Dan was professional, quiet, and clearly intelligent, and most of the crowd had come to see him. But Paul Graham was outwardly passionate, brilliant in that eye-piercing way, and he was in love with his ideas. Where Dan was undemonstrative Paul was animated. While Dan waited patiently through a long-winded question, Paul would interrupt anyone to talk about a good idea. They were as different as two authors could be.
(While you're thinking about this, you should check out Paul Bausch's photos from the event, here.)
Dan Gillmor's talk was very interesting, and it gave me more insight into his performance from our meeting with him the day before. He had asked some questions about Jyte, but not given us a lot of emotion. When he downloaded the software that evening, I counted it as indication that his poker face was just his personality. From the way he expressed his own passion, in reserved, seldom-smiling tones, I figured that I was right.
I had done some research into the book, so most of his talk, while intersting, wasn't news to me. What was news, as Paul Bausch points out (see the link above) too, was that he wasn't just talking about blogs - a lot of his grassroots ideas come from mailing lists. One of them is called "Interesting People" and is run by Dave Farber, a man I know of from my time at Wharton.
He talks about the defining moments of grassroots journalism, from the Bush/Gore election, to 9/11, to the Trent Lott scandal, and an interesting story about some annoying comments from the CEO of Qwest. He turned out to be witty in his understated way, and we all enjoyed the talk. The book will be an interesting read.
Paul came on next and his introduction to his unplanned talk was the most entertaining thing I've heard from an author in years. He announced that he had not prepared, so he could either read from his endnotes, or from a tiny notebook that he carried around with him everywhere. The notebook contained ideas for essays that he might one day write.
We ended up getting a little from both, and his mind is just amazingly full of interesting ideas, all of which make perfect sense. Some of my favorites (not exact quotes, as I forgot a pen):
- Rich people hang out with other rich people not because they are snobbish and too good for the rest of humanity, but because they're afraid that they'll say stupid, offensive things around poor people that rich people wouldn't find offensive at all.
- Income disparity is good, because it encourages innovation. Britain once instituted a 98% tax on all investment income, which served to totally eliminate all risky investments and therefore enterpreneurship and innovation - it screwed with the risk/reward balance so that the only investments that made sense were those with 0% risk.
- Smiling makes you happy. For one thing, it makes you focus on why you're not happy, which most people don't realize as a matter of course.
- If you don't know what to do with your life, do what you can't help. Paul can't help writing essays.