Pedestal Phobia

7 February 2006

One of the side-effects of my success as a writer is that I've become a minor geek celebrity. It is very minor, usually only taking effect in geek conferences (although I have had people wander up to me in a restaurent a couple of times in San Francisco.) Before it happened I really didn't think much about it, other than a mild hankering after fame. Now it's happened I'm more aware of it - and all in all I hate it.

I've always been somewhat of an introvert - that is someone who finds meeting new people a drain on energy. I've never liked parties where there's lots of new people to meet. I do enjoy social events that are mostly people I know, but new people are a big strain on me. That right there is part of the reason that I find my small sliver of geek fame to be trying.

Another part of this I find troubling is the assumption that because I'm a well known writer on technology, I'm some kind of uber-design genius. I'll admit to beliving I'm a pretty good designer, but my fame comes primarily from my skill at writing not my design skills. I know many people who are every bit as good, indeed better, than I am at design (I work at Thoughtworks to be around many of them).

This does cut both ways. Some people seem to hate me because of my fame. Actually I find that rather easier to deal with than people that idolize me. It's easy to brush off people who are nasty to me, even if their comments hurt. But it's harder to brush off someone who really wants to listen to me, who respects everything I say. Yet I find I can't be comfortable with someone who expects more than I know I can give.

I'm writing this not to whine, after all my writing success has given me many things that I wouldn't trade for my prior anonymity, but as a explanation of my actions. When I went to China last year I heard later that several people were hurt because I didn't chat enough, or pose for photographs, or sign autographs. I'm sorry to have disapointed people, but the reason I don't do these things is because I really hate doing that sort of stuff. I decided a while ago that I wouldn't pose for photos with people, or sign autographs (unless it's a signing a book, refusing that is too churlish even for me to do.) This is also tied into why I turn down most requests to give talks, particularly keynotes which are way too celeberity-oriented for my taste.

So if you meet me, and I seem to be rude, this is my excuse. I find it very difficult to be friendly with people I don't know - I hope you accept my sincere apologies.