The One Amazing Secret That People With Ears Don't Want You To Know
Maybe, at the age of 32, I'm old. Maybe I was lucky to go to a good school. Or, hell, maybe I'm just a genius. Whatever the cause, I find myself regularly surprised by the things I know that other people apparently do not know. I know that millipedes have fewer than 1,000 legs, for example. I know that pigs are actually relatively clean animals. And, yes, I know about the whole tomatoes technically being fruit thing.
I dunno. Perhaps I should be of the Randall Munroe school: grateful for being present at an idiot's moment of discovery. But, then again, surely we adults should be expected to possess a certain baseline intelligence just to get through the day?
Consider the following...
On Wednesday, it was reported that Microsoft is preparing to buy Yammer. The rumor was published by Business insider, based on an overheard remark made by a Yammer employee in SF coffee house, the Creamery. For those unfamiliar, the Creamery is a favorite spot for lunch meetings, situated within spitting distance of maybe two dozen startups. It also lies close to the SF offices of TechCrunch, AllThingsD, and Mashable. In the Creamery you're generally as close to a tech reporter as you are to a rat in Manhattan. But still, some chump from Yammer decided it would be a brilliant idea to shoot off his or her mouth over a latte and a Cinnabun.
And then today, at TechStars NY, Robert Gaal of wifi startup Karma decided to boast of his company's recently-inked partnership with Uber. The boast was widely reported in the tech press, including here on PandoDaily. The only catch was that Gaal's claims were untrue. There is no such partnership. Or as Uber founder Travis Kalanick put it "just to clarify- @uber is not in any way working with @yourkarma - this company lied on stage @techstars demoday in order to get funding".
One can only question the wisdom of a founder who thinks that overplaying their hand in front of a crowd of reporters and Tweeters will end in anything but embarrassment. (But then one also has to question the wisdom of a founder whose subsequent attempt at damage limitation reads: "We overstated the relationship [between Karma and Uber] and should've asked for explicit permission. Miscommunication happened. The last thing we wanted to do is discredit Uber and the awesome company they've built." Yeah, I don't think "discredit" means what you think it means.)
Now. I shouldn't need to say this. Really, it should fall firmly under the heading of "things grown ups should know". And yet apparently it will come as a surprise to many in the tech entrepreneur community…
WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING OUT LOUD IN A PUBLIC PLACE, OTHER PEOPLE CAN HEAR YOU.
Don't believe me? Try it yourself. Sit in the Creamery, or stand on stage at a tech conference and say something either secret or unbelievably stupid. See how long it takes to be Tweeted and Retweeted. See how long you keep your job, or your reputation. My guess: less than an hour.
Don't want to risk your own dime? Then try hanging out at the departure lounge at SFO or JFK or LAS, where at least once a week I hear some fucking numbskull blabbing on the phone or to their traveling companion about an imminent hiring, or firing, or funding round, or product launch or CEO's penchant for Balinese child whores.
"I CAN HEAR YOU," I want to cry. "WE CAN ALL HEAR YOU." But I don't. I just do what anyone else with a cellphone and a Twitter account would do: I Tweet it. Or if it's particularly interesting, I send it to my friends at PandoDaily, the site of record for Silicon Valley.
The occasional reporter in me doesn't want to kill the golden goose. As long as these half-wits continue to stride the world, blurting out whatever nonsense pops into their head without so much as a thought as to who's listening, we'll continue to get juicy stories like the Yammer sale or hilarious interludes like Karma's catastrophic loss of -- well -- karma.
But then I think, maybe that XKCD guy is right. Maybe being part of the teaching process is just as much fun as feeling intellectually superior. Maybe it's my duty to pass on the fact that, if you speak words with your mouth, other people can hear them with their ears?
Nah, I'm just kidding. Keep on yakking, you verbally incontinent idiots -- we smart people eat this stuff up with a spoon.