Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Enterprise - 29

Neil was pissed. He called a meeting, all the execs (minus Sam), the team leads, plus me and David. Sales, dev, creative, marketing and operations. Judy and Bill were to call in from out west. He included links to some of the more provocative user session transcripts in his e-mailed invite and noted that he wanted these to serve as a "kickoff point" for a brainstorming session to "determine lessons learned," "adapt to new realities" and "establish best strategies moving forward." He remained standing even as the rest of us were seated.

"Did everyone take a look at the links I sent?" he began.

We nodded and murmured our assent. Neil made a brusque gesture of his open hand, signaling impatience.

"And?" he demanded.

A few seconds of silence ensued.

"Anyone have anything to say about it?"

Finally Bob spoke up. "It's interesting."

"Interesting?! What kind of a goddamned thing to say is that?"

Bob smirked and twiddled his pencil.

"Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone wanna tell me why I'm just a little concerned about our user base? Anyone?"

Dennis, our amiable and ingenuous COO, spoke up from his seat in the back of the room.

"They struck me as a little bit rude, Neil."

We agreed, thankful that someone had confronted the question at last. We looked hopefully at our leader.

"And why the fuck are they rude, Dennis? Why?"

Dennis grimaced and recoiled into a helpless shrug.

"Can't anyone in this room tell m–"

Just then Judy's voice crackled through the tricorn phone. "Neil? Neil? Neil?"

"Judy?" Neil responded, leaning over with his hands on the table. Debbie was visible behind him, poking her camera around his shoulder. Its lens ranged over us like the snout of a predatory beast.

"I don't know what everyone's observing on your side," Judy began diplomatically, "but my takeaway is that our audience skews young."

Neil stood straight back up and launched a volley of sarcastic applause.

"Thank you Judy. Thank you." Then he addressed us all again. "That wasn't too goddamn hard, was it? Do you all understand what Judy is saying here?"

"Our demographic is young?" piped in Derek.

"THEY'RE KIDS!" howled Neil. "THEY ARE FUCKING KIDS! For Christ's Jesus sake."

"Well, of course they're kids," Tom rejoined bravely.

"Of course they're kids?!"

"They are early adopters of technology, man."

"That's it," chimed Bob.

Neil shook his head incredulously and emitted a coarse, unhappy chuckle.

"Guys, guys, people: they are early adopters of shit."
"But Neil, kids are on the leading edge of texting, of instant messaging," Cindy noted.

"They're on the leading edge of profanity, Cindy," Neil groaned. "They are pioneers on the frontier of vulgarity. They are the explorers of the scatological depths. They are–what do you call it? In the caves?"

"Spelunkers," I offered.

"Spelunkers. Thank you, Paul. They are spelunkers in the ass of our culture."

"I dunno, Neil," Bob insisted. "The kids of today are the adults of tomorrow." He looked around for some support. "Am I right?"

"Bob. Did you read the transcripts?"

Bob sighed and bowed his head. We all knew Neil was right.

"Question: How the fuck do we monetize this? Excuse me. Sorry." Neil closed his eyes and drew a breath. "Rephrase that: How do we monetize this? I'm serious. I'm all ears."

After a sad lull, Bob responded: "Let's instruct them to find their mother's purses, take out the credit card."

A ripple of dark laughter traversed the room.

"Type the digits into the little window. Please? Kid?"

"And the expiration date," added Derek.

"The expiration date. Four digits always," said Bob.

"We'll need the full name as it appears on the card," Cindy added.

"Mrs. Whatever. Whoever Whatever. Your mom's full goddamned name, kid."

"Mrs. Mommy Mom," I said.

"The special code on the back," David noted. "Three-digit code."

"Three or four depending," Bob corrected. "American Express."

We all were laughing hard. I looked up at Neil. He was laughing too. At least for now.