Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Who's Carl This Time?

We look at the origins of three new media giants: Before they ruled the world, they were grad students; The very long road to very short messages; and Turning nerds with webcams into stars (who are still nerds with webcams).

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

CARL KASELL, HOST:

From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. And here's your host, at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Peter Sagal.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Carl. Thank you everybody. Thank you all so much. We've got a great show for you this week. Writer/director Nora Ephron will be joining us later to play Not My Job. That's really exciting.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thrilled to have her. So, listen, usually we spend all week reading news in the Internet and then we ask questions about them on our show. But I lost my computer privileges at work. Turns out, NSFW does not stand for nifty site for watching.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So instead of the news this week, we're going to spend this hour asking questions about the media itself: TV, blogs, social networks and also something called magazines. Which, for you kids, is a kind of blog that they print on paper.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So, the media is our message today. Give us a call, the number 1-888-Wait-Wait, that's 1-888-924-8924. Time to welcome our first listener contestant. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

CAROLYN WILSON: Hi, this is Carolyn Wilson from Arlington, Virginia.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in beautiful Arlington?

WILSON: They're - amazing.

SAGAL: Amazing?

WILSON: Yes.

SAGAL: Thrilling?

WILSON: Yes.

SAGAL: Great? I'm sorry; I could just go on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What do you do there?

WILSON: I'm a science assistant for the National Science Foundation.

SAGAL: So you do science at the National Science Foundation?

WILSON: Well, I help give people money so they can do science.

SAGAL: That's even better.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That's great. Well, welcome to our show, Carolyn. Let me introduce you to our panel this week. First, say hello to a television personality and a contributor to "CBS Sunday Morning," Mr. Mo Rocca right there.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MO ROCCA: Hi, Carolyn.

WILSON: Hi, Mo.

SAGAL: Next up, it's a humorist and author most recently of "Hail, Hail, Euphoria: The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup," Mr. Roy Blount, Jr.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ROY BLOUNT JR.: Hey, Carolyn.

WILSON: Hey, Roy.

BLOUNT JR.: How you doing? Does it have to be science you give people money for?

WILSON: Yes. Unfortunately, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: And lastly, say hello to a comedienne who's first CD "I Heart Jokes" is out now, Ms. Paula Poundstone.

WILSON: Hey, Paula.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Hey, Carolyn. I was just performing some cash-strapped tests with gravity.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Carolyn, you, of course, are going to play Who's Carl This Time. Now, it's a special edition of Who's Carl This Time. It's going to be about the very beginning of some of the Internet giants that now so dominate our life and our culture. So, each of Carl's quotes are going to come from the first days of what were then just Internet startups, little gleams in some future mogul's eye. So, you ready to play?

WILSON: Yes.

SAGAL: All right. Here is your first quote.

KASELL: Look, if this thing pans out, then great. If not, well, you can return to graduate school and finish your thesis.

SAGAL: So that was the adviser of a grad student named Sergey Brin, back about 15 years ago. He was assuring him that if his little Internet project didn't work out, things would still be cool. Well, the project worked out. What was it?

WILSON: I have no idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, if you don't know, that's OK, because if you don't know, this is what you'd use to find out.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WILSON: Oh, Google?

SAGAL: Google, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

WILSON: Yay.

SAGAL: So, grad student Sergey Brin and his friend Larry Page came up with an incredibly efficient, accurate algorithm for searching the web. And because it used what were known as back links, they called it Backrub. That's right, that's what they called it. They called it Backrub. And they eventually changed the name to Google.

ROCCA: Yeah, a lawsuit.

SAGAL: I know. But we really wish they hadn't changed it. Wouldn't that be cool? I mean, you're like, oh yeah, you know, what movie was that with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear? Oh wait, I'll backrub it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Oh, you know, it was a decent first date, but then I backrubbed him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Anyway, Brin and Page's grad school...

BLOUNT JR.: I think Google is better, it's dirtier.

SAGAL: You think Google is dirty?

BLOUNT JR.: Yeah, yeah.

SAGAL: How is Google dirty?

BLOUNT JR.: I Google myself.

ROCCA: I Google myself sounds dirty.

BLOUNT JR.: Come one.

ROCCA: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT JR.: I don't know how you were raised, but I was not allowed to say words like that in the house.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Google, of course, has been expanding its empire over recent years as Google Maps, Google News, Gmail, public restroom finder gee whiz.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Evangelical search engine Gee-sus. We could go on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And it's competitor Jugle.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Do you guys worry about this though? Because we always worried about computers taking over lives, we never imagined that we would beg them to. And we just are trusting that Google will stay benign and they won't, you know, finally decide - or it won't finally decide it's done with us. Because it'd be like, you know, well I don't think you put cyanide in chicken tetrazzini, but I Googled the recipe and that's what it said to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Well, what do you do - if you forget the name of the search engine, what do you do?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You're just stuck.

ROCCA: If you're trying to figure out, I need to find something but I can't remember what the name of the search engine is.

POUNDSTONE: You know, I'm not like you guys at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: I mean, maybe this goes without saying. I don't really use the computer that much. I don't find out my information there.

ROCCA: What do you do?

POUNDSTONE: Yeah.

ROCCA: Do you have books?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: I do. I have some books and there's just a lot of junk I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: All right, for your next quote, we have two very brief messages.

KASELL: Trying to hold my pants up while I walk home.

SAGAL: And the next morning?

KASELL: Walking to the office and still having pant problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Those were some messages sent by the founder of a new micro-blogging site just after that service was launched. What was it?

WILSON: Twitter?

SAGAL: Yes, Twitter, of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

WILSON: Yay.

SAGAL: Twitter, the latest phenomenon, simultaneously lowered the standard for what's worth saying and made it incredibly easy to say. It basically turns the entire world into the guy you're trapped next to on a plane.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: I twitter, but only because I want to be in the Library of Congress.

SAGAL: Yeah. That's true. All the tweets are going to the Library of Congress.

ROCCA: Is that right?

WILSON: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah.

ROCCA: Oh gosh.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, that guy's pants problem will be...

SAGAL: I know.

POUNDSTONE: It would be read by people years from now.

SAGAL: Civilizations of the future will know in the 20th century they were ruled by a man named Justin Bieber.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT JR.: Well, why did they call it twitter? Do we know?

POUNDSTONE: Because Google was taken.

BLOUNT JR.: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Here we go, Carolyn, here is your last quote.

KASELL: All right, so here we are in front of the elephants and the cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long trunks. And that's cool. And that's pretty much all there is to say.

SAGAL: That was the entire transcript of the very first video posted on what service?

WILSON: YouTube.

SAGAL: YouTube, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

WILSON: Yay.

SAGAL: The very first video…

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...uploaded to YouTube was a boring, short film about elephants. Now, YouTube was first conceived as a dating site, a version of hotornot.com, but in this one you could see people move on video and thus judge them by how much their chin shook.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The original dating concept fell apart when judging from the submitted videos, most of the eligible singles out there were adorable kittens.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Oh, this isn't funny but it's interesting that every minute, 10 hours of YouTube video are uploaded.

BLOUNT JR.: Wow.

SAGAL: Wow.

ROCCA: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's really great.

ROCCA: And the space between the silence right now, there's probably hours being added.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Carl, how did Carolyn do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, Carolyn, you had three correct answers. That's a correct score and a complete score and that means you win our prize.

SAGAL: Well done, Carolyn. Congratulations.

WILSON: Oh thank you, this is awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well done, Carolyn, and thanks for playing.

WILSON: Thank you.

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