Filters, slices and context color everything. Or how I got to "omg. wtf. I guess Steve Ballmer is pretty cool"
From each of these, I came away thinking - "Wow. This is a pretty smart, passionate and likable dude". Why is this surprising?
Well my quick impression of him before listening to both of these "Man, how was this guy CEO of Microsoft for so long" and well, a lot worse to be honest.
And then I thought about why I thought this.
- I hadn't really heard him speak (in-person or watched a video) for any length of time
- objectively, even with all the missteps in his later years at the helm it's hard not to evaluate him as a pretty successful executive and CEO
- Slices: Well, the first is slices. I rarely ever saw a large sample of him speaking or how he dealt with things. I just saw slices (clips, quotes, videos) - like his infamous "Developers, developers, developers" moment, or some of the things he happened to say like laughing off the iPhone. It's easy to jump to conclusions if that's all you see.
- Filters: I re-watched the entire "Developers, developers, developers" thing as well as the video above. You know what - they're actually not that bad.
If I'd watched them in isolation without pre-existing commentary i.e. an article that said "look at the ridiculous CEO" or a share that said "look how wrong he was", I'd actually have come away with a much more favorable impression.
- Context: And finally context. I was in school studying computer science when Windows vs. Linux, and what those operating systems embodied seemed like the most important platform war in computing and everyone in school was on the Linux side.
It was hard not to assume the worse (and man there actually was enough of it) on the other side.