Published on October 19th, 2005 | by Greg0
NerdTV: Not Just For Nerds and Not on TV
Bob Cringely has a theory. The geeky PBS technology columnist and sometimes pilot seems to have one every week (and I always give them a read). Instead of the usual confirmation by product announcement or statistic, this theory will measure the success of an entire television series.
What’s the theory already? The root of the theory is that most of the technology we appreciate so highly these days was touched, influenced, conceived, or developed by a small number of incredible people that all come from The Valley and who know Bob Cringely. Furthermore that these people have interesting things to say, and potential viewers are willing to download and watch hour long interviews of these people on their computers.
Does it hold water? Unsurprisingly, yes and no. A serious interview show with engineers of genius is perfect for me (I’m a computer programmer), but uninteresting to that girl I met at the bar last Thursday night. I’m reserving judgment on the idea that the world is in the hands of a not-so-secret cabal of technologist-businessmen, as we’re only on episode six. Yes,
George Lucas told his story in only six episodes, but he had ILM.
The Internet distribution aspect is great, especially for those who have been bittorrenting television programs lately. If you know how the process works, it’s elementary, and for Internet video novices, Bob has arranged for a conventional mirror system for the files. Acquiring the show can be as easy as a left-click-and-wait. Any of several popular media players can play the file, so no problem there either. The encoding and sound are both of sufficient quality to see, hear, and understand the interview, not to mention transcripts are provided for handy reference. The show is liberally licensed through Creative Commons, allowing you to rip mix and burn it to your heart’s content.
The interview subjects have all been interesting people with real stories to tell, and Bob has quizzed all of them about their relationships to each other; you can almost hear him scribbling over a massive diagram behind the camera, plotting all the interconnections between the people he has interviewed and the names they’ve dropped. The show is also podcasted, so you can easily listen to the interviews while you exercise or drive to work.
The show’s concessions to the limitations of transcripts or audio files work to the detriment of the visual. Often while I’m ‘watching’, I play a computer game or organize files not because I’m bored, but because there’s simply nothing to see. The video consists exclusively of a closeup of the interviewee. Not even any cuts to Bob when he is asking a question. Then again, a visual change that sudden after a fifteen minute response might make me fall out of my chair and hurt myself (or worse, my computer).
Sometimes an hour doesn’t cover it. The interviews are single takes, so if the interviewee gets caught in a lengthy digression or doesn’t completely address a question, that’s just too bad.
If you like technology, business, or biographies, NerdTV is an in depth interview program that you might enjoy. It’s available for free every week, and you can take your pick of how you’d like to experience it: video, audio, text. Bob Cringely isn’t always right, but he’s always close.