Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, met with a bunch of technology bloggers yesterday, including Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, Liz Gannes of Gigaom.com and several others. Everyone got to ask one question and there was some general discussion for about an hour with what some described as a very relaxed Gates.
Some of the questions — like Mike’s question about DRM, which I wrote about here, and Liz Gannes’ excellent question about the future of web-based applications — were fairly hard-hitting, but others… well, not so much. Like Steve Rubel’s question: “What’s on your Zune?” (This wasn’t the only softball, of course; there was also a question about what Bill has on his Christmas list).
Trevor Cook, who writes at a blog called Corporate Engagement, takes Steve to task for this question in a recent post. He notes that Edelman, the PR firm where Steve works, represents Microsoft (which he freely admits in the post) but that he says he was there “as a blogger.” So if Rubel had a month to plan for it, why didn’t he ask a better question? Cook’s post is entitled “Rubel inadvertently demonstrates the value of traditional journalism.” Cook says:
I’d hate to see blogging just become a way of the powerful giving the appearance of being open and accessible by using these carefully orchestrated events with people who seem to be overcome by their audience with the great monopolist. There is not going to be much ‘speaking truth to power’ in these situations.
This is a fair point (Todd at Geek News Central asks the same thing). Yes, Steve admitted he works for Edelman, but says he was invited as a blogger (and therefore was supposedly independent). So why such a lame question? I realize that Steve is not — nor has he ever claimed to be — a journalist, but still. That kind of thing makes Barbara Walters’ Oscar special seem hard-hitting.