Switched On turns one: The Maven

Every Wednesday Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, an opinion column about consumer technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment. Today's Switched On's first birthday, so as a present we gave Ross his very own banner. Wish Switched On a happy birthday, why don't you?

Once upon a midnight madness sale I sauntered, steeped in sadness,
Through the shiny piles and aisles composing my computer store.
Suddenly there came a rapping. "Skeet skeet skeet." Had I been napping?
Energy, it had been sapping from my soul for weeks or more.
Yea, those loathsome customers had chilled my being for weeks or more.
Back-to-school had drained my core.

Soon the winds would bring the winter - time to sell each mouse, each printer.
"Profit!" said I, "Thing of evil? Nah," applying Avacor.
For while came the rare exception, money flowed from deep deception.
Ignorance would find reception warm throughout each corridor.
From these fools I'd find the dollars flow down every corridor.
Idiots I did adore.

There I saw him, by the mobos, dressing like those unkempt hobos -
Greasy hair atop the fat and pimples that adorned each pore.
Mannerisms quite absurd, he stood there mumbling, looking nerdy,
Yet I could not find the word he brought to mind inside the store.
In that squalid rust of malice did he slither through the store,
Saying naught and nothing more.

Fate approached him as a customer who seemed at once to trust him.
"Are these cameras any good? I've never shopped for one before."
Glasses thick, stubble unshaven, spewing trivia like Cliff Clavin,
On he went, this crazy maven bragging of his Slashdot score.
"If you read my blog, you'd know my postings rate above a four.
'Funny' and 'Insightful' are the words you'd see with five or four."
After which she fled the store.

Then a man who lacked acumen caused his targeting to zoom in.
"Windows spyware drives me nuts. Removing it is such a chore.
"This Mac mini sure looks swell so buying it would end my hell, no?"
"Apple's switching to Intel so I would wait a year or more
"And you'll want new software too if you don't wait a year or more."
Quoth the maven, "Leave the store."

Citing every spec and feature, body trained by Arthur Treacher,
Did the maven woo his audience like some techie troubadour.
Who had let this creature foul in? If he did not throw the towel in
I'd be forced to go all Shaolin monk on his posterior.
How I'd whip that swath of corpulence that claimed posterior
Pressed against my glass case door.

Then his keen newbie detection struck gold in the gaming section.
"I've an itch for simulation. I'm opposed to too much gore.
"This Sims game could be my toehold. It looks so much fun. I'm so sold."
"Sims are so five years ago. Hold off and wait for Will Wright's Spore."
Just forget that Sims 2 stuff and save your darseks up for Spore."
Quoth the maven, "Leave the store."

On his pattern kept repeating and I watched my cash depleting
As he dispatched questions like blind bulls before the matador.
Each request brought new retort in just like when Leo Laporte 'n'
His ex-co-host Patrick Norton would save screens in days of yore --
Oh, to live those fond remembered years of TechTV of yore
Ere the odious G4.

Then a young lad came inquiring, toward a purchase now aspiring,
"Wasn't this cool laptop here the C|Net pick the month before"
"Handy it would surely come in when more speed I'd need to summon."
"You don't want that Pentium. Intel is moving to dual core.
"Who would use some HyperThreading loser chip when there's dual core?"
Quoth the maven, "Leave the store."

Soon I sensed my deeper breathing as my temper turned to seething.
Loathing his devouring dollars like the fabled manticore.
As he sabotaged each sale in, I could see my business failin" --
Stock reports through EDGAR ailin' that would leave me poe, er, poor.
How the gloom of EDGAR would tell tales of heart that made me poor
From this maven I abhor.

"Please, sir," came my mocking meekness, "if I may address Your Geekness,
"You possess the kind of genius humans haven't seen before.
"I don't mean to be a rusher of one smart as Wesley Crusher
'"But this nice CD of Usher's yours if you part my decor.
"A fall of the house and Usher music would beat my decor."
Quoth the maven, "Nevermore."

"Once again, I'd like to mention how you're aiding apprehension.
"Please stop chasing customers away, your favor I'd implore.
"Your reply would be most gracious if you'd quit this path tenacious
"Transfer now thy form sebaceous to where it was heretofore
"Please return to that dim destination thou stood heretofore."
Quoth the maven, "Nevermore."

"Fiend!," I cried, "Reviled earth-scorcher! Stop at once this heinous torture
"That as Satan's scion learned you, wicked cash cow carnivore!
"Do not blink there, smug and silent, lest I turn to actions violent.
"Take thy zits from out my aisle and take thy fat ass from my store!
"Now be gone! Remove thy Comic Book Guy visage from my store!"
Quoth the maven, "Nevermore."

And the maven, ever stalking, still is talking, still is talking
And I grow more desperate for some euro, cent or louis d'or.
And his voice has all the grating of clawed hands down chalkboards skating
And my profits keep deflating as my sales drop through the floor
As my spirit's shards get swept by cleanup crews across the floor
To be lifted nevermore.

[Best. Column. Ever. --Ed.]

Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at