Work On Stuff That Matters: Video Interview with Tim O'Reilly

Over the past few months I have been interviewing various people that are “on our Radar” so to speak. It recently occurred to me that we had never done a video with Tim. So last week Kirk Walter (bless him!) grabbed his camera and Tim and I took a walk behind the O’Reilly offices in Sebastopol. We had a wide-ranging discussion (from Government to Cloud Computing) but started off with the theme that ran through many of Tim’s talks last year; “Work on Stuff that Matters” These videos are a companion piece to Tim’s recent blog post, of the same name.

We will be releasing the other segments over the next few weeks. They will also live on at (where the video series has a home).

Part One:

Part Two:

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  • This is great! I like it and am looking forward to seeing more video of your talk with Tim. Thanks for the excellent job. Akio

  • Dan

    iPhone compatible video would be nice :-)

  • Hi Dan,
    We put up downloadable MP4s on the Future at Work area dedicated to video.
    It takes a few days of processing before they migrate over but they will be there.

  • This is a nice series and, by the way, that looks like a lovely campus. I have a small technical criticism to offer:

    We (viewers) “get” (because its pounded into us here) that the signature style here is of the “walk and talk”. Hand-held camera with good image stabilization; your cameraman doing his best Ginger Rogers routine (“backwards and in high heals”); etc.

    My suggestion: don’t.

    There are problems with the format. The motion is distracting. I feel like I’m sticking a knife in somebody’s genuinely clever idea by saying this.

    I see how it is a good hack for getting interviews and a good hack for getting people to talk more casually and less as if they’re being interviewed. The walk-and-talk format is very clever in that way. It’s decent eye candy, sometimes (when it isn’t too distracting). But…

    It’s too fake. The motion of the camera is distracting. The walks themselves always seem mostly pointless: nobody is much really going from point A to point B, they’re just out walking because they’re supposed to be walking.

    The thing I find most distracting is the body language. Look at what happens every time you come to a corner or to a fork in the path. There is this very perceptible three-way negotiation, in body language, between interviewer, interviewee, and cameraman to resolve the direction to be taken and the timing. There’s kind of an “alpha/beta” monkey-space subtext that is out of place.

    I’m not saying don’t ever use this format but perhaps mix it up a little. For example, walk down the hallway, into a conference room — to a white board. Use the white board.

    Better still, and perhaps still achieving the same aims of relaxing the interviewee and having a more natural conversation: try making the interviews indirect. That is, find something in the immediate environment to talk about and have the interviewee talk about his themes with respect to that thing. For example, as I said, the O’Reilly HQ is apparently on a lovely campus with interesting architecture and enough green space to raise questions about land use policy. The two of you are ambling, not really interacting with that environment. Why not use the environment as more than just frame? Point to something photogenic in the environment – the building, the parking lot, the landscape, a piece of furniture – whatever – and talk about “Stuff that Matters” as it relates to that real, tangible, present thing. If “Stuff that Matter” really matters it should be easy to apply just about anywhere to specific things, rather than just walking past real things and talking in clouds of ideas.

    The other criticism is about content and its about Tim’s approach generally and on the topic of “Stuff that Matters” in particular. It’s a vaguer criticism: there’s too much “meta” and too much pseudo-theory-of-everything. The abstractions pile up so high that the main risk is that all meaning is lost. It’s just “gab,” when its at its worst.

    All this said, these criticisms have to be understood in the context wherein I do watch these videos and do generally like them. These aren’t meant as damning criticisms.


  • Thomas,
    I appreciate the comment – and the context you build around it. I like the suggestion very much regarding integrating the environment into the subject of the talk… In fact, during that interview we sat on some tree stumps that Tim cut from his property years ago so that people could use them. It was an example of long term thinking and the use of work-space for more than labor… I will try and post that in the near future.

  • moritz zumbühl

    If someone is looking for something that matters_
    Work on the implementation of the “2000 watt society”
    Thats a vision wort fighting for!

    regars from zurich

  • Fascinating discussion. With regards to automated drving, many current model Mercedes’ will keep a set distance from a vehicle in front based on sophisticated infrared sensors. They can even come to a complete stop if the vehicle in front does the same. I’ve driven one these Mercedes on the highway and it’s quite amazing/unnerving to allow the vehicle to completely stop itself. These types of technologies would certainly have a great impact on safety and traffic flow especially if they’re all networked. IE preventing this:

  • Vahe Katros

    The quantified self made me think, hmmm, the Vatican should launch a site to enable eConfessions(not!) – but I must say that I originally had a feeling of not wanting to embrace the idea of someone talking about social good (actions speak louder than words.)But I gave it another chance and I think that another aspect of making this work is faith (secular or otherwise) To believe that work can be more than paydays and zero sum and insignificant. The Chinese say: a small spark can cause a brush fire and it looks like there’s lot’s of brush where that video was shot.

    I Believe Tim! Thanks.

    PS: I need help on my open source farmers market system – markets lack systems, systems will help the farmers and local sourcing – I am developing specs with some other hard core retailers and farmers – when I have more, will you read an email.

  • nFed

    Why don’t you guys just sit down? It’s so unnatural, this walk and talk Sarah Palin-esque video.