Steve Jobs Was a Kind Man: My Regrets About Burning Him

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I met Steve Jobs while I worked at Gizmodo. He was always a gentleman. Steve liked me and he liked Gizmodo. And I liked him back. Some of my friends who I used to work with at Gizmodo refer to those days as the Good Old Days. That is because those were the days before it all went to shit. That was before we got the iPhone 4 prototype.

 ***

The first time I met Steve was at the infamous D conference where Walt Mossberg interviewed Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Ryan Block was editor of Engadget and it was a pretty fierce competition. Ryan was a veteran, and I was just getting my legs under me. It was lunchtime, and Ryan saw Jobs-he ran up and said hello. A minute later, I gathered up the courage and did the same.

From a 2007 Gizmodo post:

Meeting Steve Jobs

I bumped into Steve Jobs in the hall a little while ago, on the way to lunch at All Things D.

He's taller than I thought he would be, and pretty tanned. Hawaii. I go to introduce myself and then think that he's probably busy and doesn't want to be mobbed. I go get some salad, think that its my job to be at least a little aggressive with these things, so I put down my plate, and I finally squeeze by the crowd to introduce myself. No banter, just wanted to say hi, I'm Brian from Gizmodo. And you made the iPod, right? (I didn't say that second part.)

Then Steve got really excited and happy.

And he tells me that he reads the site. Actually, 3-4 times a day, since it doesn't sit still for very long. I told him that I appreciate the clicks, and that I'll keep buying iPods if he keeps clicking. It's his favorite gadget blog. It was a really, really nice moment. His face scrunched up with genuine excitement. I must have looked like one of those gals front row at a Beatles concert, as much as I tried to be "professional."

Because honestly, I thought the guy would be totally worked up about Jesus's awesome Photoshops of Steve Jobs. The man has a sense of humor.

It was an honor to have a man who is extremely focused on quality and doing things in his own way approve of our work here. Especially with all the typos I make on a daily basis.

***

A few years later, I remember emailing him to show him early versions of the Gawker redesign. He didn't really like it. But he liked us, "most of the time."

From: Steve Jobs <sjobs@apple.com>

Subject: Re: Gizmodo on iPad

Date: March 31, 2010 6:00:56 PM PDT

To: brian lam <blam@gizmodo.com>

Brian,

Parts of it I like, and other parts I don't understand.  I'm not sure the "information density" is high enough for you and your brand.  Seems a bit too tame to me.  I'll look for it this weekend and be able to give you some more useful feedback after that.

I like what you guys do most of the time, and am a daily reader.

Steve

Sent from my iPad

On Mar 31, 2010, at 1:06 PM, brian lam <blam@gizmodo.com> wrote:

Here you go, a rough sketch. Should be launched, as the standard face of Gizmodo, by the 3g's launch. What it's meant to do is be friendlier to scan for the 97% of our readers who don't come every day...

***

Around the same time, Jobs was shopping around the iPad to publishers, trying to get them to adopt the iPad as a platform, and Jobs would repeatedly, according to friends in the room at several publications, bring up Gizmodo as an example of a magazine-like experience online.

I don't ever think I was comfortable with the idea that Jobs or anyone at Apple, like Jon Ive, was reading our work. It was scrappy, sloppy, inspired, mainstream-ish, and in general, experimental in nature. It was, frankly, embarrassing to have people who were obsessed with perfection reading something that was designed to be imperfect but alive and flowing. It was also firmly anti-establishment, like Apple used to be.

But Apple was winning and was starting to become the Establishment. I knew it was only a matter of time before we collided. Getting bigger is sometimes hard, I was about to find out.

***

I was on sabbatical when Gizmodo editor Jason Chen got his hands on the iPhone prototype.

An hour after the story went live, the phone rang and the number was from Apple HQ. I figured it was someone from the PR team. It was not.

"Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back."

He wasn't demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny. I was half-naked, just getting back from surfing, but I managed to keep my shit together.

"I appreciate you had your fun with our phone and I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the sales guy who lost it. But we need the phone back because we can't let it fall into the wrong hands."

I thought, maybe its already in the wrong hands?

He continued, "There are two ways we can do this. I can send someone to pick up the phone."

Me: "I don't have it."

"But you know someone who does ... or we can send someone with legal papers, and I don't want to do that."

He was giving us an easy way out.

I told him I had to talk to my dudes. Before he hung up, he asked me, "What do you think of it?"

I said, "It's beautiful."

***

The next call, I told him we'd give him his phone back. He said, "Great, where do we send someone?" And I replied that before we talked about that, we needed to talk about the conditions: we needed Apple to claim it as theirs, which is what we saw as the right legal process for claiming goods that had been lost. He said he didn't want to claim it on record because it would affect sales of the current model. He said, "you're asking me to shoot my toes off!" Maybe it was about the money, but maybe it wasn't. I got the feeling that he just didn't want to be told what to do, and I didn't want to be told what to do, either. Especially by someone whom I was supposed to be covering. Plus, I was sort of in a position to tell Steve Jobs what to do, and I was going to take it.

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Brian Lam is editor of The Scuttlefish and The Wirecutter, and formerly editor of Gizmodo.

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