If you want to look at how the personalities of Apple's two co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, differ, perhaps one way would be to measure their responses when asked to pose for pictures.
Let's start with Woz. Though he claims to have been acutely shy in his early life, these days Woz is a social butterfly. He shows up at tech event after tech event in Silicon Valley, such as the 30th anniversary of Apple, or the 25th anniversary of the Commodore 64, and is almost eager to glad-hand anyone who comes by. Want a picture of you and Woz? Get in line.
Now, let's examine Jobs. Everyone knows he is one of the greatest business and technology visionaries in history. Onstage, say, at Macworld, he has a bright smile and an extremely charismatic and engaging manner. He looks like he'd be fun to talk to. Yet his reputation is for managing by fear and for having little patience for the public.
At Macworld Wednesday, popular technology and sex columnist Violet Blue wrote that she saw Jobs on the show floor and decided to go talk to him.
"I saw that Steve Jobs was just hanging out on the Macworld Expo floor, not in conversation, not talking to anyone, and poking at his iPhone in the middle of the wandering public, so I walked over," Blue wrote on her SFGate.com Open Source Sex blog Thursday. "Thinking a girl--in this case, a fangirl, me--will never get anything if she doesn't ask for it, I lightly touched his arm and said, 'Hi.' He looked at me, and I blushingly asked if it would be OK for me to take a picture with him. I didn't say my name or give credentials or anything else, I was just any girl. He told me curtly, flatly, that I was rude. And turned his back to me."
Moments later, Robert Scoble caught up with Blue and filmed her reaction to the snubbing.
Blue, of course, does not fill in the contextual blanks that might explain whether Jobs was having a bad day, was in the middle of an IM conversation with someone, or anything else. But is anyone really surprised that Jobs would so abruptly snub a fan, even at Macworld? I'm not.
In fact, Jobs is able to maintain his so-called "reality distortion field" in part because he is above us all. We can't engage him in conversation the way we can with Woz. Want to talk to Woz about his favorite video game? Go ask him. Want to ask Jobs a question about, well, anything? Good luck getting through his phalanx of PR people.
You might think that I love to bash Jobs and Apple since I'm writing this. In fact, between my wife and me, we personally have four Macs, two iPods, a couple of AirPorts and, oh, I'm sure there must be more. I had my religious conversion from Windows to Mac nearly four years ago. And I'll be the first to grant that Jobs towers above anyone else in tech when it comes to imagination and understanding what his customers want.
But boy, is the man cold-hearted. What does he expect to happen if he walks the floor at Macworld? He's surrounded by the most fan-boy of the fan-boys. He's going to get approached, swarmed even. If he doesn't want to be, then he shouldn't be on the floor.