Thursday, November 8, 2018

Stub 8.7: Mark Smothers

Mark Smothers was the beating heart of Silicon Valley.

He was the man most credited with creating "social media." As a student at a second-rate, but obscenely expensive and exclusive Eastern University, he coded up a simple website that allowed fellow students to "connect."

The time was ripe. The platform exploded. Mr Smothers was a canny businessman and a superb programmer/engineer. The fact that he dropped out of the snooty university did not hurt his career.

By 2020 half of the world was addicted to Smothers' platform. Not having a presence on Smothers' site was a death-knell for any business that wished to remain competitive.

Even Bona-Brown, the former, unlamented leader of Cali had been frightened of Smothers' power to send a continent's economy back to the stone age when crossed.

That success came with a price. Every major government was clamoring to have Smothers' platform broken up, defanged. Smothers' influence was likened to a astronomical black-hole swallowing up flights of fire-flies. The smart money was sure that the shoals of envy and fear were about to rip the hull out from beneath Smothers' vessel.

Nobody ever accused Smothers' of being stupid nor risk-adverse.

He recognized that he needed to attend to his public persona after decades of neglect.

He had money. He had the lime-light. He hired the best consultants and forged them into a team: Project Uncle Smothers.

The breakthrough came when the team lead told Mr Smothers to stop thinking of public opinion as, well, people. The team lead told him to think of it as a programming challenge in front of a a Wii instead of on a keyboard.

From then on, Smothers was all-in.

While many, many factors were identified and tweaked, one of the major factors was Smothers' voice.

Smothers' thought like an engineer. Higher frequency signals can carry more information. Smother's voice was high, strained and squeaky. He spoke a mile-a-minute. The optics of his voice had never been an issue. If you were a programmer and wanted to be a millionaire or billionaire, you did what Mark said. Otherwise you were unemployed. It was a binary set.

The public perceived his voice differently. His voice made him small and shallow. It reminded them of the used car salesman who spoke quickly so-as to deny the buyer time to think. Coupled with his choice in clothing, clothing that made him look like a minor minion in the engine room of the Star Ship Enterprise...the kind of minion that was killed off in the first ten minutes of the episode. Smothers' voice triggered the same associations that the shrilling of an alarm clock did in the chill of morning dark.

Smothers hired the best. Many came from the entertainment industry.

By way of illustration, his voice coaches segmented the market. By working on his cadence, lung-fill and insisting on the full shaping of every vowel phonemes, people over the age of forty rated Smothers' new voice as more believable than Morgan Freeman's. By focusing on the harmonics and sub-harmonics and adding some "growl", women below the age of forty rated his voice as more protective than Vin Diesel's or Chris Hemsworth's. Hearing Smothers' new voice made them weak in the knees and warm in the middle.

No rock was left unturned. No toad remained unkissed. Smothers was as ruthless in his pursuit of public approval as he had been of market share.

In the end, Mark Smothers was hailed as everybody's favorite jovial, obscenely rich uncle...the one you never had but was sure you deserved.

One surprising recommendation was that Smothers' acquire a "hobby" that made him seem both bigger-than-life and flawed at the same time. Smothers' chose to collect vintage, fast cars. Very fast cars.

We don't want our heroes to drive a Prius or Smart Car. We want them to drive 420 cid, supercharged Duesenbergs.  The right kind of passion or flaw makes superman seem more approachable and we can relate to them better.

That morning Smothers chose his Cadillac CTS-V with the supercharged Corvette V8 to drive to work. He had his software guys install a switch to detune the throttle response. In ground-pound mode, Smothers had liquified all four extremely large and gummy tires in a single, 4WD launch. While it was insanely fun to do that, folks tended to bitch about the clouds of smoke.

Getting into his burnt-orange Cadillac, Smothers did not know he was going to die before making it to his office.

Next Installment


  1. I agree - it ends at the worst point! I'm curious how someone, maybe Zev, gets through or around his security.


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