Why you should care
It’s not every day a billionaire’s philanthropic efforts are documented and worshipped by a loving reader base.
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Bill Gates, amirite? This past May, Gates regained his title as world’s richest person. What was on his mind that month? Possible vaccines to reduce child deaths from diarrheal diseases, how well-prepared Charlie Rose is for interviews, and South Korea’s leadership on aid in health and agriculture.
Devoted fans of the Forbes 400 all-star would know this from following his blog, The Gates Notes, which launched in 2010. The website showcases Gates’ musings on work he is doing with the Gates Foundation, books he is reading and organizations he supports. The design could be a little sleeker and more user-friendly in terms of navigation – shocking for a Microsoft founder, we know – but the content is fascinating.
The website has published more than 50 stories this year, and it gives an endearing insight into Bill Gates as a nerdy, philanthropic grandfather type. One of his developmental aid posts outlines the three great numbers he learned about on his trip to Europe. When explaining how much of their budgets the United Kingdom and Great Britain governments have agreed to commit to international aid, Gates writes, “0.7 Percent. I usually focus on big numbers, but 0.7 percent might be my favorite fraction.” Of course you have a favorite fraction, Bill. Adorbs.
The website showcases Gates’ musings…and gives an endearing portrait of a nerdy, philanthropic grandfather-type.
He’s covered a host of intriguing subjects, like the culture of data in Ghana’s health care system, neglected crops like the pigeon pea, and a sweet explanation of why he finds Desmond Tutu so inspiring. Gates put on his journalist hat to interview author Jared Diamond and even referenced The Hunger Games when publishing his summer reading list, which garnered a lot of media attention.
His fans are unabashed in their praise for him in the comments, even wondering why he’s yet to win a Nobel Prize.
Compared with his social presence — 4.6 million Facebook likes and almost 13 million Twitter followers — Gates’ website seems relatively low-profile. But his fans are unabashed in their praise for him in the blog’s comments. Vallery Swartz-Hoy compared Bill and Melinda Gates to Mother Teresa. User xoj9 said she and her family wonder why Gates has yet to win the Nobel Prize. Another commenter said, “Mr. Gates, Did not like you at all in the early days of aggressive (and what I consider unethical) marketing of microsoft products. You have turned out OK. Please keep up the good work.” Fear not, kind commenter. Although Microsoft isn’t doing so well, a return to CEO does not seem likely for Gates.
Some readers use the commenting section as a wishing well, asking Gates to help figure out a cure for Type 1 diabetes, to give recommendations on inspiring talks they can watch online, or to help with a stalker ex-boyfriend. Then there’s the user who wanted some help figuring out the secret to the universe. “Can you explain to me how ’nothing’ created everything, such as in the case of the ‘big bang’ theory? Furthermore, can you explain how, out of such a chaotic explosion came order (laws of physics and the like)? What was it that exploded, and how did that something or ’nothing’ come into existence? Thank you for your time.”
For the most part, though, commenters express their admiration for the work Gates is doing, and also their gratitude for his sharing what he learns on Gates Notes. So now Bill Gates can add “teacher” to his list of accomplishments.
Update: An earlier version of this story cited the small number of likes for the GatesNotes Facebook page, but OZY has since been informed that the blog’s Facebook icon redirects readers to Gates’ personal Facebook page.