Okay, I stole the title from John Hodgman, who spoke at Google recently. And to be really fair, I should add more modifiers to the title, “briefly famous” being much more accurate.
Hodgman, who writes in the great tradition of literary nonsense, has a very entertaining story of minor fame in his new book More Information Than You Require. He has inspired me to write a a less entertaining story about the minor internet fame that our baby naming project has bestowed upon me.
Earlier today I was interviewed on The Morning Show, broadcast all across the great nation-continent of Australia. Since my kayak is in the shop, I was to go to KNTV in San Jose where the interview would be done live via satellite.
I’m fairly comfortable with public speaking, and I was even station manager of an entire radio station in college. It was a very small station, and radio isn’t necessarily a good preparation for television, but I digress. In an even more inexcusable digression I’ll also mention that one spring break I left Kraftwerk’s The Mix playing, on loop, for an entire week:
Anyway the point is I’m not usually inordinately twitchy or awkward. We do video conferences at Google all the time, and Ann and I use Skype to talk to family around the country, so it’s very natural.
I got to the station, and they brought me not to a studio or a conference room but an awkwardly high desk in the middle of a great cubicle farm. Behind the desk was a stool, set at that perfect height where short people start to feel specifically inadequate. The show had asked a couple of times if Ann would like to join me for the interview – I suppose the plan was for her to stand, chin up on the desk while I perched next to her.
In front of me was a camera and a light. I had no way to see how I looked as I talked, and no way to see my interviewers. There’s a bit of a delay as our voices and my image bounce off a satellite, but that’s to be expected. It’s just hard to feel like you’re having a natural conversation when they can see you but you can’t see them.
I was told the clip would appear on the show’s web site, but so far it’s missing – perhaps I was inordinately twitchy and awkward after all.
What follows is a brief list of disorganized observations of internet fame:
- While newspaper sites and the mainstream media are often sticklers for attribution, they are notoriously bad at linking to sources on the web. The New York Daily News article basically invited everyone to come and vote, adding “but you’ll have to guess how to get to the form! Nyah-nyah!”
- Ann has tried to stay out of the limelight but her biggest brush with fame was being recognized when she visited me at work. Randomly recognized when walking the halls at Google… for a second we knew what Al Gore must feel like.
- I’m not sure any of this counts as real internet fame, since it hasn’t gotten much love from sites like Reddit, Digg, or Slashdot. So I’m not legitimately internet famous like my friend Matt.
- Interviewers keep asking me if I’m planning on turning this into a book. I won’t lie, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I love reading, and when I go to a bookstore or library I always think to myself – “look at all of these books, almost all of them written by human beings, many of them just as uninteresting as me!” But I get the impression that the interviewers are expecting a baby-naming book. I’m not sure I have enough material – “Chapter 1: How to choose a name for your baby. Let the Internet do it. The end.” But I would be interested in writing more about all these great ways that people are turning boring things like spreadsheets and maps into social media on the web. Anyone know a good literary agent?