A Berkeley blogger, a cocktail (or 2) and a wee-hours email exchange with Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Ryan Tate (left) may be feeling a little bashful about aspects of the “feisty” email exchange he had with Steve Jobs on Friday night and Saturday morning. But it’s unlikely he regrets it.

For Tate, a Berkeley-based writer for tech gossip site Valleywag (part of the Gawker blogging empire) the cocktail-fueled online conversation constitutes a real coup. The Apple CEO is not known for his willingness to divulge much, let alone chat after hours to tech bloggers. (He does however occasionally fire a snappy email off if an inquiry piques his interest.)

Tate’s opening gambit was a question prompted by an iPad TV ad he had stumbled upon: “If [Bob] Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution’? Revolutions are about freedom.” Jobs responded with a reference to “freedom from porn”, the conversation proceeded from there, Tate posted the story Saturday afternoon and Gawker’s pageview counter went into overdrive.

Needless to say, the incident has done the rounds. If there’s one thing Gawker’s good at, it’s making headlines.

Update [15.50]: Berkeleyside got in touch with Tate to hear more about his experience. Here’s what he had to say:


Berkeleyside: How did you know it was really Jobs?
Ryan Tate: I knew it was Jobs because I emailed him at his apple.com email and he wrote back with my initial email copied below. It’s possible to fake an email address when you send it out of the blue but Jobs’ reply confirmed he had received the email which requires authentication. In addition, I checked the headers to make sure I had spelled “Apple.com” correctly and saw the message had flowed through several Apple servers before it got to me.

B: You mention aspects you might have handled differently. With the benefit of hindsight, what would your main point be?
RT: I would make the same points if I did it again, on balance. It was an emotional moment and a genuine moment, where many things I had been thinking and writing about for months crystalized into an aggressive and frank block of communication. It’s not how I usually communicate, but there’s a place, I think, for saying things with a little heat sometimes.

B: Was this your 15 minutes?
RT: I’ve written high-traffic posts before. This one has certainly crowded up my inbox more than most. It’s also different because it’s the first one that I began inadvertently, with no inkling I was creating something for the site or intention thereof. We’ll see.

B:  Do you live and work in Berkeley?
RT: Yes I live and work in Berkeley! My wife and I are in West Berkeley near REI, aka the “Ocean View” neighborhood. I work from home, she works at California magazine aka Cal Monthly; when I’m not working I like to walk down to Fourth Street to buy my meats at Cafe Rouge, and Monterey Market for produce. This past weekend at the downtown farmer’s market I talked to Shirley Dean and signed a pro-sunshine ordinance petition. I knew her from my days editing the Daily Cal. Anyway I’ve been in Berkeley since 1994 when I started college here.

B: Who’s next on your late-night email hit (wish) list?
RT: I was joking over the weekend I’m going to get all worked up and email Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook over all his recent privacy rollbacks. Today I’ve started taking the joke seriously. If anyone reading this has his email address I’d love to see it!

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: tracey@citysidejournalism.org.