I know Google recognizes that technical savvy does not describe the average YouTube user, because on my last weary trip to the “YouTube Help Centre,” I was offered “Help Videos,” and instructed, insultingly from my point of view, “Do what you do best. Watch our help videos to learn the basics.”
I think you’ll agree, they haven’t yet made a video to help the likes of me.
I need a person.
1508 W. Ohio #3
Chicago, IL 60622
I sent that at 10:35 Monday morning, and on Monday afternoon I returned to Google's press site, looking for a phone number to follow up. There, I was instructed, "For non-urgent matters, you can call and leave a message: +1.650.930.3555."
There were no instructions for non-non-urgent matters.
I left a message anyway.
And as yet, I've received no response.
December 10 is only 11 days away.
What would you do in my position?