[Update 9/11/2006: corrected Joel Spolsky's name, and added relevant links]
There are a few people in the tech world that I would really like to meet. Some of them just seem like they would be cool people to hang out with, some of them would make awesome people to have as a boss or co-worker, and others are just blindingly smart. Here is my list of tech folks that I would like to know, and why.
Splosky Spolsky [Edited 9/11/2006: Corrected Joel's Name]
This guy is really, really smart. Even better, he understands developers and development better than anyone else, and owns his own company. Every blog post of his, I want to forward to my boss (but usually do not, in case it is thought of as criticism). I really like how he is able to put into words the feelings that I have felt about a lot of things so succinctly.
Say what you want about the guy and his business practices, he has an enthusiasm for his job that is rarely seen outside of professional athletics. He treats running Microsoft like he in on the Olympic team. Rarely do you see employees, let alone managers or executives get so excited about stuff (remember the "Monkey Boy" video?). It would be great to have that level of enthusiasm in a manager.
I have been reading his work for well over five years, and I have yet to find something to disagree with him on. Regular readers know how important I think usability is, and he does a better job than anyone else at turning it into a science that is able to work within business realities. "Usability Engineer" is a job title I would love to have, and I would like to get together with him and figure out how to become one.
Mark Hurst is up there with Jakob Neilsen, but he is a lot more focused on the user experience itself, and not the objective study of usability. He is also much like Joel
Splosky Spolsky Edited 9/19/2006: corrected name, in that he really "gets" how tech people work, and how to help them work within the confines of business realities. His newsletters are smart and funny, and packed with unique information that you will not find anywhere else.
I have been reading John Dvorak since I was about 11 years old, or something like that. He is extremely witty, and when he is talking about basic principles, few analysts are smarter. He is rather contrarian, like myself, which I also like. Just because everyone else thinks that something is true does not mean that he will jump on board. Lately I think he has been slipping, but much of that is because he has not been in the trenches for a long time. That still does not diminish his abilities to analyze, and he is still top notch when he has the right information. I also respect that he does not buy into the vendor buzz and media hype, unlike far too many tech writers.
Daniel C. Dennett
While Daniel C. Dennett is not a tech industry person per se, his writing and research has a lot to do with technology, and is extremely applicable in technology. He was the first person to write about cognitive science who really made sense to me. Even when he is wrong, he is a good sport about it.
The man is absolutely ruthless, to the point where it takes the entire government to put the brakes on him. Like Ballmer, Gates has an uncontrolled exuberance for his work and his company. While he may get dinged for copying other peoples ideas, he is excellent and combining the ideas of others in ways which they never thought of. I also really like his philanthropy work; I get the impression that he wants to win for the sake of winning, not for the rewards. While that type of predatory attitude is not entirely admirable, it is certainly respected.
The father of Perl. 'Nuff said.
Mark Cuban rocks, because he understands what the consumer wants. More specifically, he ignores what the consumer thinks or claims they want, and talks about what they will actually pay money for. That is a huge difference. For example, I know a lot of people who want fancy cars, but prefer to drive economy cars and not pay for a fancy car. Mark Cuban is also a very funny person to read. His whole to-do with Overtsock.com was probably the funniest thing in the tech business world for quite some time.
A geeks geek, if you know what I mean. He is totally, brutally open and honest to the point where you wonder that his employer (Sun) allows him to appear in public without a muzzle. I remember reading an interview with him a while back, where he actually answered the question of "what are your biggest mistakes" with legitimate answers.
Who is on your list of people in the Tech World that you would like to meet?
Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.