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IBM’s Patrick: Let us now praise out-of-the-box thinking

IBM’s Patrick: Let us now praise out-of-the-box thinking

Wednesday, July 15, 1998

By Jim Kerstetter, PC Week Online


CHICAGO – There was a moral to John Patrick’s story: Every industry has a Steve Shook.

Steve Shook is a man who really, really likes paper. John Patrick is the vice president of Internet technology at IBM (IBM) who delivered this afternoon’s keynote address here at Summer Internet World.

And Patrick really, really likes Shook’s Web site, called “Steve Shook’s Directory of Forest Products, Wood Science and Marketing.”

“I though I had found the god of paper,” Patrick told his audience at the McCormack Place Lakeside Center.

Patrick, who found Shook’s site one night while Web surfing, later mentioned it to a group of paper industry experts. It turned out that Shook wasn’t quite the paper guru Patrick thought. Actually, he was a student at the University of Washington in Seattle and a young man with a serious affinity for researching the paper industry and Web design. Patrick has never met or talked with Shook, but he has a lot of respect for what he’s done with the site.

“How do I know that everything he said was right? I don’t know,” Patrick said. “How do you ever know when something is absolutely right? You research it. You investigate it. You compare it.”

The point? Patrick said it’s OK to listen to people with different ideas. In an interconnected world of Web communications, the experts may come from unlikely places.

“Who are the people who think outside the box? We all have them. Listen to them. You don’t have to put them in charge,” he said.

Patrick’s keynote ranged across a variety of issues, from government regulation and the computer industry’s inability to self-regulate consumer privacy on the Web to Java’s ability to make back-end integration easier and improved bandwidth.

The years of Web hype are close to becoming a reality, he said. The world is being interconnected through a variety of devices, from PCs to kiosks. And though some adults may still struggle with the technology, to children it’s already become second nature. Someday, like the group of teenagers who recently visited him at IBM in Somers, NY, the youths who grew up with Nintendo, Sega and the Web will be the hottest commodity of all.

“And guess what? We don’t get to interview them. They interview us,” Patrick said.

It’s still unclear what Steve Shook would think about that.