Kevin Rose On The Life of a Tech Celebrity

Kevin Rose:  I don’t think web celebrities are really celebrities.  I think they’re just people that are kind of, you know, have done something cool on the net and people like what they’ve done.  And so when we go to tech events and things like that people come up and say oh I really appreciate this and-- I don’t know.  I mean it’s a weird thing to have so many people, when we do these meetups and things like that, come out and want to have a beer and talk to you about ideas and stories and stuff like that.  But it’s cool.  It’s great.  I think that it’s been a lot of fun more than anything else. 

Question: How do you handle criticism?

Kevin Rose:  I think that I’ve kind of built up a thick skin over the years.  I think that when, you know, one of the things that you have to realize as a company is that these people-- the reason that, you know, sometimes some of the comments, when they come in, you just have to take them and say like, you know, the reason these people are leaving their feedback is ‘cause they care about your product and they care about what you’re building and they want to see it, you know, improved and make it better.  And so, you know, we get all different types of praise.  It’s important to realize that you can’t always please all the people all the time and you just have to do your best and take in the feedback that matters most and turn that and spin it into a better product.  And so more than anything I think that one of the things that I’ve earned in releasing products on Digg, and I would say this is huge for any new start up without a doubt, is that when you’re releasing a product-- before when we first started launching Digg three and a half years ago it was very much okay, I’m sitting down, I’m scribbling on a piece of paper, you know, make some flow charts, sit down with the designers, we build a product, you know, we probably would do a focus group testing, bring in some hard core Digg users, let them play around with it, and then ship it.  And that worked out well, but oftentimes it hit the users-- like it caught them off guard sometimes and they’d say like, you know, we really weren’t looking for that, why aren’t you fixing this feature instead.  And so what we did, how we changed things, is we really opened up the communication and let users know what was coming down the pike. 

Question: Do you worry about spreading false rumors?

Kevin Rose:  You go out there, you hear a rumor, you just spread it on.  This is just the tech world.  We’re having a good time.  People take things way too seriously.  Like if I hear a rumor and I think it’s from a halfway credible source and it’s something fun that I know that, you know, thousands of people will get excited about, like I’m going to send in a, you know, Pounce out about it, I’ll Twitter about it, and I’ll post a video online about it, because that’s what makes the internet fun. 

Question: Should you be influencing these companies’ stock price?
Kevin Rose:  Well I mean I-- in fact in my last video I made a little disclaimer about that.  I’m like hey listen, I’m plugging-- these are cool features, these are rumors I heard.  I do have Apple stock, so just like heads up.  Like I mean I think that is a big deal.  When you get to a certain point and you do say something and all of a sudden it’s all over the place and you’re actually influencing the stock market, that’s crazy.  That’s crazy, you know, but, you know, that’s part of the fun. 

Question: Are you geek chic?

Kevin Rose:  I think when I was in high school and got made fun of for using computers and was the nerd, it was definitely-- it wasn’t the same as it is today.  And I’m glad that finally it’s cool to be a geek and it’s cool that technology is a fun, like, you know, it’s something that-- it’s fun in that it’s an everyday kind of use type of thing.  I mean people walking around-- my mom wants an iPhone.  I mean that’s nuts.  That’s crazy.  Like she wouldn’t even know how to work it but she sees it, she thinks it’s cool, you know.  Fifteen years ago that wouldn’t have been the case.  It would’ve been like oh those complicated computers, I want to stay away from that.  But now like technology’s sexy and it’s pretty awesome.

Question: You’ve been courted by Al Gore, Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch?

Kevin Rose:  Yeah, I mean I think that Rupert Murdoch is not quite as connected to the web.  I don’t think that-- it was a lot more kind of when I sat down with him to explain what Digg was, and it was very much a kind of hand holding process through like okay this is what’s happening right now, people are submitting content, this is what’s going on, really, you know, but he doesn’t have to be.  I mean he has a whole team of people and Fox Interactive and everything else that handled that side of the business for him.  It was just kind of-- it-- I was curious to see really how involved he is, you know, and-- but when I sat down with Barry Diller it was a very different scenario.  I mean it was-- he is so well connected.  I mean he basically walked into the room with this amazing bad ass suit on and just sat down and was like oh Digg, yeah, love it.  Like blah, blah, blah, just telling me about my business, right, you know, and just like what are you doing here, what are your integrations like, tell me about how’s this differ from what Facebook is doing here, and just like the guy is so well connected it just-- it blew my mind.  I had no idea what to expect in a meeting with him and so, you know, he was asking me questions about Pounce and things like that.  I’m like how the hell-- like how does he know all this stuff, like-- I mean obviously he was probably briefed before coming into the meeting or something but I mean just-- he can comprehend it.  And not only that, but kind of-- it’s clear that it’s not just something that he absorbed through reading, but he actually understands the landscape, which was refreshing and pretty cool that he’s that into it.  And then Al Gore is just, you know, awesome and in itself just-- I mean that was just a kind of wow moment for me, personally, just ‘cause I’m a big fan of, you know, the stuff that he’s done.  And yeah-- so I really can’t go into a whole lot of details about those meetings, but that was cool.

Web celebrities are not "real celebrities," says Rose. They’re just people who have done something cool on the ‘net.

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Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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