“A Gizmodo writer has been banned from CES for a prank,” say’s Brian Lam. Every time a prank is pulled there is a reason behind it even if that is unclear at the time of the stunt. Thus the person who pulls the prank usually has an intention of some sort. For me, Steve Wozniak and Gizmodo’s Richard Blakeley there is a common purpose to all the stunts we have pulled in the past, but they don’t always end up with the results we were hoping for.
This is what Steve Wozniak, aka Woz, has to say about it: “I do believe that when others are putting on some sort of show they deserve not to have it disrupted. They deserve not to have it heckled or lasered or turned off. But I also feel that Brian’s mistake was a simple human one that any young person trying to find the proper ways to have fun with such tech jokes might stumble into, probably only once in their lives. I would have spoken with him and forgiven him if I were in charge of the TV’s he turned off. I’m glad it didn’t go further, like to arresting him.”
Brian Lam writes, “When did journalists become the protectors of corporations? When did this industry, defined by pranksters like Woz, get so serious and in-the-pocket of big business? This is totally pathetic.” He thinks journalists who take the promotions of companies and go lightly on them when they mess up are sell-outs. Robert Scoble responds by saying, “Oh, excuse me, I’ve now gotta turn off all the Apple monitors at MacWorld to prove I’m ‘independent’ and not part of Apple’s PR machine.” I can feel the heat from the Ces stunt coming off Scoble, but it’s not as hot as when I had Terry Semel’s bodyguards hands pushing, pulling and inside my purse over a silly prank on Yahoo! This was an experience that didn’t end with the results I was looking for. A friendly boot would have made a funny blog, but almost going to jail made me want to cry. It didn’t stop my inner prankster.
When Woz saw the prank video I made for Gizmodo with the writer, Richard, banned from CES he said, “I wish more people did this sort of thing when aspects of the world are ridiculous. I use my laser pointer aboard every flight I take because there is a federal law that, as a passenger, using one is 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. I do it to protest such a ridiculous law. I got to where I’d make sure the stewardess saw it, but none ever said anything. They obviously were not aware of this 4- or 5-year old law. I then told a couple of stewardesses exactly why I do it (mentioning 5 years and $250K) and one said “maybe you shouldn’t do it then.” I actually did think a bit deeper and decided that it’s not a good idea to do it too fragrantly.”
He doesn’t do that anymore, though. Scoble responds to Brian’s reference to Woz and hollers, “and to use Steve Wozniak’s pranks (which were never aimed at keeping people from doing their jobs — he wouldn’t even let me aim a laser pointer at a screen at Shoreline to make sure I didn’t hurt other people’s experiences) is just despicable. Brian: you really need to spend some time understanding how Woz did his pranks and the ethics he used behind them. He, also, didn’t pretend to be a journalist, or even a blogger, while doing those pranks.”
Like Scoble says, Woz does his pranks with ethics behind them. Woz breaks it down and protests, “there is a ridiculous law passed just after 9-11 that makes it a federal felony to use one while aboard an airplane – 5 years and $250K. It’s so ridiculous that nobody would imagine it’s a law so I use one deliberately on every flight I take. I even started calling the stewardesses attention to it to see if they’d tell me not to. Then I started telling the stewardesses that it was a federal offense and they said maybe I shouldn’t do it so I don’t call it to their attention any more.”
Laser pointer airplane action is not the only prank Woz used to mess with the airlines. He used to take Japanese knives on planes too. Woz adds, “also, for many years, all before 9-11, I would take folding ceramic knives that I purchased in Japan in my pockets. I’d make sure there was nothing metal on me and I’d walk through the metal detector. On the planes I’d often rub the knife and tell the stewardess that I hoped the meat was tender. When served, I’d pull out my ceramic knife and cut the steak with it. Other passengers seemed agitated but the most a stewardess ever said was “oh, a plastic knife.” The blade was 6 inches long. I told friends that it was legal because of the 3-finger rule, that if a flight attendant would likely break the knife before losing 3 fingers then it was legal.”
I can’t help but laugh at Steve Wozniak’s sense of humor! He pushes the limits because he want’s to see what will happen when he does. After all, who would ever mess with the Woz? Gizmodo’s Richard Blakeley might try to take down Woz if he was given the opportunity because the only thing he wants out of life is to be known for something. Richard said, “everyone mad about the CES video is arguing that I’m killing blogging. If that were true it would be really good for me to be the guy that took down blogging.” Gizmodo stands by the controversial video. Richard goes on to say, “no matter what happens it’s still a good video. The way I look at it is if no one sees it then it never happened.”
This is where Blakeley and Wozniak are different. When Woz invented the Apple computer and put it on display at the Homebrew club for the first time he didn’t have to push it into the public eye in order to get everyone to take a look. He knew if it was good and useful people would come to him. And they did. Take it from me, the infamous party crasher who crashed about every high-profile event out there, we all want to get in trouble for our pranks. Even if you don’t realize it when you pull the prank, there is something that compels you. For Woz it was to make a point about how ridiculous the laws are. For Gizmodo it was to make a good video that would get lots of hits. For me, it was to make a name in Silicon Valley and break into tech, something that isn’t easy to do.
Steve Wozniak explains, “comedy is in the acting – if you act as though it’s “normal” and ok, that impression gets conveyed to others, even in security, for a while. Your own confidence leaves them out of their comfort environment. If you were to act like it was wrong, they’d detect that and make a scene or worse.” If you are planning a prank or PR stunt of some kind first ask yourself what the goal is, acknowledge what is right and what is wrong and then rethink pulling the stunt all together. A Scoble says, “Can I have off this “new ethical journalism” bus now? I gotta go throw up.”
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