Thursday, April 20, 2006

Great Scott! I Coulda Been Great. Like Scott.

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert franchise, and I have a lot in common. We’re both about the same age. He used to work at a large telecommunications company in the West. I work for a large telecommunications company in the Midwest.

We both share a healthy cynicism of large corporations, although his is directed at the entire company whereas mine is usually focused on the IT department.

We are both software engineers who took the MBA route into business.

For many years, he kept his day job while writing Dilbert on his kitchen table late at night and early in the morning. I have kept my day job while I write this blog late at night and early in the morning.

Scott has made millions of dollars from people that clamber to read the words he has written. I ... still work at a large telecommunications company in the Midwest.

My path actually crossed with Scott’s once several years ago. I wonder if he remembers me. He had asked his fans to send in stupid things that we had heard our boss say. I sent him a list of, gosh, twenty or thirty stupid things I had heard bosses say. It wasn’t hard coming up with the list. My favorite: “It’s not that kind of zero.” Don’t ask the context; it can stand on its own.

In a few days, I got a nice email from Scott saying that he was going to use my quote in his next newsletter. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, there it was. I was in print. Well, actually, a millionaire had just used my contribution for free to make some more money. I figure he earned about $15.37 by copy-and-pasting my words. Actually, my boss’s words. Hmmm... I wonder if I owe my boss a commission. I’ll pay him when Scott pays me.

Scott owns one of the world’s most famous email addresses: He regularly published that email address in the Dilbert comics years before it was fashionable to even have  email addresses. Heck, a lot of people probably didn’t even know what an email address was at the time. Of course, now most people have a dozen or so addresses. And probably gets ten thousand spam messages a day.

Dilbert was the first comic that actually understood technology. While Dagwood was still making sandwiches and Dolly was still “touching” Jeffy, Scott actually mentioned the term “control-alt-delete” in one of his earliest comics. I’m sure several editors got letters complaining that the comic was too out-of-touch for common folk. He was giga-years ahead of his time.

So Scott has his millions and I have my credit cards. Scott can stay in the finest hotels in the world and I drive miles down the interstate looking for the nearest Super 8. Scott’s books, comics, and blogs are read by millions and my blog is read by my mother — when I print it for her and put it under her nose.

Scott and Dilbert are featured in no fewer than a dozen Wikipedia articles. But I can lay claim to one bit of notoriety that Scott will never be able to surpass. I wrote the Wikipedia article about Manhattan State Hospital, the hospital that Scott Joplin died in. Really.

Hah! Top that, Mr. Adams. You may be able to become wealthy drawing a guy with no mouth. But I can write an article that nobody reads about a hospital that doesn’t exist anymore that once counted as its patients the greatest rag-time composer of all time.

Well, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

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