Making Java Groovy: A Celebrity (Non-)Endorsement

Several of my book author friends on the No Fluff, Just Stuff tour told me that writing a book would open doors for me. That doesn’t explain, though, why I seem to insist on climbing through windows.

I mean, writing Making Java Groovy put me on the NFJS tour, helped me become a speaker at Gr8 conf, DevNexus, and JavaOne*, gave me lots of new professional contacts, and means my author page at Amazon has some actual content. Sweet. But I’m always wondering what else I can do with it that most authors are too experienced, too normal, or maybe just too sane to consider.

*My evals so far from my presentation at JavaOne have been really good, so I’m still hoping that I’m awarded JavaOne Rock Star status. I totally want to party like a JavaOne rock star, party like a JavaOne rock star, etc.

For example, there are certain people that I only know through Twitter or other online media who I would live to meet. As one of my Silly Marketing Ideas (abbreviated SMI, as opposed to my Serious Marketing Ideas, abbreviated SMI), I thought if I could get one or more of them to endorse my book, that would be seriously cool, not to mention whatever it did for sales.

Of course, the silly part is that most of the people I want to approach aren’t even developers, to say nothing of Java people. If you place all this in a larger context, I call this entire effort an “experiment in accidental celebrity”, meaning I want to achieve D-List Twitter Celebrity status, but only if I can do the whole thing as a gag and blog about it here.

To that end, a couple weeks ago I chose four of the people I would love to meet somehow and sent them individualized emails.

That’s a long shot, since I’m sure the people I contacted get flooded with emails on a regular basis. Still, I had to start somewhere, and it’s not like I have a budget for this or anything.

What I do have is a set of author copies for my book. I showed the set in my last blog post when I arranged them on the coffee table in our living room:
coffeetablebook

After giving away a few to friends and family, I decided that I could part with a few more if they acted as my introduction to unsuspecting victims I wanted to meet. If they ultimately decided they loved the book, or even just the joke itself, and wanted to endorse it, so much the better.

One of the people I contacted was a person I truly enjoy and admire, Wil Wheaton. If you lost track of him after Stand By Me and his classic role as the much-loathed-but-not-his-fault-he-was-stuck-with-those-lines Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you’ve missed a lot (here’s his IMDB page). His blog is excellent. I read his Just a Geek book, which I really enjoyed, and his Memories of the Future, Volume 1 book is among the funniest I’ve ever read. My wife and I have also enjoyed his guest appearances on Eureka, Criminal Minds, Leverage, and, of course, The Big Bang Theory.

He’s also great on Twitter, under the handle @wilw. If you follow him, be sure to also follow his wife, @AnneWheaton. I often say that following Wil is fun and following Anne is fun, but following both together is wonderful.

As I said, I ultimately mustered up my courage (which meant suppressing the nauseous feeling that this was not only particularly silly, but actively embarrassing), dug up his email address, and sent him a message. To summarize the message, I:

  • explained who I was and that I had just published a book
  • mentioned I was a fan and personalized the evidence enough to prove I wasn’t kidding
  • explained that this was a Silly Marketing Idea which he was free to ignore but gave me a hopefully non-creepy opportunity to contact him directly
  • asked him for a mailing address so I could send him a signed copy of my book

I didn’t get anything back right away, but I didn’t really expect to. I imagine he is inundated with email, and I’m sure I was one of millions. I expected that I would have to resend it roughly once a week to see what would happen**.

**I got that idea from The Shawshank Redemption. Andy sent a request for money to the town council once a week for two years until they finally realized he wouldn’t go away and sent some money for his prison library. I’ve always wondered about that, by the way. Did he send the same letter, or did he rewrite it each time? Did he vary the wording or the basic content? How did he keep from letting his annoyance or anger at being ignored seep into the letter? Neither the movie nor the original Stephen King story get into details.

Then, however, fate took hold. On 10/17, Anne Wheaton tweeted:

Anne Witchon ‏@AnneWheaton 17 Oct
Texas tweety buddies! 10/17 Austin: bit.ly/WilPSAustin
10/18 Houston: bit.ly/WilPSHouston
10/20 Dallas: bit.ly/WilPSDallas”

I knew I was traveling to Dallas this week, but it suddenly occurred to me his show was on Sunday and I was flying in on the same day. I checked my flight arrangements and realized I could actually make the show. I quickly bought a ticket online (not many were left, but I only needed one), donned my Star Trek polo shirt (the blue science officer one I use when I’m making Groovy presentations about the Spock testing framework) and drove over to the Granada Theater.

I brought a book with me, of course, but I didn’t sign it because I wasn’t sure I actually was going to meet Wil. I’m not the sort of person who goes to conventions, or even events like this, so I don’t really know how they work. In fact, I almost didn’t go at all***, because I was very tired after the flights and didn’t particularly want to leave my hotel room after I arrived. I went anyway, of course, or this would be a much shorter blog post.

***I know my wife Ginger will be shocked, SHOCKED! to hear that.

The show was called Wil Wheaton vs Paul and Storm. Here’s the poster:

wilwheatonpaulandstorm_400

I have to admit that I didn’t know Paul and Storm at all, except from Wil or Anne’s tweets about them. I knew they were a musical / comedy duo who wrote their own funny songs, but that’s about it.

Here’s the marquee from the theater:
granadatheater

The show was a blast. Before the show, the theater used a Twitter site that showed all tweets directed to the theater. I don’t remember many, but among the funniest were things like:

– What does the FOX say? Sorry we canceled Firefly

– Told my blind date I was the guy with the beard wearing a funny T-shirt. Crap.

– [Paul of Paul and Storm] Hanging out with this girl who was supposed to meet some guy with a beard and a funny T-shirt. Playing it cool…

Wil introduced the show, saying that any and all recordings were allowed as long as they were released under the Creative Commons license (“and if you don’t know what that is, ask a nerd and he’ll explain it to you in far more detail than you ever wanted”), but not to use flash photography because that distracted the performers and not to do anything to interfere with other audience members.

“In short,” he said, using one of his signature catch phrases, “Don’t Be A Dick, and you’ll be fine”.

Paul and Storm did their set first, and it was fantastic. Intelligent people tend to be quite clever but not comedian-level funny****. Both Paul and Storm were both. I highly recommend that you check out their website, listen to their music, buy their stuff, and go see them if at all possible. They are masters of the “X is my Y cover band” style of joke. I’d mention some here, but I don’t want to include any spoilers and I can’t remember them anyway. I guess I’ll just have to go see them again.

****I often put myself in that category.

After the intermission, Wil came out and told personal stories in the form of a comedy monologue. There were great (and no spoilers here), but the biggest impression I get from him is I never realized, even reading his Twitter feed, just how filthy he is. Even in his 40s he still looks like this pleasant guy next door, and you don’t expect him to be quite so foul. It works, though. 🙂

Wil and Paul and Storm then came out together and did a few songs filled with random riffs that the audience loved. Here is a link to some pictures from the show.

Here’s a Vine video Paul posted.

Finally, here’s a screen capture from that video showing the audience, with a circle showing me:

audience_at_wilvps

During the entire show, I was holding my book, hoping that I’d get a chance to meet Wil and explain why I was foisting it on him. I also had idle daydreams of him letting me take a picture of him holding it and tweeting it to his 2.4 million followers (!), thinking if only 1% of them bought it…

After the show, a line quickly formed in the lobby. It turned out that the rules were that Wil and Paul and Storm would sign autographs for everybody who wanted one, but that if you wanted a posed picture you’d have to get in the back of the line again.

I didn’t have anything to sign, but the couple in front of me in line gave me a few blank cards from a game called The World of Munchkin, which now gives me a perfect opportunity to show the difference between Paul and Storm and Wil Wheaton. Here are my autographs from Paul and Storm:
paulandstorm

They’re basically illegible, sure, but I’m not one to talk. My signature is appalling. Anyway, here’s what Wil drew:
bagof
Yup. That’s the Wil Wheaton Experience right there.

While he was signing, I gave him my book. I told him I had just published it (“Hey, congratulations!” “Thanks!”), showed him where I had already signed it for him and Anne (“Cool!”), told him that I had sent him email if he was curious about me, and told him what a fan I was (yeah, I talked fast).

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Wil: Will this help me learn this stuff if I don’t know anything about Java?

Me: Uh, some. Maybe. I’ll be happy to answer questions about it online if you like. That’s what I do. I teach technical training classes. I’ll come back around for a picture, but I was wondering if maybe I could get a picture with the book in it…

Wil: No, I can’t do that. That would be like an endorsement.

Me: (sound of internal imaginary bubble popping) I completely understand.

And I do understand. As I say, this is for fun, and if something else comes of it, fine, but if not, maybe I made an impression on him that the average fan doesn’t.

I did come back around for a picture. As we were setting up, I said:

Me: I meant to tell you that the front matter is pretty funny.

Wil: Great!

Me: Also, do you mind if I blog about this?

Wil: Of course!

Here’s my picture with my new buddies Paul and Storm and Wil and Anne Wheaton:
wilandanneandme
From left to right, that’s Storm, Anne, Me, Wil, and Paul. Or maybe Paul, Anne, Me, Wil, and Storm. (Just kidding. It’s the former. I think. Hey, I bought the USB drive with all their music on it, so I can make one joke at their expense.)

I have to say, I’m still basking in the afterglow. They show was fun, meeting them was fun, and getting the picture was even better. I’m really glad I gave him the book, too, though I have to point out that this does not in any way constitute an endorsement of Making Java Groovy (which is getting really great reviews at Amazon).

Yet. Now if I can only get him to read it…

(Upon re-reading this, it’s starting to sound a bit too mercenary. Look, all I want is my book to last a while, and maybe to make enough money that I can keep doing what I’m doing. It took me 40 years to find my dream job, and now that I have it I don’t want to give it up. Also, it’s kind of fun coming up with silly ideas like this, just to see if I can bring myself to actually do some of them. My next post will get back to technical issues, I promise.)

About Ken Kousen
I teach software development training courses. I specialize in all areas of Java and XML, from EJB3 to web services to open source projects like Spring, Hibernate, Groovy, and Grails. Find me on Google+ I am the author of "Making Java Groovy", a Java / Groovy integration book published by Manning in the Fall of 2013, and "Gradle Recipes for Android", published by O'Reilly in 2015.

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