Digging For Answers Without A Shovel

Yesterday I conducted two interviews, and I wasn’t completely happy with either of them.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and I did the best I could in both cases. But something was just a little off.

First I interviewed Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, which was a really cool experience. His network of sites has become a cultural icon, and he has been recognized many times over as being very influential.

Craigslist is kind of funny to me, because it’s SO simple looking, and yet so effective. It’s like a cutting-edge concept with a grassroots look; a multi-national company with a small business or solo entrepreneurial feel.

But people use it all the time, and love it, and I’ve bought and sold things there myself. Most recently I found a great elliptical training machine in Medford, about 30 minutes away, for about $100. For years I’ve used a stair climber, but I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to ship it to Oregon from Toronto, so I ended up with a better machine at a fraction of the price.

According to Craig in the interview, the community doesn’t care about fancy graphics or features, they just want it to do what it does; so it will probably stay basic forever.

The challenges with the interview were that first of all, Craig was in the midst of dealing with a spammer, because he actually works daily as a customer service rep for his own company, and the spammer needed to be shut down. So as a result, we started 30 minutes late, and he had another appointment right afterwards, which made us crunched for time.

Secondly, he had to do the interview in a noisy location on his cell phone; first on the street, then inside a Starbucks, so the sound quality wasn’t that great. That meant I couldn’t hear him very well, and he couldn’t hear me very well. Several times I had to repeat questions, and several times a big noise drowned him out, so a lot of editing is required. I can remove some of the background noise too, but not all of it, and the noise removal deteriorates the voice quality.

Thirdly, his answers are always quite short and to the point, which is perfect for TV or radio, but not as good in a longer-form interview like I was doing. The way to overcome that is to keep asking for examples and digging deeper into what he’s saying, but that didn’t seem to be working as well for me as it sometimes does.

Oh, well, we all have off days, no matter what we do, and you just have to always do the best you can with what you’ve got from where you are, and that’s what I did.

But I figured my Internet Marketing Unwrapped episode with Steve Iser would go better. It was the second interview of the day, and I was more warmed up, plus I always feel more on when I do them later in the day.

This one was a live simulcast, which means no editing out mistakes; people are listening to it as it goes down.

One thing I missed was my show intro music that I always used to play over the phone line at the opening to my shows. Unfortunately my ex-husband still has my hard drive with the music on it, and the equipment I used to use to pipe it in, so I went bare bones this time.

As Barry likes to say, it’s about knowing how to “Adapt, Overcome and Improvise”.

Then we started talking about how Steve makes money with MySpace, and his new product called Ready.Aim.Wired. And I really had to grill him about it, because audience questions were coming in fast and furious over the webcast function about why he has multiple MySpace profiles, and if he’s misleading people by doing that.

I had reservations to begin with about how that concept would go over, and I warned him it would probably come up, because in all good consciousness I just have to ask about things that could be controversial. So maybe I manifested the audience questions by focusing too much on it ahead of time, but either way, it was a topic we had to tackle.

Luckily Steve handled it really well, and I helped him clarify what he was saying so the audience would get it. I think at times, since he knows the topic so well, he’d be talking over the heads of a lot of the audience, who were mainly beginners.

Knowing your audience is important when interviewing people too, because when that happens you can rein the guest in and have them repeat it in more simple terms, or “in a nutshell” as I like to say. On the other hand, if the guest is speaking too simply for the audience, you can get them to step it up a notch or two.

So at the end of the day, I felt a little drained from two interviews that didn’t go according to plan. But then I reminded myself that they never go according to plan; it’s just that when an interview goes really well, and you connect to the guest on many levels, you finish up with a high that makes you think it went according to plan, when in fact it’s always completely different than what you thought it would be.

You can’t plan an interview; you just follow it and steer it and keep it on track.

And I guess that’s more than a little bit like life.

Keep Unwrapping the Mysteries of Life,

Heather Vale

2 comments to “Digging For Answers Without A Shovel”
2 comments to “Digging For Answers Without A Shovel”
  1. Hi, Heather!

    I think it’s great that you are out digging for answers! — that’s what journalists are *supposed* to do…(and you certainly appear to have the credentials)

    I would just suggest that you set aside what Craig (or any other interviewee) says and really look into those things…

    e.g. “According to Craig in the interview, the community doesn’t care about fancy graphics or features, they just want it to do what it does” –> I’d look into this… feedback forum — it has a search function –is a good place to start: what has the community asked for and for how long? (more than a rudimentary search function is one of the obvious candidates)


    P.S. good luck with everything and take care! D.

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