Over at Geek News Central Todd Cochrane asks an interesting question about yesterday’s Bill Gates Blogger Meetup. “It pisses me off that none of them could ask a hard question” he says, while asking what hard questions would you ask?
Truth is that getting access to tech industry leaders is so rare that most people, if they do get access, turn into softies. Why?
Well, let’s assume I paid your round-trip airfare, hotel, bought you nice meals, and gave you some nice swag. Wouldn’t you be feeling just a little more generous toward me? But, now, let’s say I set it up so that every year I’d do the same thing but I’d put little hints out there that you wouldn’t get to come to next year’s shindig if you made any trouble.
Or, even better, let’s say I just don’t invite any trouble makers at all.
I remember many times when troublemakers got washed out of many of these kinds of events. Not necessarily because they’d piss off Microsofties either. Often times they’d piss off other attendees. I know of one event that I am no longer invited to simply because I turned on my video camera, which made another attendee uncomfortable. The host, instead of just telling me to knock it off, stayed quiet, but didn’t invite me to his next shindig.
It’s also really hard to just keep your bearings when you meet someone “important.” Remember when I ran into Steve Jobs on a street corner in San Francisco? I became a blubbering idiot. Couldn’t think of a good question, or a good comeback to his insults. I’ve been thinking of them ever since.
Another part of it is simple respect. Bill Gates is at the top of the industry, is probably going to be known as the greatest philanthropist we’ve ever known, and is simply bigger than life to most of us who’ve never gotten to know him personally. It takes a lot of confidence to ask a tough question, particularly when you know that 14 other people are going to be making judgments on you in the public square.
And don’t think it’s a blogger thing, either. I’ve been in attendance at press conferences with Bill and most of the pros don’t ask all that hard a question.
Bill is a professional question answerer. He’s done it probably 10s of thousands of times. If you ask a really hard or biting question that he doesn’t want to answer he’s going to pretty adeptly spin it around on you anyway and answer a question he would rather answer.
The real interesting thing isn’t that hard questions weren’t asked. It was that Google is shipping a ton of little tiny things (you’ll see some in the interviews I did this week that I’ll have up within a few days) that are going unanswered by Microsoft.
See, some bloggers are excited that they get to go see Bill Gates. Done that, have that T-shirt. It’s a fun trip to make (hope you get invited back in April when they do Mix07).
But Google is delivering the Web goods and is taking over more and more of my life. More on that soon.