Ten Years On: A Lesson In Thinking On Your Feet By Guy Goma

It is ten years since the BBC accidentally interviewed the wrong man called 'Guy'. But was it really a mistake?

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May 10 2016, 12:00am

Ten years, huh. Been a long time. We've all grown up, grown out. Got better, got wiser. Worked hard, worked long. Got on that grind. Ten years. A decade. A decade-o. A decade-y. A Big Deck. A tenner. But: who would have thought we'd be here? The only word is 'wow'. We did it together. We all got better together. I'm proud of you, proud of all of you. I'm proud of us.

Anyway ten years to the day since the BBC accidentally interviewed Guy Goma on live TV, and Guy Goma very pleasantly answered their questions about Apple Computer's court case with Apple Corps, despite quite visibly knowing nothing about either, and I don't think it's a push to say this was an iconic day, the day everything changed, for all of us, for everyone:


Consider the face Guy Goma pulls when he realises he is about to be interviewed on live TV about a subject he knows absolutely nothing about, and tell me you've never felt moments like this. This is proper that dream you have where you're doing your exam and you've forgotten to put any clothes on, only made flesh, the dream, made real, and happening to Guy Goma. This is that jolt of adrenalin that makes your whole body light up for days. This is walking into the wrong classroom on the first day of college and being like, 'Well, guess I have to learn about photosynthesis now, because I'm too polite to leave.' This is taking a train three hours in the wrong direction because you don't want to double-check with the guard that this does go to Hartlepool in case you look silly. This is Guy Goma's face contorting into a silent scream. Guy Goma thinking momentarily about mentioning the fact that he is the wrong man called 'Guy'. Guy Goma not going through with it. Guy Goma shutting his own mouth. Guy Goma taking a deep breath. Guy Goma knowing hell can't last forever. Guy Goma will be through the worst of it soon.

On this day of our lord ten years and one day ago, Guy Goma, so the story goes, was sat in BBC Television Centre awaiting a job interview as a data support cleanser in the company's IT department. Meanwhile, in a separate reception area called 'Stage Door', internet expert Guy Kewney was preparing for an on-air interview about Apple vs. Apple. You can see where this is going. A producer went to the wrong reception area and asked for someone called 'Guy' who was awaiting an interview. Guy Goma said he was Guy. Guy Kewney watched in confusion as a man who was not him but had his name was interviewed on BBC News. A legend was made.

To focus on the fine details of the Carry On–style mix-up that led to Guy Goma being confused for Guy Kerney and then being interviewed on TV as Guy Kerney despite being Guy Goma, lost and staring down the barrel of reality, Guy Goma silently going "aaaaaaHHHHHHH" when he hears the wrong surname being announced, Guy Goma trying his best— but to focus on the logistics of the mix-up detracts from the sheer quiet beauty of the interview itself. Firstly: because this is a man shitting his pants so hard it is going backwards, a man in a suit in the wrong place entirely, the living definition of blagging your way through an interview, Guy Goma seconds away from telling Karen Bowerman he sees himself in five years "uh... still here, and... uh... maybe in charge!", Guy Goma basically you when you were 17 and your mum made you put one of your dad's blazers on and ask for a job at Morrisons, and the store manager took you to a quiet office and asked you what your strengths and skills were and you said "err" for four straight minutes before answering, "uh, revision?", a small part of Guy Goma clearly suspecting this might be how the BBC actually does interview for data cleansers, Guy Goma is a man out of his depth but making it work, Guy Goma is thinking on his feet and killing it, Guy Goma is giving quotes so anodyne and anonymous that they are essentially about nothing but conversely so about nothing that it's hard to tell that he isn't an actual BBC News pundit, I mean is he even saying anything so wrong anyway, is this really that out of the ordinary, apart from the eyes searching longingly deep into the barrel of the camera and pleading for help and support— beyond that, is Guy Goma even that wrong about the internet? Take this quote, ten years ago today, by our saviour Guy Goma:

"Actually, if you can go everywhere you're gonna see a lot of people downloading through Internet and the website, everything they want. But I think it is much better for the development and...eh...to inform people what they want, and to get on the easy way, and so faster if they are looking for."

I ASK YOU: WAS GUY GOMA WRONG? I ask you: did Guy Goma just predict Spotify, predict Netflix? Did he see the way iTunes would go on to dominate the charts? Did he just foresee Tidal, like some tech Nostradamus, some baffled Oracle? Did the pundit in the ensuing segment not echo Guy Goma's sentiments immediately after he made them? Ask yourself: do you download through the Internet and the website? Do you have everything you want? Has there not been better development? Do you not want the easy way? Do you not look for it faster? Ask yourself: Put anyone on the spot and can they predict the future? Is that all psychics are? Just people under extreme pressure?

Ten years later and we don't appreciate Guy Goma for what he was: a man out of time, a future traveller sent to inform and shape our present, a soft-spoken arbiter of what we would become. Plus: I got nothing but respect for a man who knew he was in entirely the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing and saying the wrong things, but just trying his best anyway. Interviewing Guy Goma on BBC News wasn't a mistake. It was the single most important moment in the formation of the internet as we know it today. Guy Goma should have a regular segment on BBC Tech. We should make statues of him and pay respect to them. And, most of all, we should remember him. On fond days like this, ten years on from his wise words, raise a glass to Guy Goma. Raise a glass and think of him.

@joelgolby

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