His name is Nick Starr, and he’s apparently a raging jerk.
Starr is the Google Glass “fanatic” who walked into a Seattle café in November and was subsequently told to remove the headset. According to the international graffiti site Wikipedia, Google Glass is “a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with a mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands.”
In other words, while wearing on your head a device as fashionable as the ridiculous medical headset worn by “Dr. Beverly Crusher” in an early episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” you can see Google map data overlaid in your field of vision while also taking photos or video. The photos and video you take are no less discreet than those you could take while holding your smartphone in your hand, but the difference is that when you’re wearing the Google Glass headset, it’s harder for people to tell that you’re aiming your camera at them. Any time your head is pointed a certain way, your camera is trained on that spot.
According to Sally Clark, Starr was wearing his dork helmet – I’m sorry, his Google Glass headset – in the Lost Lake Café on Nov. 21. A manager asked him to remove the device or to leave the café. “As Starr was leaving the restaurant,” Clark writes, “he noted that the Lost Lake menu encourages customers to ‘post photos on our website via Instagram by using #LostLake.’” Starr’s bone of contention is apparently that the restaurant encourages Internet photos on the one hand, but on the other forbids him the use of his favored device.
“At this point,” writes Clark, “you’re probably asking yourself, who’s the bigger [expletive]? Starr, apparently, [who says] ‘I would love an explanation, apology, clarification, and if the staff member was in the wrong and lost the owner money last night and also future income as well, that this income be deducted from her pay or her termination,’ Starr writes on Facebook, which is exactly the kind of [expletive] response you’d expect from someone wearing Google Glass.”
The story behind Starr’s “war of words” with the Seattle restaurant and its management runs deeper than a rejected patron’s outrage over his technological rights. According to Lee Moran of the New York Daily News, Starr is a homosexual who was dining with his boyfriend when the incident occurred. This, in itself, is not remarkable, other than to tell us that Starr is probably a liberal or a “progressive.” But there’s more: Starr is repeatedly described online as an “attention seeking” tech blogger who has repeatedly threatened suicide on Twitter.
The SF Examiner reported in 2010 that Starr had threatened to jump off the Bay Bridge – and that this was not the first time he’d made such a threat. “Two years ago [in 2008],” writes Mike Aldax, “[Starr] posted on Twitter that he intended to leap off the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2007, the Florida native frightened followers after tweeting that he planned to jump from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Fla. The 2007 incident was the lead subject in a New York Times story about Twitter’s emerging impact on real-life social interactions.”
Aldax goes on to describe Starr’s frequent Twitter postings, which at least at the time (before his current obsession with Google Glass) revolved around “feeling unloved.” Aldax concludes, “Starr has had both sympathizers and critics. Some have described him as an attention seeker pining for Internet fame.”
On his Twitter account, Starr oscillates between tech-blog topics (including frequent references to Google Glass, natch) and referencing his own burgeoning Internet fame over his online feud with Lost Lake. (Starr and Lost Lake have been going at each other on Facebook in dueling posts about the incident.) “If you have issue with me,” Starr says in between links to news articles about the Lost Lake incident, “message me. Do not stoop so low to attack my partner.” Starr announces on his Twitter profile that he is “gay” and also cites his partner’s Twitter account, which has apparently led to one or more individuals sending Starr’s boyfriend unflattering messages.
“BTW,” Starr writes on Twitter, “I am not suicidal right now nor have I felt that way in a long time … so people can stop spreading that rumor too.” He says this, however, only moments after typing, “This week I’ve been called every single profane name imaginable … and people wonder why in my past I’ve contemplated suicide.” So Starr’s past suicide threats (or pleas for attention using the Internet) are a “rumor,” yet Starr himself acknowledges that he’s contemplated suicide in the past?
On the surface, the news reports over the Lost Lake incident would seem to highlight an issue of technological freedom versus social interactivity. When and where may someone use a technology that could conceivably violate others’ privacy – and in the smartphone era, do we truly have any expectation of privacy while in public? But on closer examination, Nick Starr’s behavior is simply rude, obnoxious and likely driven by an agenda. He was asked politely not to do something the management of the café deemed inappropriate. Rather than comply, he left in a huff and then demanded the employee involved be docked or fired.
Examining Starr’s considerable Internet footprint, as well as his past issues, his behavior is not merely that of a raging jerk. Nick Starr is obviously a liberal activist who, for whatever reasons, feels compelled to push Google Glass. He has a history of making empty suicide threats. He regularly posts obnoxious pleas for attention – in the form of his opinions on those who’ve supposedly wronged him – on the Internet. He is a spectacle looking for a place to occur. He is a victim demanding to be victimized.
This most recent controversy isn’t really about Google Glass at all. It’s about Nick Starr.