Wednesday, October 10, 2007


AKA "Does anyone actually READ anymore?"

The hazards of the internet or any communications medium that does not allow direct real-time interchanges composed of iterative Sender-Message-Receiver cycles was brought home to me again this week: when I posted a comment to an article about Burt Rutan at a great little blog called Jet City Journal.

Kevin Pedraja’s Jet City post was about a Discover piece on Burt Rutan with a particularly insightful observation:

I had the opportunity to meet him once. He is an odd guy, but very compelling. Definitely an iconoclast.
To which, since I had just attended a lecture given by Rutan, I commented:

It is good to see him carrying his message beyond the fold, even if he is, as you say, an odd guy. I would say he generally comes over as a jerk, but a little while ago, just before it was announced that Northrp [sic, my fat fingered typo in the original] Grumman was buying the remaining interest in Scaled Composites, he gave a lecture at Northrop that was very entertaining and gave attendees great insight into his product development model. He also echoed what many of us already know: if Congress holds [t]he purse strings you can't 'test' anything anymore, you are only allowed to demonstrate'. Rutan accurately characterizes 'R&D' these days as no 'R' and all 'D'.
My comment, in turn, was commented on by two others (to date) who somehow translated my “I would say he generally comes over as a jerk” statement into me writing or asserting that he WAS a jerk.

This is why the USAF in its wisdom many years ago changed their communications training from emphasizing the “Sender–Message-Receiver” model to pounding into us the ‘improved’ “Sender–Message-Receiver-FEEDBACK” model in an effort to cut down on open-loop communications.

So, to clarify before I sign off (and now posted to the Jet City piece): I did not imply, state, hint, comment, pronounce, or otherwise express in any way, shape, or form that Mr. Rutan was a 'jerk'. I do not KNOW if he is indeed a ‘jerk’ (I actually suspect he is not – at least by my definition). I characterized his public demeanor as generally coming off (seeming, perceived, appearing to be) as a ‘jerk’.

Now, I may have to caveat this statement ever so slightly by adding "over the years", since he might have mellowed since my best reference points, but my original comment still stands.

Maybe someday, someone MIGHT be interested in what I meant in the first place, although if one bothers to read all the comments added to original post with a disinterested eye, one could probably deduce what I meant.

I also suppose it would have been worse if I also pointed out that brother Dick Rutan comes over as a much nicer guy than Burt. ;-)

BTW: This is also a good example of the power of ‘trigger words’. Would the word ‘jerk’ have had the same effect on people if I had placed it after my complimentary (to Mr. Rutan) statements and at the end of my comment?

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