I'd explained how to kill a personality a few weeks ago. Perhaps I was too pessimistic when I said, "[W]hat I see right now is the depressing reality that everybody can be completely reasonable, and the end result is that nobody is allowed to show the most engaging, interesting and unique parts of their personality."
John Furrier was actually at the dinner that inspired the entire conversation, article in Fortune, and ensuing hubbub. And adds some much-needed facts to the discussion. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a witness' account over my third-party conjecture any day. John says, "I was at this 'famous crap porn comment dinner' that Seagate put on for bloggers and press. I sat with Bill Watkins and was there with Jeffrey O’Brien from Fortune."
His conclusion? I was worrying needlessly:
I disagree with Anil ... Bill has a vibrant and dynamic personality - he is viewed within Seagate as a great leader. His comment was part of a bigger conversation - let me translate for people not aware of the slang - "crap = stuff" and "porn = early adopter rich multi media". Everyone in the tech business knows porn is the bellweather for all tech trends. Shame on Fortune because either way they look bad. One they know porn is an early adopter of all tech media, so they look bad for misquoting the CEO of Seagate. Secondly, if they didn’t know porn is the early adopter of media, then they look bad as a publication trying to cover tech with any credibility.
For a church going person then the quotes put forth by Fortune seem offensive - I was there at the dinner Bill Watkins was taken out of context. Fortune owes Bill Watkins big time for slamming him. Does it matter Bill Watkin and his crediblity was positive in the blogosphere and to the intelligent users.
This sentiment is echoed by Eric Eggertson over on Common Sense PR:
Straight shooters may occasionally apologize for things they’ve said, and they may temper their comments sometimes. But in my experience, the urge to speak plainly and openly is hard to overcome, once an executive has had success with that approach.
The business world would be a greyer place without some mavericks who are willing to make comments that haven’t been vetted by a committee.
So maybe there's still some hope yet for executives who speak their mind in public. I would just like to make sure I never see the phrase ''famous crap porn comment dinner" again. Call me old-fashioned again, but that seems somewhat... unappetizing.