Musings about fame, knowing, and being known
We often speak of people knowing other people. That implies that any pair of people knows one other. But sometimes, one person “knows of” another and that person is “known by” other people. For example, I know of Britney Spears but she does not know me (unless she’s that person prank calling me every day at 3am). Therefore, we do not know each other.
Even when two people know of one another, that does not mean they actually know each other. Bill Clinton knows of Britney and Britney knows of Bill — but I do not think they actually know one another (and I certainly hope, for Hillary’s sake, that Bill does not “know” Britney like he knows other 21-year-olds).
This phenomenon also applies to web sites. I might link to FoxNews.com (according to Google, 14,800 sites link to Fox News) but as of today, Fox News has not linked to Summation (even though I keep sending large fruit baskets and vintage Pez dispensers to Butch, the Fox webmaster). Thus, Fox News is known by me but Summation, as usual, is still three dimes away from a shiny new quarter.
Most people know of more people than they are known by. My definition of someone who’s “famous” is someone who is known by more people than he or she knows of. I started thinking of this recently when a few of my friends in San Francisco started introducing me as the “famous Auren Hoffman.” So I did a quick calculation and, at the very most, I am known by:
* Most of Summation’s newsletter subscribers (12,000)
* People I’ve known throughout my years, growing up, etc. (2,000)
* People I’ve met through business — mostly through BridgePath, my last software company (2,000)
* People that have heard me speak, read my articles published in newspapers, seen me on TV, etc. and that would actually remember me (3,000)
so at most, AT MOST, I am known by 19,000 people.
However, any educated person (even me) knows of far more than 19,000 people (when you think of all the movie stars, politicians, athletes, etc. that you know of). Therefore, I am not famous … maybe I’m “almost famous.”
The one caveat to fame is what I call the “Memento rule of 25,000.” If you recall, the lead character from the movie Memento couldn’t remember anyone except himself (and he barely even remembered that!). He only knew one person but was maybe known by 50 people. He’s still not famous because the Memento rule says that you have to be known by at least 25,000 people no matter what to qualify for Hoffman’s definition of famous.