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On Getting Recognized

Why I Grew My Twitter Account

I decided to grow my Twitter account primarily for two reasons:

  1. I was going back to Canada and didn't really have a network of friends in Toronto that I could talk about this kind of stuff with. So I decided to get big on Twitter and use it as a way of connecting and talking to people.

  2. I needed to be noticeable in my field, especially considering going on a speaking tour.

aside: This is from the transcript of this video, I tried the AI eye contact feature and it came out a bit creepy.

Initial Recognition

In the past year, I've gotten way more recognition than I had before. Previously, I was mostly well known in the data science world maybe six, seven years ago. That just meant I would get recognized maybe once or twice a week in San Francisco, maybe once a month in New York City.

When I got recognized once or twice a week, it was really fun. It felt good to know people in the real world were impacted by my work and the things I've said, whether it's advice, business stuff, or someone who uses my Python library instructor.

Experience at the AI Conference

When I went to San Francisco this week for the AI engineering conference, it started out fun. The first day, I even joked with my girlfriend about taking people out to a spa if I got recognized by more than 10 people.

Note

My talk from last year had been very popular, almost the most popular talk for the whole year until Jerry beat me.

However, as the second and third day happened, it got awful. I didn't really enjoy it. Every time I met someone I knew from Twitter, I wanted to talk to them. But if I talked for more than three or four minutes in the hallways, four or five people would stand around me, listening to the conversation, trying to ask me questions. I'm generally a very shy person, which is obviously why I spend so much time on Twitter posting my thoughts. I don't really want to be around more than the three or four friends I have in any given city.

Disruptive Encounters

Some encounters were particularly disruptive:

  • At the gym, someone approached me at the bottom of a squat (what?!).
  • An Uber driver didn't unlock the doors and tried to pitch their AI startup.
  • People would stand beside me while I had conversations with someone I knew, trying to chime in uninvited.

It got to a point where I would rather have conversations in my hotel room. Even walking to get coffee became difficult, with people constantly approaching us.

Warning

By the second and third day, I would get anxious going down the elevator, knowing I'd be recognized as soon as I left.

Impact on Work and Personal Time

The recognition started to interfere with work and personal time:

  • During a client meeting over coffee, people would come up and try to say hi and start a conversation, Many just said hi and mentioned they know we're in the middle of something and just wanted to shake my hand, which was fine. But the other people just started asking me questions.
  • It became difficult to have the conversations I wanted to have at the conference.
  • I had to start telling people to meet me somewhere else outside of the conference.
  • Ultimately, it also meant me not being able to find the time and space to meet the people I really wanted to meet at the conference.

Moving Forward

Going forward, I'm going to be more conscious about being someone that can be recognized. I'm not going to be someone who hangs around at conferences. Instead, I'll just pop in to give my talk and pop out, or host some office hours that are a little bit more curated.

The Price of Distribution

I don't consider myself am influencer, maybe a micro-influencer. But this is the price of having distribution, and distribution is what you need if you really believe in the message.

Personal Reflection

"I still believe in the message. I think people's systems should be simpler. I think processes are more important than tools. I want to teach people, especially because now that I can't really code anymore due to my hand injury."

I think it's important that I still get distribution, but this experience was very much a wake-up call as to what actually happens. I don't think this will happen regularly on a regular basis, but at conferences, it was very weird.