My Mega Power Trip

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.

Music: Django Reinhardt :: Ain’t Misbehavin’

19 thoughts on “My Mega Power Trip

  1. Sean Bonner

    You can try to justify it all you want, but the fact remains you were extremely rude for no reason to several people. There’s a nice way to say “no, sorry” but clearly you don’t know anything about that. This post reaks of the exact same “i’m more important than you” attitude you had all day. You don’t know anything about me, and your assumptions above illustrate that and backk up everything I said earlier. You were/are being a total ass.

  2. Scot Hacker

    Sean, can you please make a concrete suggestion on how I could have been any more polite than I was? Did I forget to say please or thank you at some point? Did I make any unreasonable requests or demands on anyone? What exactly is the problem?

  3. Sean Bonner

    1. don’t assume people idiots

    2. don’t talk to them in a way that makes it clear you think they are idiots

    3. don’t assume you are the only one who can grasp the situation

    4. don’t exaggerate the situation later on to make yourself feel better

    5. don’t tell someone they can’t do something you are doing yourself

    6. if you do have to tell someone “no” do it nicely

    Is that enough? too vague for you?

    – the only thing in the way was YOU and one leg of the tripod which I would have had to make the enormous effort to lift my foot about 8 inches off the ground to clear. A task so challenging it’s amazing that as you pointed out, I was able to do it two times before. I was asking you to move, the tripod wasn’t an issue. all that other crap was considerably out of the way. And while your revision above is charming, the conversation as I remember it went something more like: “excuse me” – “no” – “well, I need to get by” – “no way, you’ll knock everything over” – “no I won’t, since I just did it twice and didn’t knock over anything” – “well you aren’t doing it again.” all this seconds after YOU had just stepped over the leg of the tripod prooving how daunting it was. If you’d said something more along the lines of “sorry, I’m really concerned about this equipment, could you go the other way?” it would have gone over much better. It’s not that you said “no” it’s how you said it, and if you treated the woman who asked to use one of your open power slots (at a conference full of people with laptops and a room with only one available socket) I’m sure she had a similar reaction. Ironically, I was trying to get past you to get to that very socket and plug in my own power-strip which I was more than happy to share it with those around me. Here’s proof:

    http://seanbonner.buzznet.com/user/?img=9&id=398753

  4. Scot Hacker

    Sean, the answer to points #1-4 are all “I don’t.”

    5) Dude, it’s our gear! We’re supposed to be in there! We’re responsible for the webcast, the QuickTime archive, the tape archive. We don’t take it lightly. It takes a TON of preparation, a lot of money and a lot of work. Of course I can step over the tripod – I put it there. Would you do the same at a more commercial event? If my camera said NBC on the side would you have been so eager to step into it?

    6) I did. Believe it or not, I’m a really nice guy, I talk to everyone politely.

    Eight inches? To clear the tripod safely required lifting a leg almost all the way over the chair and bending your body to avoid making contact. Besides which, the aisle was CLEARLY blocked by equipment. 200 people in that room and only one of them ever tried to pass that way down the aisle. And the same aisle was clear in the other direction. It’s not like you were trapped and had to take a shortcut.

    There is no revision in my account. I was there all day. I didn’t say “well you aren’t doing it again,” I said “Well PLEASE don’t do it again.” Firm but polite. Just the way it needed to be. A little respect. If you remember me being impolite, then you’re remembering wrong. I had to step over the tripod all day because the space provides no good camera angle other than on the stairs. That was my job. Your job was to respect what was so obviously not a space for public traffic, and to understand when I said I had to roll webcast that I had a heck of a lot to do in a short period of time.

    I’m not responsible for how much electricity is in the room. I don’t even work at Haas. You’re responsible for your own laptop batteries. You think at a conference of bloggers we can provide electricity to every seat? And there were many outlets on the walls – lots of people were using them. Talk about revisionist.

    I’m happy you shared your power strip. That’s the way it should be. But I think you can understand why we can’t risk sharing ours. It’s too critical to have attendees mucking about under our chairs and in our gear. We’ve got enough potential problems to deal with even without the audience factor.

  5. baald

    OMG – this pinhead just doesn’t get it. this is like when someone cuts you off on the freeway then flips YOU off as if you were at fault. who the F*** cares how rude you were, it’s your gig not his. Next time hire security so you can just 86 these idots. i’m getting dizzy with anger just thinking about this. that aneurism’s gonna pop, i just know it. damn you shacker! it’s gonna be just like pete best, my slack body on the floor….

    hey sean — wtf man?the only one who seems to be power trippin here is you. don’t go to shacker’s for dinner — come ova MY place, i’ll feed you by hand. book pages and a stick. ever see the cook the thief? moron.

    baald

  6. mneptok

    Full disclosure, I count Scot among my friends. That having been said Sean, regardless of the dynamics inside the conference today and even if Scot is guilty on all your counts; even a neutral observer can see that you are as guilty as you claim Scot to be on your points numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.

    1. don’t assume people idiots.

    2. don’t talk to them in a way that makes it clear you think they are idiots

    3. don’t assume you are the only one who can grasp the situation

    4. don’t exaggerate the situation later on to make yourself feel better

    6. if you do have to tell someone “no” do it nicely

    And no, there’s really nothing to be gained by replying to this. I’m very sure this is my opinion. And in fact, I don’t see much to be gained by continuing the discussion, do you?

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  9. susan mernit

    Scott–As ‘the woman’ who wanted to switch laptops, let me say again that–

    A) You did an AMAZING job at the conference

    B) We survived without switching laptops

    C) Someone had told me it was university policy not to switch–if I’d known it was K2, as a conference organizer, I would have checked with them.

    Oh well, we got through and hopefully you are kicking back today–thank you again for all your good work.

  10. Alderete

    1. don’t assume people idiots.

    Frankly, this just illustrates how little Sean understands the logistics of events. 99% of people are not idiots, but you can’t spot the 1%, so you have to be a hardass about protecting things which cannot fail, or the event is derailed.

    There’s a polite way to be a hardass about things like that, but I know Scot personally, and know he is always polite, even in the face of provocation.

  11. Oliver Thylmann

    Great post mneptok!!! Love it. :) I sadly didn’t read the comments on this post so I answers to the discussion on one of Sean’s posts. Something like this could really enrage me but then again … he made himself look weird all by himself. ;)

    Next time I’ll call Scot an asshole so I get invited to dinner ;) What an efficient way to grab some food. ;)

  12. Phil Wolff

    Scot, thanks for the well written explanation of crew responsibilities and viewpoint.

    Someone pointed out to me that nearly all laws and rules and etiquette, even ones we perceive as silly or archaic, were provoked by some bad event in the past. It’s a way of passing along lessons learned and knowledge earned.

    Jaywalking is like that. It seems ridiculous when you look left and right and see no traffic for blocks, but enough people have been maimed and killed that it still makes sense to go out of your way to the corner or crosswalk.

  13. David Huff

    /me sighs heavily

    Dontcha just love it ? Someone gets good at something highly technical and knows what it takes to pull it off correctly in a challenging environment. Then somebody else comes along who doesn’t understand all the gritty details and gets offended by a professional doing his/her job.

    There’s a Dilbert comic that reminded me of this. The pointy-haired boss calls Dilbert into his office and says, “Anything I don’t understand must be simple,” then gives him 5 minutes to do something like re-architect their entire intranet or some such…

    So, if IMHO you were just doing your job and not being an asshole, can I be invited to a backyard grill-a-thon sometime, too ? ;-> I’ll even bring the beer…

  14. Sean Graham

    Why are you such a damned jerk, Mr. “Hacker” (nice sudonym… for some POSER!)

    Get off your high horse some time and realize that not everyone is as briliant as you “think” you are.

    :)

  15. Dan

    Hi Scot,

    It’s always depressing, isn’t it, to be reminded that the world has its share of assholes, ready to spew shit at the smallest provocation. I’m glad at least that Susan understood you had a job to do, and respected you for it.

    Illegitimi Non Carborundum.

  16. Inspector Sands

    Myself and a few others here in the UK have had dealings with Mr Boner over his failing London Metblogs project – do a search for it on Google if you want to see how quickly one man can throw his toys out of the pram when faced with some pretty reasonable criticism. He’s not a good thing for trans-Atlantic relations, is our friend Mr Boner.

  17. onionbagblogger

    The Bonner Blogging World (his own little planet of course) Vs London Bloggers is a messy affair. It really should be as trivial as some knobber walking past a set of wires during a webcast.

    Bonner managed to raise the stakes though and at the same time killed off his crappy little London metroblotg project of all orginal ideas.

    As the good Inspector said, a Google will pull up further evidence of his lack of social skills.

    Nice to make contact with some US bloggers btw who seem to understand net etiquette.

  18. Tim

    I was not at the BlogOn conference, so I can’t comment directly on it. However, I have dealt with Scott at several conferences at UC Berkeley, and he has been unfailingly polite and has gone out of his way to be helpful, so I find Mr. Bonner’s comments hard to believe.

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