Why do so many people care what Robert Scoble does?


Robert Scoble is leaving FastCompany.TV , he writes.

While I don’t view many of Robert’s video posts (there are only so many hours in a day), I’m one of the bazillion people who feel as if we’re in a never-ending conversation with him.

I know there are some people from my off-line life (a place I fondly call, the real world) who may not know who Robert is. So, for them, let me quickly explain why so many people with geekish tendencies (including me) care what Robert does.

For my off-line friends, you know how you think I’m “that guy” who was the first person you knew who was using “fill-in-the-blank-web-thing “? Robert Scoble is “that guy” for me.

Robert Scoble is the guy who shows up three times on the results page when you Google the word “Robert .”

Robert Scoble comes closer than anyone I know to being the fictional character novelists and screenwriters attempt to dream up: Truman Burbank or Ed Pekurny or Howard Beale. But Robert is real and less tragic, confused and dramatic than those fictional characters who live out their lives publicly and in realtime.

While he often stirs up controversy and debate and ridicule, his boundless curiosity and optimism keeps his real-time narrative from sinking into the dark hole that fiction writers imagine for those who live their lives in such a public way.

Robert is a blogging celebrity, no doubt.

And just as with other types of celebrities, he’s extremely popular with many who identify with him for his authenticity and his nuanced understanding of what “real” means in the world of always-flowing conversation. On the other hand, as with other types of celebrities, he is a lightening rod for those who despise him primarily for being so damn popular despite what they might enviously view as dilettantism. (Of course, as one of his fans, I admire his ability to ignore his detractors. And as such, I’ll admit that I ignore any legitimate complaints they may have.)

No doubt, some will spin the news that Robert is leaving FastCompany — and its loss of his long-time sponsor Seagate — as a rebuke of Robert. As a “firing.”

I view it as a “cancellation” of one “show” or gig, however.

Robert and a growing number of individuals who have gained a following via the vast array of “media of personal expression” some call “social media” should be thought of (in a positive way, for purposes of analogy) as “talent,” in the way “talent” are those individuals who move from movie-to-movie and show-to-show and publisher-to-publisher and appearance-to-appearance.

They have, at the end of the day, one talent that is more valuable than anything else in whatever niche they are found: the ability to connect with an audience in a unique and inexplicable way that causes those people to reward them in the most precious currency there is today: Time. In this attention-competitive culture in which we work and live, the ability to get people to “spend” some of their time engaged in listening, watching or reading what someone says, is what separates success from failure.

Those of us who aren’t such “talent” can list all the reasons why those who are may *not* be worthy of people’s time, but as long as someone keeps pulling attention, community and conversation towards any direction they head, they will find success.

I can’t wait to hear where Robert is taking us next.