So I’ve been webcasting the BlogOn conference all day (QuickTime archives will be online middle of next week). Towards the end of the day I check to see who’s been blogging the conference in real time. seanbonner.com is at the top of the list. Scrolling down the page, what do I find in not one, but two separate posts, but Sean slamming the camera man. “The cameraman is a prick” … “total tool” … “power trip from hell” … What the hell is going on here?
Here’s my speculation about what pissed this guy off: The camera, laptop, and mixer, which Milt and I were running together, completely occupied the end of an aisle with a tangle of gear and cables. Early in the day, just seconds before we were getting started, some guy tries to step past me and right through our whole setup. One caught shoelace could have brought the tripod down the stairs, destroyed a $3,000 camera, and ruined the whole webcast. Since when do people at public events take it upon themselves to walk through the broadcasting station, over or through a pile of gear? I mean, it’s just not done. Would you do it? Unbelievable. He had an easy path back down the aisle where the public is allowed, but apparently didn’t want to walk 40 feet out of the way. And he had the nerve to counter me. “I’ve done it twice already today,” he said. “Please don’t do it again,” I answered, and started rolling tape. Times like this, all you can do is ignore the heckler and get your job done. There are way too many things to do in the 10 seconds before going on air to get out of my seat and brace the tripod so an attendee can take a shortcut.
During the first break, a woman asked if she could plug her laptop into our power strip. “Sorry,” I answered, “I just can’t share it with attendees.” She looked almost offended. I think she thought I was suggesting there wasn’t enough electricity, or was just being stingy. The simple fact is that the last time I let a conference attendee plug a laptop into our rig, they screwed up unplugging it later, and unplugged our camera by accident, interrupting the live webcast and tape archive. That person turned out to be Justin Hall of Justin’s Links from the Underground. I vowed never to share our power again. It’s just too risky to have strangers messing around in your gear.
When we (the J-School) run our own events, we’re totally accommodating with presenters who want to bring their own laptops and hook them up to the audio, projection, and internet (although we ask for advance notice). But we weren’t running this event – K2 was — and I was just helping out. K2 has a very strict policy about not letting people bring their own laptops to the podium. Presenters had had months to prepare to get their stuff onto the podium laptop, and had been told in very certain terms that they would only be allowed to use that one. K2′s policy is designed to avoid the unprofessionalism of having people fiddling with cords onstage, with cameras rolling, with sometimes unpredictable results (I’ve seen ridiculous things happen — broken VGA ports, network settings not working, etc, all while the audience fidgets in their seats — we have at times considered adopting K2′s same policy about personal laptops). But K2 had stepped out of the room, so people suddenly looked to me for help hooking up their laptop in the middle of the conference. So even though I would have loved to accomodate, had the adapter they needed, and could have done it in 30 seconds flat, and even though I would have loved to see her software too, and even though the woman was well aware of K2′s policy, having had months of advance warning about it, it was now my job to enforce K2′s policy. Against my better judgment, I left the camera and webcast machine untended (god knows where the camera was pointing during this episode), went down to the stage, and told them that K2 had a strict policy about this and I would have to say no. So the woman turns into her mic and tells the audience that the university has a strict policy about this. Whatever. As it turns out, this was part II of what lead Sean Bonner to call me a total prick, power tripper, etc.
You know what Sean? I’m about as mellow as they come. But I’ve been doing these events for a few years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s up to our crew to take control of the situation. To guard the integrity of the equipment, the flow of the presentation, and to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Because if we don’t, people will just run roughshod over everything they can. Kind of like you tried to do to me today, practically demanding you be allowed to walk through a pile of broadcasting gear, around a tripod balanced on a flight of stairs, no less.
If you’re really sure I’m a total prick, why don’t you come over for dinner one night? I’ll grill you some tempeh, you can meet my wife and kid, and we’ll get drunk, shoot the shit. Maybe you’ll see me differently the next day. The goal would not be so much to befriend you as it would be to get you thinking about the stupidity of mouthing off at people you don’t know when you have no clue about the back story, don’t know what’s involved in putting on a production of this scale, and obviously aren’t familiar with the million things that can go wrong if the people running the gear don’t do their jobs right. Fortunately, I was doing my job right, and the conference went well. I guess getting publicly slandered without justification by a total stranger just goes with the territory. Ah well.
And all this for a conference that wasn’t even ours, preparations for which consumed me almost the entire work week, waking up at 5:00 am this morning and getting home after 8:00 pm, just to help out with someone else’s event. It’s so nice to be appreciated.