7 questions with David Pogue, #CommunityLIVE keynote speaker and NOVA host
CommunityLIVE attendees were wowed by keynote speaker David Pogue Tuesday morning. With his irreverent wit and enthusiasm for technology, Pogue entertained the audience even as he warned them that technology will never slow down.
Attendees agreed that Pogue’s “80 percent rule” was a key take away. On average, 80 percent of ideas fail. Your job is to keep going, he told the audience, to find those two out of 10 things that the marketplace values.
For 13 years, Pogue was the weekly personal technology columnist for The New York Times. In the fall of 2013 he made the move to Yahoo, where he founded a new Web site for non-techies called Yahoo Tech.
He is also a monthly columnist for Scientific American, an Emmy Award-winning technology correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and the current host of NOVA ScienceNow, a post previously filled by Neil deGrasse Tyson, in which he offers an edgy take on science as he is immersed in hilarious and dangerous situations.
We caught up with Pogue after his talk to ask him a few more questions:
The OnBase Blog (OB): What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
David Pogue (DP): Check my email. (laughs)
OB: What technologies today are the most disruptive?
DP: Things people have heard of and some that people haven’t.
The internet has always been good at connecting people with similar interests, as long as they remain strangers – buyers and sellers – like, eBay, Criagslist and so on.
But in the sharing economy, we enter each other’s lives, each other’s homes, each other’s cars. We take care of each other’s dogs.
It’s a new realm and it makes brilliant sense. Where the internet is basically a broker. And I love that human connection is the next big thing.
The second big one, the one that people aren’t tracking as much, is wearable technology.
The Fitbits and all of its spin-offs are now connecting with the professional medical research community. People are coming up with various ways to collect all this data we are generating from our hundreds of millions of wearable medical devices for the purposes of discovering more about medicine and disease. That’s incredibly interesting and really unsung.
OB: What are the biggest challenges for CTOs today?
DP: As everything becomes digital and online, balancing between ease-of-access and privacy and security will become increasingly difficult.
I don’t know how they do it, frankly. It’s terrifying.
Every time a CTO sees some Target or Sony hack – and those are not start-ups – they’re not tiny garage corporations – their blood must run cold. What are we not doing that we should be doing?
That’s going to be big for both CTOs and customers. Customers don’t want everything so locked up that it’s inconvenient to use.
Second, keeping up. Change happens really fast. Tends to happen faster in the grass roots. People adopt technology outside of the business long before the business adopts it.
And it’s not just doing what the new things are, but knowing if they’re going to be valuable.
OB: What is leadership to you? How do you define it?
DP: Until I started working at Yahoo! three years ago, I never had an actual job.
I mean I never worked for a company. I’d been freelance for my entire career. So I’ve had the opportunity to watch Marissa Mayer, our CEO, up close.
To me leadership is two things:
It’s knowing how to make the right decision. And then it’s leading the troops into it. You have to sell your own user base first.
There are times you are handed circumstances you can’t control. How do you respond to that?
There are times when there are circumstances you can control. And the test is how well you seize them.
It’s complicated. It’s difficult. And it opens up endless opportunity to succeed and fail.
The realm of ways you can triumph and the ways you can crash and burn seems like so much greater than people know their roles in the company.
OB: You’ve had some amazing experiences over your career. What’s one of your favorites?
DP: The greatest thing that ever really happened to me was hosting NOVA. This is a show that’s been around for 45 years, and they’re tackling some really dry subjects, like bacterial science or battery technology.
For some of these, they hire me to host the show. They want me to illustrate the scientific concepts through really telegenic-slash-dangerous activities.
I’ve hang-glided, handled bees, been in a thousand MRI scanners, swam with sharks. I’ve gotten to go places and do things that, for most people, they would be once-in-a-lifetime experiences – and I’ve had 30 of them.
It’s the most unbelievable opportunity and experience. And I really don’t know how I fell into it. I’m not a scientist. I guess I’m an explainer.
For the battery special we’re doing right now, they’re framing the special as though I have fallen off a cruise ship and I wash up on a deserted island with a dead phone. I must build a battery with charcoal, sea water and aluminum cans. Which you can actually do, and which we actually did.
So yesterday I was in Cape Cod on a deserted beach. I was in full business attire. I allowed myself to be washed ashore in these pounding waves. At first, I thought, “What am I doing?” and second, “This beats any other job in the world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The NOVA ScienceNOW special airs in February.)
OB: What is your best kept technology secret?
DP: I have small ones and big ones. My favorite small one – which is more like a tip: If your phone starts ringing at a bad time, don’t pull it out. Just reach into your purse or pocket and squeeze it. Any button on the edge will silence the phone, so by squeezing it, you’ll hit some button and shut it off.
And then my larger macro tip is these things (phones) are sold based on how long the list of features are. So under no circumstances should any consumer feel overwhelmed by the amount of features.
If you don’t use a feature, you’re not a bad person. It is normal.
Use the five percent of the features that are useful and ignore the rest. Don’t sweat it another minute.
OB: What’s the next big thing?
DP: I think we’re just at the dawn of what robotics and artificial intelligence can do.
Just in the last year it’s gotten so much more real and so much more useful, from self-delivering drones to self-driving cars to rockets that land on their tails. And we’ve just scratched the surface. There will be some huge developments in the next few years.