A Tough Customer
Sunday, February 12, 1995 by Dave Winer.
I got an email from a DaveNet reader a couple of weeks ago that's taken a while for me to process. The subject was "No More DaveNet." I'm going to keep him nameless, I don't want to expose him to a torrent of email, or make anyone else fearful of criticizing me, but I do want to address the points he raises.
Here's what he said:
"How about just sending me the *important* DaveNet messages? I really don't care about your new house, the fog, football, or whether you and the folks at HotWired are going to be chummy. Too much ego, too little substance. But when you have something to say, I'd love to hear. I just don't need the fan club stuff. Would you be interested if everyone you knew sent out their daily schedules to you?"
My reaction was to accept this person's resignation, professionally and courteously. I went to the AutoMail menu and chose the "Delete User" command. I replied with a personal memo, saying that I had resigned him from DaveNet, but didn't want to deal with the issues he raised.
It was wishful thinking! I find myself stagnating on DaveNet, thinking of things I want to write about, but not writing them because a bunch of issues have been raised in a provocative and unavoidable way.
Not too much is written about creative stagnation -- for obvious reasons! So I'm trying to overcome it by (as usual) saying what I have to say, and hoping this makes it easier for me move on.
First, my anger
This letter makes me angry!
My father used to say the same kind of thing when I was a kid and did something creative or funny. He'd ask me, in all seriousness, what if everyone did that?
As a kid, I didn't have the words to answer him. Now I do.
It would be great!
Imagine being able to find out what's *really* going on in anyone's life. What if everyone wrote about their issues. We could all learn from each other. Friendship would mean a lot more. We could grow more quickly, accomplish more in our lives, live more richly, have more fun. My grandfather taught me that living is an art. Yeah!
Hey -- I've been in *relationships* that were less intimate than my DaveNet chatter! I bet you have too. Honestly, I'd like to share *more* about my life, not less. I explore new territory carefully, sticking my big toe out, let's see if it gets stepped on. And if so, how it feels. Can I get thru it? Usually yes.
I'm constantly impressed that I am allowed to write about the things I write about! I'd like to move from where we are now, in February 1995, to new places that will be equally impressive. I'd like to look back from the first essay of 1996 and believe that there's no way people would have been ready to read that in early 1995.
To me, the DaveNet podium is precious. And it's not just for me, it's for others too because it helps open space for others to write in the Internet style. It's happening. I think any trail I blaze is open for other writers to explore. And of course the competitive spirit will kick in, and we'll race to explore new stuff. It will accelerate the pace. More fun!
It was already happening in other venues. Check it out. Online people put their names on their feelings. Try browsing the boards at The Well. I've heard of lots of other online locales where people talk about real stuff, on-the-record, for-atribution.
I'm proud to be part of the virtual community. Believe it or not, it's what I wanted to do when I was a kid! I wish lots more people would write about their lives.
I want to write literature
I am not a computer industry analyst. I don't want to be one. I admit, at one time, I lobbied Stewart Alsop to let me write PC Letter. For his own reasons, Stewart decided not to hire me. It turned out for the best because I like what I'm doing now much more than I think I would enjoy the PC Letter job. If I had paying customers I'd have to worry a lot more about this kind of criticism!
I am a software developer. I want to be a writer. I actually want to be a great writer. I want to write about life. Of course I write about things I know about. That means that technology shows up. It's an important part of my life. So it shows up a lot. It's one of the basic ways I choose to be creative.
But writing is another channel for my creativity. I find it very satisfying. One of my goals is to have more interesting people flow thru my life, and thereby have a more interesting life. DaveNet has really helped me achieve this goal!
And by writing about my experiences, I invite more experiences. As an example, after writing about men and women and respect, I had a lot of discussions with DaveNet readers, both men and women, about this subject. It got onto the agenda among my friends. I listened to their stories. Learned a lot. Of course I want to share what I've learned! But, if I do so, I seem to risk the patience of at least some of my readers.
Also, I don't think I can manage two DaveNets. I have a day job. It keeps me pretty busy. Aside from that, I haven't asked anyone to pay for this stuff. I get all the value I need by having an interactive audience that reacts to the stuff I write. I learn. Hopefully you do too. The discussions are interesting. About real stuff. The truth starts to come out. I like this system!
The unnamed writer gave me a choice. I could have engaged him in a dialog, asked for his opinion about what is important and not. But I couldn't ask, because his opinion wouldn't influence me. This may sound harsh. But if I accept limits on what I write about in order to please my readers, DaveNet would lose all its value for me.
So it's an either/or. If you don't want to hear about what's going on with me, you can resign, or you can read the essays at the DaveNet website. Those are the options.
Of course, anyone can agree or disagree with what I write about, and express those opinions. Please, please do! It's a priviledge to be allowed to drop things into your mailbox, I recognize that. I don't want to overstay my welcome. So if you don't enjoy getting these essays, just say the word. You can get back on the list anytime you want. But I ask that you not ask me to question the basic value of the stuff. I believe it's important and it's going somewhere. I want to keep doing it.
So, I guess I'll get a bunch of resignations over the next few days. That's life! At least I'll know that those people who chose *not* to resign are at least entertained by my little stories! And I'll feel that I have more space to write about life, people, and yes, about technology too.
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Listening to the radio the other day, I heard about a great product.
A camera that tells jokes!
I wish I could remember who the product is from. They would win the DaveNet Product of the Year award for the most clever new product.
I hate it when someone points a camera at me and says "smile." I try, but the shutter always seems to snap with a silly look on my face.
Even if the camera tells a stupid joke, I can't imagine not being totally entertained by the *concept* of a humorous camera.
Congratulations to the inventor! She or he has discovered a new medium. Hope they got a patent. It's definitely non-obvious. A surprising place to have fun. Imagine enjoying having your picture taken! Wow.
I want one!
PS: Have you heard about the new movie documentary coming out in April about the life of counter-culture cartoonist R Crumb? I saw an early review of it on Siskel & Ebert. It looks stunning! And it makes DaveNet look really tame.
PPS: As always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list. And it's OK to forward it or repost it anywhere you like. The list is expanding -- I'm always happy to add new names.