The Q&A session at the Computer History Museum last night was billed as a talk between former Apple evangelist turned venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki and former anonymous blogger turned book shill Dan Lyons, better known as Fake Steve Jobs. But it quickly turned into a sordid three-way. Brad Stone, the New York Times scribe who outed Lyons as Fake Steve joined the two on stage, and what was billed as the "Confessions of Fake Steve Jobs" turned into a celebration of Apple, blogging, and Dan Lyons's massive mancrush on the real Steve Jobs.
Fireworks, we thought, were inevitable when Lyons got on stage with Kawasaki, whom he's savaged on his blog. Turns out the worst thing Fake Steve said about Kawasaki was that he was a motorcycle designer, something Kawasaki found amusing. Our promised fireworks turned into kiddy-safe Independence Day sparklers.
Something to know about Dan Lyons: The man is as hilarious in person as in his best blog posts. He's quick, succinct, and dead-on with his observations. He is, as they say in Detroit, "wicked smaht." Also, he has a huge hard-on for Steve Jobs. Like, major mancrush. Lyons describes Jobs as a "son of Zeus born to a mere mortal" and other outrageous claims, which makes it seem like he's taking the piss out of Jobsian worshipers. Not true. Lyons really is an Apple fanboy who believes in the infallibility of His Steveness. Jobs is, to Lyons, "the most interesting person alive."
Which seems like the most boring thing he could say. But here's a secret for you: That awe is what makes the blog work. Lyons clearly venerates Jobs, without which his Fake Steve blog might come across as mean-spirited, not a satirical celebration.
One question kept coming up: How was Lyons treated by people who he slammed in the blog? He admitted to being worried about their reactions, but said that there have been few negative repercussions. He brought up Bike Helmet Girl, an early target for Fake Steve due to her appearance in a photo taken at a Yelp party last year. He initially ran the photo with a derisive caption. "Bikey" wrote in, a correspondence was born, and her character became a recurring figure in the blog. Lyons finally got a chance to meet her at a book signing last week, and spent a good minute in the Fake Steve character, dreamily recounting their meeting. (Lyons never revealed the lingering question about Bike Helmet Girl: Why was she wearing a bike helmet in the first place?)
I asked him about an article he wrote for Forbes, "Attack of the Blogs," a cover story which he railed against anonymous blogging as an abhorrent practice. Has being an anonymous blogger changed his mind about such practices? He admitted that he would like to "get a do-over" and rewrite the story. He likened his attack to writing a story focusing on spam as an example that all email was bad. "Tomorrow, Valleywag will call you a hypocrite," Kawasaki warned him.
Other Fake Steve revelations:
- Someone named "Katie Cotton" — the same name as the head of Apple PR — ordered a number of Fake Steve T-shirts from CafePress. (Brad Stone asked the real Cotton about the purchase. She declined to discuss any clothing purchases.)
- The front row was filled with a line of Apple employees, one of whom brought an OS X programming book as light reading during downtime.
- Kawasaki asked Lyons and Stone if they thought they would always be known as "Fake Steve" and "the guy who busted Fake Steve," much like Eddie Murphy will always be known as Donkey from Shrek. Lyons and Stone's reactions suggested they thought Kawasaki was nuts — and then started talking about how Donkey wasn't really representative of Eddie Murphy's career.
- Brad Stone broke the news that Lyons was Fake Steve while Lyons was on his way to a Maine vacation with his wife, a vacation he had promised would be work- and blog-free. Stone's call to Lyons while he was en route changed all that. During their conversation, it was revealed that Lyons is the father of two-year-old twins. Stone and his wife are expecting twins soon. As their call was ending, Lyons promised Stone that he would buy two voodoo dolls of the twins and poke them at 2 a.m. random nights, to make up for Stone ruining Lyons's vacation.