Not Famous

"Hello, I'm <her name here>."

"Hi, pleased to meet you."

"And your name is....", she asked.

Oops. The presumption that people I meet already know my name had snuck into my routine. Upon reflection, it was brought on by:

"Hello, I'm <name>/"

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Bill Cheswick."

"Yes, of course I know who you are."

If you get enough of the second interaction...well, you get the idea.

On this trip, two people basically asked me, not in so many words, "who are you, and what do you do." One was a reporter from Newsweek who had gotten my name as an authority on passwords.

I am sort of working on an elevator talk about me: "I am an author, inventor, and technical instigator from AT&T Research. Some people accuse me of inventing the firewall." I guess that sort of works. I was raised by wolves, and my web pages display some of the litter from the nest.

How do you measure fame? The log10 of the number of people who know you would be the result. I would guess that at least a thousand people know someone after graduating high school in a typical US town, a fame rating of 3 (10^3). Charlie Chaplin, and the President of the United States would be about a 9.

I think I am about a 7, though some have said I am too low. We sold a hundred thousand copies of the firewalls book, and I've had a number of media appearances, and been giving talks internationally for about twenty years. But who remembers authors' names? And people move on.

Neil Stephenson compared his fame to the mayor of Des Moines. Probably about right, and a little more than seven.

How would one measure fame? Records sold, or google hits come to mind, but they do seem biased. It would be easy to keep track of google hits.

When I was checking in Andy Tannenbaum came to the front desk to complain about a broken switch in his room. After he left, I explained to the ladies behind the desk that he is famous. They got very excited, even though there was zero chance they had ever heard of this professor. In fact, they had no idea what "computer science" is. I heard a tale of woe about a PC virus and a fraudulent credit card transaction.

It took a while to explain that this conference was about computer good guys, and included the sort of people who discovered the fraudulent transaction before the card owner did.

One of the ladies insisted on shaking my hand.

I shook Clinton's hand on New Years eve at the end of 1996 (Monica plus a few days, if you are keeping track.) The next day I told the limo driver about this, and he insisted shaking a hand that had shaken the President's hand so recently.

I am guessing Clinton is about an 8 to 8.5.