I, Cringely – Happy 10th Birthday

Hello Bob Cringely, here is a belated happy 10th year anniversary at PBS. I’ve enjoyed your insightful columns and TV shows a lot. The following are excerpts from “Still Crazy After All These Years: I, Cringely is 10 years old.“. Something for this relatively new blogger to aspire to. (emphasis mine)

Along the way there were high and low points, of course. In a column titled “Cooking the Books,” I explained in great detail the basis of both the dot-com meltdown and subsequent corporate earnings debacle more than two years before either happened. I identified to readers dozens of companies and technologies for the first time anywhere. I called Microsoft on its unsportsmanlike behavior again and again. I revealed not just the chinks in the armor of IT, but explained in detail why the U.S. was throwing away its technology leadership and how little we were getting in return. If those were high points for me as a journalist, the low points were writing about the death of my infant son and about our loss of national innocence following 9/11 — a column that was correct then and remains just as correct today, yet also resulted in death threats to me at the time.

Crazy as it seems today, those weren’t my first death threats from this space, either. I did a special on Y2K for PBS at the end of 1999 that generated angry e-mails from people who were convinced that my conclusion (I said there would be little impact) would lead to thousands of deaths and that perhaps mine ought to be among them. In one 24-hour period I received more than 800 such messages, yet when the new year arrived and I was proved correct, not one of those people — not one! — admitted to me that they had over-reacted.

I haven’t had a week off in a decade, because I learned long ago that readers expect to be fed on a regular basis and I’m not smart enough or disciplined enough to write ahead. I AM smart enough, however to ignore ratings. From time to time the folks at PBS Interactive let it slip that my column is regularly among the top 10 web pages on the network and sometimes among the top five, but I stop them there because I’m only human, and if I know what people like to read about then I’ll write only those columns and not some others that really ought to be written whether they are popular or not. In this one way I am very old fashioned, but I think it is the secret of my success, such as it is. That and, as Woody Allen said, simply turning up.

The most gratifying part of my work is throwing out wacky business ideas that I don’t have the guts to start, myself, then seeing someone else make that dream a reality. Ideas are cheap, I know, but they have to come from somewhere and when entrepreneurs tell me that they were inspired by something I wrote, that means a lot. The most recent such incident involved FON, the WiFi VoIP cooperative, which apparently I inspired to some extent.


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