At this year’s Pubcon event, Google’s Matt Cutts asked a question at the start of a session that had nothing to do with search engines. The story goes, as told by Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz in One of the Most Talked About Incidents at Pubcon, that Matt asked about age and political opinion. Now it’s an “event” all on its own.
There’s probably some unwritten rule somewhere that says, “Never ask anyone their age.” Asking at a conference is simply asking. A gun wasn’t held to anyone’s head demanding a response. Whoever chose to admit being under or over 30 years old rose their hand. Seems harmless. I would have replied to the “over thirty” with gusto, since I’m far, far past that magic number and can still walk upright.
“Matt rose to the stage and first, asked a few questions of the audience. He wanted folks to raise their hand if they were over 30 or under 30 (I couldn’t see the audience, but he said it favored the under 30 crowd). He then asked how many folks were more red state or blue state (I believe he specifically re-worded it as “How many people were happy with the mid-term elections”). I couldn’t believe my ears and stood slightly to turn around the room and look – it appeared to be about 65-70% “happy with mid-term elections.” Two gentlemen to my right appeared to take quick offense, and one muttered to the other (as the “blue state” types were raising their hands) “f–kers.” Almost simultaneously, a woman behind me said something to her friend about “damn liberals” – I imagine that there were negative comments during the “red state” hand-raising as well, but didn’t hear them from where I was sitting. From talking to others afterwards, however, I gathered that I wasn’t alone in hearing antagonistic mutterings.”
This color identification has to stop.
Newsweek ran a map recently with the United States colored in red or blue. My state is one color, but I couldn’t find myself in that map. I don’t have a color. I have life experiences. I have some education. I play roles in life. I work. I do stuff that I regret later. I change my mind all the time. I laugh, cry, scream, and stare at the gray hair on my head. I look for good people and feel the good inside those who make you work harder to “get” them.
What the heck color is all that?
I don’t think, for a second, that Matt Cutts was anything other than being gloriously curious. I rejoice in that. He asked questions. I rejoice in that. He asked one of the questions in a way that could have been offensive because it focused on color, and therefore, was restrictive. I wouldn’t have chosen to ask the question that way.
How sad that he might never ask anymore.
How tragic that we might all stop asking questions anymore, because the way one is asked can be intrepreted in so many ways.