Starting January 14, 2000
Reactions to my researching web postings item, Judging Mr. and Miss Tall, PR: Gates again, On the radio, Turning the tables in PR
Monday, January 17, 2000
Reactions to my researching web postings item
I've received some reactions to my entry January 12 about researching web postings. I've put them all on one page. You can read them on "Reactions to the Researching Web Posting item".
Judging Mr. and Miss Tall
Saturday night I was one of the judges for the Boston Beanstalks' Mr. and Miss Tall Boston Pageant. It was an interesting experience and I had a great time.
Standing with the winners
People seem to first join the club either because they are feeling bad about their tallness, or they like a fun club and want to help others come out of their shells. While shorter people may think it could only be good to be tall, that's not the case. In addition to the practical problems such as not fitting in most airline seats, having to sit in the back of a minivan with the middle seat removed, not being able to buy clothes at normal places, hitting their heads on doorways, etc., there are emotional problems. Young girls who are self-conscious about being different can't hide the fact that they are six feet tall. People make fun and boys stay away. One of the contestants was the tallest person in his town when still a kid. Being a member of a Tall Club lets them be in a group where they feel they belong, and the women can feel proud to walk in heels (a major thing, it seems). The grass is always greener... Of course, there are many advantages, too (e.g., they can almost always reach things, people more naturally see them as leaders, etc.).
For me, it was quite strange. At almost 5'11", I'm used to feeling like one of the taller people in a group. Here, I was probably the shortest male, and there were few females shorter, including spouses. It seemed like a fun, very friendly club, but I can't join (men need to be at least 6'2", women over 5'10"). I felt like I was back in junior high, when the girls were taller and I was still growing. They all looked normal, I was the different one looking up. I see why they like the club. They usually feel different. People need places where they can feel they belong.
If you'd like to read the details and see lots of little pictures of the event, read the "Judging the Boston Beanstalks" page.
PR: Gates again
The phone rang yesterday. It was David Streitfeld of the Washington Post, the reporter I talked to at Comdex that resulted in my last Bill Gates quote about his dancing (see my November 18th and 19th log).
Treating the change in Bill's position at Microsoft like it was the end of an era, he wanted summations of his life. (He writes: "If it wasn't quite the moment for Gates's eulogy, it was time to take stock of what he and his company had wrought.")
I talked about how rather than invent applications like a spreadsheet Bill helped craft the combination of business relationships and technology that brought his dream of computers for everyone to fruition. Others had tried different business relationships (VisiCorp with author/publisher, minicomputers with incompatible manufacturers). Bill helped put together what worked to make the personal computer ubiquitous. Steve Jobs, the artist never worrying about supporting legacy ideas or machines, complemented Bill. Together they made the Mac succeed, forever changing computing by bringing the PC over the bar in general usability. Rod Canion and Compaq helped in creating the "open" market of WinTel and many vendors. Sun didn't do that, Oracle didn't.
David pushed me and pushed me to come up with a non-techie example of what the world would be like if this hadn't happened. He finally was happy with a railroad analogy and used it in the paper:
"Imagine if all the railroads in the country has different gauges and wouldn't take each other's freight," said Bricklin, who has known Gates for 20 years. "That's what the minicomputer was like before him."
I got the first quote in his article from someone outside Microsoft. You can read the article on the Washington Post web site.
He wanted the names of others to talk to. I gave him a few. He reached Bob Frankston and used him for the last quote in an article about Steve Ballmer.
On the radio
The phone rang this morning at 6:04 AM. It was WBZ news radio in Boston. Gates was the top story; could I do an interview? They'll call back in 20 minutes, "...after you've had time to wake up..." Oh, I can't go back to sleep and wait for a call; they want me to sound coherent. So this is what it's like for all those people you hear interviewed on the 7 AM news. Now I know what I'll write about today: I'll share the experience so you don't have to go through it.
They must have read the Post, since they said "You've known him for 20 years" at one point. PR snowballs.
I got up, went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Still in PJs, I went downstairs and quickly surfed the web. I checked the Washington Post: There was the quote from me. I looked at CNet, Dan Gillmor, PCWeek, and others to see if I missed any new developments. Then I went into the kitchen to set up a tape recorder so I could play it for the PR folks at work and to "enhance" my memory for this log. As I walked over a throw-rug, I felt a cold wet spot. So that's why the dog was barking last night (while waiting for the call, I was scrubbing...).
At about 6:25 AM the call came. I was going to be recorded first, so it wouldn't be live. "When will it run?" I asked as I ran over to my recorder (which was recording off the air) to plug in a microphone instead (carefully trying to avoid the wet spot on the rug). "It WILL run at 6:55 AM" he said.
On came the producer. She read question after question. "What does Gates mean by Chief Software Architect?", "Is he the genius at doing that?" Knowing it would be edited like John McChesney of NPR showed me at Comdex, if I didn't like how something was coming out I'd stop and start again from the top. She'd say: "Sorry to be redundant, but..." and I'd answer: "That's fine. Keep asking 'til you get it the way you want it."
At 6:55 AM a commercial came on. At 6:56:02 AM they started the story. Two and a half minutes later it was over. In the middle the phone rang -- it turned out to be something totally unrelated and unimportant, but when the phone rings before 7 AM you answer it. I didn't get to hear all the interview until I played back the tape. I sounded fine (just a little deeper voice than normal since it was pretty much my first speaking of the morning other than "Ahem, Ahem. Get my voice ready, ahem" after brushing my teeth and right before they called back).
She did the wonders of sound editing. Two of my answers were stitched together seamlessly, some hesitation removed, and long winded explanations were trimmed. I was pleased. Hopefully the listeners were.
Note to those of you who haven't tried editing sound: You can edit sound almost as easily as text. You can very quickly cut and paste, delete, change "font" (make louder/softer, remove noise, etc.), and more. She turned a rambling 6+ minute interview into a 2 1/2 minute piece in who-knows-how-much less than 20 minutes, including new voiceovers.
Turning the tables in PR
I mentioned to David Streitfeld of the Washington Post that I had written up when he interviewed me in this log (November 18th 19th) and in my Comdex journal (end of Monday night). This morning I got an email from him thanking me for my help yesterday (You're welcome!), and joking that he hoped I'll treat him kindly in this log (which I hope I do and I hope he does when he uses my quotes). This really struck me: The tables have turned. Not only do I have to wonder how the press presents me but reporters have to wonder how we all treat them in our personal logs. Much better checks and balances than letters to the editor (at least among your friends who read you, but that's often who you care most about).
This reminds me of the situation with Rodney King, where "Big Brother" was really a brother using his personal video camera to watch the police. It was not what we expected to happen, as exemplified by the book 1984. The personal publishing aspect of the Internet (which today is mainly email and the web) gives everyone a voice that is clearly heard by some of the people who are important to them. Technology continues to bring more power to the people, not just to governments.
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