Someone at Avidyne Corporation must have read on Wired about how bloggers are the new media, because after I blogged about Oshkosh, I was contacted by a media person who "wondered if you’d be interested in speaking with Avidyne Corporation about their experience at Oshkosh – what they saw and what they liked." That e-mail was a little confusing. Avidyne wants to tell me what they liked at Oshkosh? I'd expect them to want to tell me about their products, not the rest of the show. I realize now that the wording was hooking into the last line of this blog entry, where I welcomed comments "about what you saw and liked" at Oshkosh. So points for having read the blog entry, and not sending spam. I got in touch, and she clairified, "I wasn’t pitching them to talk about their specific technology, just interesting happens at Oshkosh and the things they found cool. I wasn’t looking at it as a vendor play – more of an attendee testimonial."
I was still unclear on why someone at Avidyne wanted to tell me about the cool stuff they saw at Oshkosh, but hey, I'm always happy to chat to people about aviation, especially when there's a chance they know what they're talking about. We set up a time and they called at the appointed hour. I was introduced to Tom Harper, the Director of Marketing, and our 'conversation' began.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a conversation. It was a broadcast. And if it was about what Avidyne liked at Oshkosh, Avidyne never left its own tent. If the rep had told me in advance that it was to be a presentation on the company's MLX770 satellite weather radar and Entegra integrated flight deck systems, with an opportunity to ask questions at the end, I would probably still have said yes to the session, and I would have been prepared for that. But what I got was a barrage of words over which I had little influence. Tom apparently had me on speakerphone with his receive volume turned down, or some equivalent technology that allowed him to speak without hearing me. He didn't realize this because he didn't pause for listening acknowledgement. Maybe this is cultural, but it's one reason Canadians say 'eh?': even in a one way transfer of information, we expect the speaker to stop now and again to solicit "I'm following you" noises. I pause for feedback more often than he did when I lecture to a room full of people, and I can see their body language while I'm speaking. It wasn't until my actual questions for clarification on what he was saying were ignored that I realized that he couldn't even hear me. The woman who set up the call was still on the line and she occasionally intervened to indicate that I was asking a question, but I quickly understood that this was like a Lockheed-Martin weather briefing: just listen until the specialist is done talking.
The disappointing part is that I'm very interested in the evolution of cockpit instrumentation, specifically in the decisions and research and experiences that caused tiny changes from generation to generation, or this instrument to be shaped like this, or positioned here, with this kind of interface, so this meeting could have been a fascinating opportunity for me to learn and pass along some inside information on avionics technology development, but I was at the wrong show, as it were. I asked questions to try and elicit this sort of information, but Tom stayed "on message" so I didn't get what I wanted there.
Avidyne does have some cool toys, and had I known what I was getting into, I should have been delighted to get a preview of the Entegra WX, just announced to the public on Thursday. This is a system that gives the pilot weather radarlike information plus METARs and TAFs all integrated with navigation, orientation, and everything else a pilot has to know. It's nothing to be scoffed at, but I keep starting to pull details about the systems from my notes and then switching windows or going off to do something else. I finally realized that I am putting off writing this blog entry, as if it were some kind of chore that I had to do, like company paperwork. But I dp that happily and uncomplainingly. They were part of my job. This isn't.
I wasn't the only target for this marketing effort, so plenty of other bloggers have already covered the material. Instead of re-serving the same meal, I'll point you at Avidyne's list of other bloggers who covered the broadcast. I recommend Plastic Pilot, whose primary flying involves this kind of equipment and who either taped the interview or narrowed his session down to just a few questions at the end.
I guess I was just the wrong audience for the presentation. Such a shame it couldn't have been directed to me. Less is more. I was left feeling stupid. I have used XM radio weather products. I have used a satellite based product that allows me to send and receive e-mail from the cockpit. I have used EFIS multifunction displays. On one hand, I feel badly that they spent time with me and this blog entry is the fruit of their efforts, but on the other hand they didn't say "hey can we tell you a bunch of stuff about our products so you blog about it?" so it's not like I'm reneging on a deal.Edit: Tom Harper got in touch with me about this blog entry, and he's a lot easier to follow in e-mail. It seems that my imitation of someone who is keeping up with what someone is saying is better than I thought, and that he and Kate had a different impression of the conversation. It's just that his enthusiasm and eagerness to give me details overwhelmed me. Maybe sometime I'll get a chance to play with the product and I'll be able to give you all some first hand comments on what it does.