Rory, I have a lot of respect for you, so please dotn take this the wrong way, but part of your CV was "allready works for microsoft" and also "reasonabley famous blogger".
Just like BethG. Did we forget that bit? It seems no-one ever talks about it....
The last two people who joined C9 have done so to be the front people and have had as high profile parts of there cv (1) work for MS (2) well known in the blogosphere. Any real confidence that third wont be the same. Mini for c9?
Well, let's think about this.
How do you determine if someone is the right choice for something like Channel 9? There are so many more factors than going for a coding job or other similar straight-up tech jobs.
I'm going to focus on devs here because my guess is that the majority of the people who'd apply for this position are devs. I know niners come from all over the place and from many different backgrounds, but I think dev is a safe bet to describe many, if not
most of the visitors.
So, when you're a dev, you're hyperfocused on this one duty. You sit at a computer, you type, and you think, and you ponder, and you read, and you pull at your hair, and you spend your time in IDEs, forums, usenet, and working with other dev resources.
When you're deep into coding, and when you have the unrealistic deadlines that clueless managers put on their teams, you don't have a lot of time for anything else.
If you want the kind of experience that will put you to the top of the list for something like 9, then you need a range of skills you just aren't going to get from coding all day.
All in all, I did a terrible job on 9, but that goes back to an overwhelming set of personal problems. I couldn't focus. However, I was absolutely qualified for the job.
Your duty isn't to be a tech expert or a Supreme Master Coder Person. While it can be a benefit, it can also get in your way.
Let's just pretend for a moment that my head was in the job when I was up in Redmond, and that I was producing content at the rate I should have been. These are the skills I would have had to apply in full to succeed at 9:
1. Comfort with knowing that thousands of people are going to watch you fail from time to time. This one is extremely difficult, or at least it was for me. We're all insecure, and geeks are some of the most critical people you'll ever find. They're uptight,
pedantic, and, for some reason, angry. When you have all these people telling you that you're a moron, it eats away at you. I'm not rock solid, but I had made enough mistakes through my years of public speaking and (when I was still really into tech) high
profile blogging (measured in part by having been in the Technorati 500 until I started writing about how depressed I was all the time). If you don't know what it's like to get angry comments, hate mail, posts in which other industry people talk about how
useless you are, then you're not ready for 9.
2. Comfort with public speaking. I spent over two years doing speaking engagements. 60% of my life from mid-2004 through late 2006 were spent on the road, going from town to town, state to state, and sometimes to other countries to give talks. The majority
of those talks went for four hours with a couple short breaks. You have to keep on talking the entire time.
I started off in user groups. The first few talks I gave were horrible. I froze, stared off into space, forgot what I was saying, made mistakes that left the crowd nailing me with corrections and digging questions. My self-confidence took a few punches, and
I felt terrible after those talks.
I moved on to .Net Rocks where, for the first few episodes, I hardly spoke. The download numbers at the time (I don't know if they've changed) were ridiculous. When I arrived, we were getting tens of thousands of downloads each month. Over the next six months,
as .Net Rocks was featured in a few widely circulated publications, our numbers went up to 200,000 downloads per month.
Think about that. Every one of your blundering errors being captured and available for download by anyone in the world. It's a lot of pressure.
Then I moved out to the east coast to work with Carl on the show. When I arrived, the first thing I did was give a talk at an MS conference. I had gone three days without sleep (packing/transit/etc.), and I blew it. Completely blew it. I watched Carl in the
back of the room - he was the one who got me the job, and he had gone from beaming to looking terrified. It took him the entire drive home to restore some of my self-respect.
Then he got me a talk in Boston. I didn't screw up as badly. In fact, the talk went pretty well. By that point, I had given, maybe, a dozen talks, most of which *sucked*.
In Portland, Chris Sells and Chris Tavares were watching my talks and then doing post-mortems with me to tell me everything I did wrong. Sells always said that I had natural talent for speaking, and that I'd be fantastic when I got it down.
There I was, then, failing talk after talk - and this is after the best speaker I've ever met (Sells) told me that I was a natural. If I was failing as a natural, then this job must have been much harder than I expected.
Over the next few months, I got my job with the MSDN Events team where I had to learn four hours of content and demos (it's much more than it sounds like) for each quarter, plus miscellaneous content thrown in for user groups and conferences I had to do. I
had to keep up with the info, the pace, and, during that process, learn how to stop sucking.
A year passed, and I was finally able to speak with great confidence, but it took *tons* of experience to get there.
Working for Channel 9 is a lot like working as a public speaker, except that, now, you have to improvise everything.
I used to look through my videos and see how many people had viewed them, and it scared me a bit each time. This is after I had become a great speaker (that's the customers talking - I had about as close to a perfect rating as you can get for customer satisfaction).
So, ask yourself if you could go out, right now, without prep, and give a talk knowing that thousands of people are going to see every mistake in your effort.
If you don't think you could do it, or take the battering should you choose to do it despite not having experience, then you're going to have a rough start at 9. You're going to have to endure the abuse of people who seem to expect perfection, even though they
can't even deliver their condemnations spelled correctly.
Without that training, or without having the confidence that you can keep on keeping on despite the humiliation, you're going to have a hard time at 9.
Plus, we all have good days and bad, and with a job like 9 or being a public speaker, you don't get to back off when you're having a bad day. You still have to go out and fake it when you don't feel it. You walk away with an empty feeling. Again, it's rough.
It's vital, then, that you *know* what you're getting into, and that you have *some* experience doing something similar.
3. You need personality. You can be reserved, you can be obnoxious, you can have fun, or you can be serious, but you have to distinguish yourself with style. You can have the skills down in a technical sense, but you have to have that whatever-it-is that makes
people remember you, and even possibly like you. You're an evangelist - if you don't have charisma, you won't make an impact. Sad, but true. If your delivery is flat, and if it sounds like you're talking from a teleprompter, you won't last long.
Think about it like this... there are people who are natural musicians. They understand that, even if you aren't all that great with the instrument, it's the music that matters. However you feel about them, The Velvet Undergound is a great example. Their timing
was atrocious, they apparently didn't know how to tune their instruments, Lou Reed didn't sing - he spoke in melodies, and it sounded like each person in the band was playing a different song.
But, they *had something*. It wasn't technical skill - it was personality, charisma, creativity.
Now think about a Velvet Underground cover band. If you go out to YouTube and watch various cover bands - not just for the Velvets, but for any other band they're trying to emulate - you'll often see technical skill, ranging from almost none to having well
developed precision, but not *one* of them can duplicate that feeling. They play all the notes, they sing all the parts, but it's all uninspired.
You can't fake true personality, charisma, or creativity. You'll copy your heroes as best as you can, but it'll never be enough.
Regardless of technical proficiency, most people just can't play guitar. A great musician doesn't have to know anything about scales, this mode, that mode... BB King can't even play chords. He just doesn't do it. Nor can he play while singing. In those respects,
he is, compared to the guitar gearhead playing perfectly in his garage, severly limited. But that gearhead will *never* be able to play like BB King.
Or, if music isn't your thing, think chess.
Bobby Fischer didn't always win. Kasparov was a machine almost nobody could take down (I say "was" because Kramnik has taken his place).
Regardless of his disgusting politics, at his height, Bobby Fischer was, in my opinion, the best chess player we've ever seen. He worked within the limitations of chess and took it from being an intellectual craft and added art to the picture (there are many
*possible* games of chess that can be played, but the overwhelming majority won't be since the means by which you win a chess game aren't represented by those other possible sequences - the winning maneuvers are, relatively speaking, very few).
When you walk through a Bobby Fischer game, you see genius - he didn't just play well - he played with enormous creativity. He took risks based on the (reasonable) expectation that his opponents wouldn't see the atypical thinking behind much of what he did.
At its highest level, chess is memorized openings, well traveled middle games, and move counting in the end game. A great chess player can see a loss well ahead of time just by recognizing a position and knowing where it will lead, and assuming that his opponent
won't make any mistakes (also reasonable at the highest level).
Fischer played his games slightly askew. He sucker punched people. He knew where to hit, where they wouldn't see it coming. He'd draw his opponents in, present a clean, theory-driven pattern, and then break it. Sometimes he destroyed the other guy, and sometimes
he lost - but, regardless, his games are a joy.
Kasparov... here's a guy with serious precision. He has it all down - he plays by the book. But to play the way he does is safe. He's well studied in every position worh anything that anyone's ever seen (that's been recorded, anyway). Based on theory and being
able to recall those games, he'll win. Period. But his games are *dull*.
People tend to prefer the winning team. Front runners. It's the same conceit of thinking that, because your proficiency with your musical instrument is just about perfect, you're on top of the pile.
But you're not.
If I have to choose between watching Fischer lose and watching Kasparov win, I'll take Fischer every time. He's the one with personality, style, and profound creativity.
When it comes to public speakers, or hosts for 9, then, do you want to watch a Bobby Fischer or a Kasparov?
If you want that Kasparov-like linear perfection, then go read a white paper. Watch the average tech tutorial. Get bored.
If you want to watch someone think out of bounds like Fischer, then natural talent, personality, creativity, etc., are where you'll find it.
So, if you want to work for 9, then you have to be honest with yourself - do you have that natural ability to do well on 9, or do you *want* to have that natural ability?
Again, this isn't a tech job. It's not just what you say - it's how you say it.
You can't be an effective evangelist without, once you've worked out most of your flaws, being able to walk in a room and work it like you own it.
Back to music - when I was younger, I played in quite a few bands around town. In each band, there was a post-session whining event where the guys I was working with moaned about how we were *soooo* much better than [x band on MTV or radio]. We had our skills
down, blah blah blah - they *never* figured out that one of the factors that pushes a band to the top is the stuff you can't fake. Nobody cares how well you play except for a few intellectual snobs. Much more important is how you do it.
If these examples aren't enough, let's talk about fashion versus style.
Fashion is looking in a store setup, seeing an outfit, and thinking, "That outfit looks good on that mannequin."
Style is looking in that same store setup and thinking, "That outfit would look good on *me*."
In the former, you're pretty much being told what to like - someone else thought it up, and you're ready to wear the other person's idea regardless of how well it actually stuits you.
In the latter, you *know* that the outfit belongs on you. What the designer thinks is immaterial. You don't care about the label or how much it costs. You'll wear it three years from now, even when fashion has left your outfit years in its wake.
Most bands play with the same instruments - but some play by rote what other people have written, while others might *learn* from the real musicians, but they know what's theirs.
4. If you've got the style down, you still need technical skills. If you plan on editing your videos (and this isn't a requirement for 9, though I always wanted to - it's just that the general feeling is counter to editing), then you need to be able to work
the software *and* do it with feeling.
You need to know the software well enough that you can take what's in your head and turn it into something real.
Unfortunately, I didn't do this much - didn't feel like it would have been welcome - and it took too much time.
In retrospect, I think it would have been far more worthwhile to have put together a couple great, quirky videos each week than try to put out interview after interview with the same old straight-up delivery - a trim at the beginning, a trim at the end, render,
I don't mean to sound like Mr. Negativitypants, but if you aren't coming to 9 ready *and* prepared to leave each video with your own mark, taking your interviews away from what has become formula, then you shouldn't bother applying. Not because you wouldn't
get the job, but because you wouldn't add anything to 9.
This was my weakest area. I had tons of ideas, but didn't implement them. My biggest regret is that I didn't make any big changes. Other than putting myself in the videos to make them more dynamic (I'm just not into watching one person talk for twenty minutes
to an hour - I want to see interaction), I didn't do much. Near the end, I played with things a little - mostly with Adam Kinney's exit interview. It was fun, but a bit late.
Things like that. You need creativity and you need to be able to think outside the formula 9 has been running on. And it's not enough to think differently - if it's contrived, it won't work. You have to have the kind of ideas that *don't* come from thinking.
The ideas you need are the ones that arrive from the back of your head, seemingly without any intervention from your awareness.
I think that's enough of that. If you (whoever's reading) still don't understand why Jeff should be super picky about who he hires, then, and I hate to say this, you aren't going to be a good fit. Someone from the team might contradict me on this point, but
I had the job long enough that feel confident in this. There's so much more to it than what's listed in the job posting, but most of it you can't put into words that would make sense in a posting.
Your argument is that I already worked for MS and that I was a "reasonably famous blogger."
What you're implying here is a combination of nepotism and having a cheap in.
However, your reasons don't work in favor of an unfair, or disproportionate advantage - they describe in part *exactly* why I was suitable for the job. I got my public speaking work and my blog popularity *because* I had the skills and raw talent necessary
for the position.
It's like the creationist argument that, because all the variables of this universe are perfect for supporting life when, if just one law were changed, there would be no life. They argue that this is proof that a god created the universe specifically for life;
that having all the variables in the right places is an argument for design.
I find that argument astonishing - the leap from "We're here" to "God created this universe" makes a point, but misses the bigger point altogether.
The simple alternative - the one that doesn't involve the complexity of a "higher" being, the existence of which is a huge assumption - is that, the only reason we're able to recognize that this universe is perfectly configured to support life is that the universe
*is* perfectly configured to support life - were it any different, we wouldn't be here to ask the question. The universe doesn't have to have been created by a god to explain its perfection for supporting our kind of life - the fact that we're here indicates
that, how many other universes wouldn't support us, our existence shows we aren't in one of them.
Taking this back to my fitness for the 9 position, I didn't get where I have because someone else configured my life or gave me preferential treatment - I got to where I am because I was already that person.
Being someone else - someone who doesn't have the qualities I've listed - would have been to be someone who wasn't born - configured - for the job.
I made it because the variables in the Roryverse were right to get me bubbled up through the blogs, the speaking job, the other media work, and so on. My suitability for the 9 job didn't come from my "reasonably famous blogger" or my already having worked for
I became a "reasonably famous blogger" with a job at MS because I was naturally set up for it. As I've said, were I different, the Roryverse wouldn't have been configured to support life in the positions I've gotten.
Someone who isn't right for the job is in one of the other universes where things are fundamentally unfit for sustaining a particular phenomenon.
The universe pops into existence with the parameters set right to support life.
I popped into existence with the parameters to do what I do.
It's those parameters that put me here - not the other way around.
I realize this isn't especially clear, but I wanted to present my thoughts in enough ways that one of them might resonate.
And, to take this away from my being the right match for the job, I'm going to point out that the Roryverse wasn't properly configured to support life as an underwater welder, or a banker, or a lawyer, or a president, or a barista. Many other people are naturally
suited for those jobs. I'm not one of them.
We all have our natural talents.
If you don't work for 9, it might just be that the You-o-verse isn't configured for the job.
I'm going now. My fingers are just about broken from typing.
Hopefully this'll stop the nepotism arguments.