July 2015 Archives

Monday, July 21, 1969, 46 years ago tomorrow, the front page of The New York Times looked like this:

What an amazing time. I mean, just look at that front page. Back on July 20, 1969, the paper only cost---it's right there, up at the top right---"10 CENTS." Can you imagine that? What a time to be alive. Big, thick newspapers full of news. Might take hours to read. Only set you back a dime. How did they do it? What amazing technology did they use to accomplish such a feat? At that price, why, everybody could afford to read the paper.

You know how some bloggers and news sites have occasional posts called "I get email..." which then print some crazy email that was sent, followed by pithy commentary?

Well, this is sort of like that. Only weirder.

See, I get LinkedIn invites....

I get a steady stream of them. I'm sure many of you do. Today I got one from this woman, let's call her Zoe G. (not her real name), from NBC Universal. Wants to connect via LinkedIn. So I am thinking to myself, who the heck is Zoe G.? How do I know her? How does she know me? Usually the invites I get are from exotic unpronouncable names of people in India or Thailand or Russia or somewhere, and it's clearly spam. Occasionally some sales rep or someone I shook hands with at some event or exchanged 10 words in a single email with 5 years ago or something...

Zoe G... how would I know this person? I view her LinkedIn page. Recent college grad. Huge red flag, that. Usually means I don't know the person. Current job: Account Executive at NBC Universal. Meaning: sales rep. Right.

When in doubt, go search old emails. So I go search old emails. Boom, a bunch of back-and-forth emails from September/October 2014. In August 2014 I'd gone to an NBCUniversal website that media people use to get access to clips from NBC's giant archive going back many decades. I'd found this NBC News special program that aired during the summer of 1967 about computers in education, featuring a segment on the PLATO system. Naturally I had to see it. There is so little footage of PLATO and the PLATO folks from the 60s that any such finding is a major eureka moment. So, I filled out an account on NBCUniversal and submitted my request. And waited.Then, I get an email from this Zoe G.:

Hi Brian,

Thanks for registering on the NBCUniversal site! I wanted to check-in with you to see if you found everything you needed.

Please let me know if you need further assistance. If you would like to send me a bit about your project, I can put you in touch with the appropriate person on this end to help you get some research together.

Thanks again for visiting the site!

I replied with details on my project, and reiterated everything I had already submitted to NBC Universal when I originally filled out the form. (I was thinking, why is some seeming sales rep contacting me asking for info on my project when I already submitted all that info, through their own web form? Can't she just go look that up?)

A month goes by. Silence.

Then, on October 14, I sent a follow-up email asking, well, what's up? You wrote to me, I replied, then silence... On October 15 I get the reply:

Hi Brian,

We only license footage on a commercial basis. You'll have to fill out a personal request form on the site for purchase.

Thanks, etc

I sat there shaking my head. What about her offer to help? What about her willingness to make sure I found everything that I needed? What about her willingness to put me in touch with the appropriate person on her end to help me "get some research together [sic]"?

What is it about the TV industry anyway. You try to abide by their rights process, and they're too stupid and lazy to even follow their own protocol. So I replied and reminded Zoe that I had already filled out a personal request form on day one of signing up on NBCUniversal.

That triggered this breezy reply:

Sorry about that - I don't handle that department, good luck in your search!

Shaking my head in disgust again. I tell you, what one has to go through to get documents, videos, and other research materials from archives, when it is the very archives that hold on to them make it nigh impossible to get said access. I've had this situation dozens of times over the years. The banality of a disinterested bureaucracy supposedly set up to help researchers obtain material out of their archive...

That Was Then, This is Now.

Which brings us to today. I get a LinkedIn Invite from . . . Zoe G. The same person who blew me off last October when I was trying to get access to the 1967 NBC News video. Now she wants to connect via LinkedIn. Can you believe it? I mean, think about it.

I wrote back to her and told her how mind-bogglingly weird it was to receive a request from her on LinkedIn considering the only interactions we ever had were back last year when she blew me off at the virtual counter waiting in virtual line to get access to stuff in their vast archive. I told her, look, you want to be best buddies over LinkedIn, here's what you do: get me the video. I don't care how you do it. Just get me the video so I can review it for my book. You do that, and not only will we connect via LinkedIn, but I'll profusely publicly thank you in the Acknowledgements section of my book once it comes out.

Ball is now in her court.



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The Friendly Orange Glow: The Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, by Brian Dear
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