Ten years ago this morning, Slashdot founder Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, foregoing the traditional bended-knee, used his insider access to one of the tech world's most prominent public forums to issue a 79-word Valentine's Day marriage proposal to Kathleen Fent.
As you can see (I added the hearts), she said yes -- and then called him a dork -- an exchange that sent the Slashdot community into a frenzy of predominantly good cheer (this being the Internet, the haters hated, too). And it made the news.
As the anniversary of the proposal approached, I thought it would be fun to ask the principals to share their memories of that day and thoughts about it since, as just one case study of how this type of public proposal - be it on Slashdot, a billboard or the stadium Jumbotron - holds up over the years. Any regrets? Would they recommend it? ... Here's our e-mail exchange:
Rob, what were you thinking during the 15 minutes between posting the proposal and receiving Kathleen's answer?
I was pretty confident she would say yes, but I was NOT as confident that she would read Slashdot for several hours. I was really dreading the lag, and timed the post to coincide with when I figured she would arrive at her office. Right as I clicked save, one of my co-workers immediately realized what I was doing, and I got some "good lucks" and appropriate teasing. But I won't lie: I was nervous as hell.
Kathleen, what was your reaction the moment you read your name in that headline and realized what was happening?
I knew something was afoot when I left for work and Rob said "See you soon!" I decided to check Slashdot right away when I got to work to see what was going on. When I saw my name in the proposal, I slammed my hand down on the desk and screamed, "Oh my god!" before I could even read the entire article. I started to hyperventilate.
Everyone rushed back to my cubicle to see what was the matter. I had to resist the urge to phone Rob at home, knowing that an email reply was much more fitting for the eventual story we'd tell. This was long before texting was commonplace, or I would have texted him the answer.
Rob, what did you think of the outpouring of well wishes -- and snark -- from the Slashdot community?
There was some pretty witty stuff in there. Kathleen pointed out a few random comments that she thought were funny. She read every single comment, but I was thankful for the moderation system that day because it was a (popular) story and it had its fair share of mean in it that I was able to skip. But mostly it was very positive: The vast majority of the Slashdot community strongly supported me throughout my time there, and this story might be the single loudest example of that.
Kathleen, do you think most women would appreciate receiving this style of public proposal? Should guys go for it?
While a gigantically public proposal SEEMS romantic in the movies and whatnot, I would NOT NOT NOT recommend it for anyone else. Too risky, with the chance of extreme public humiliation for both parties. The pressure and emotional response to even a private proposal is a lot to bear gracefully, and knowing everyone is waiting and watching for your answer (especially for those poor gals on the JumboTron at a sporting event) can be too much.
I'm glad the only people to see me blubber and freak out were my co-workers, and I was able to compose myself before I responded. That being said, it was the perfect way for Rob to propose to me, and I am still very flattered that he put himself out there, so to speak.
OK, Rob, your turn: Would you recommend that other guys propose so publicly?
I never really felt like I was proposing in public. Slashdot was more like a big squabbling extended family. I felt more like I was doing it at a family reunion. I wasn't surrounded by strangers, I was surrounded by friends. And on a more micro scale, a few very close friends and I got to experience that window between proposal and acceptance. It rates as my favorite story during my tenure at Slashdot, and one the greatest moments of my life.
At that point in our relationship, Kathleen and I had been living together for a while. Since then we've really built a life together, with a home and kids running around inside it. The truth is that my present life would have been the same even if I had proposed to her in the most isolated place on earth. But that wasn't who we were in 2002. So I guess my advice is to do what is right for you. I did, and I've never regretted it.
Last question, Kathleen: Is Rob still a dork?
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