The Perfect Parent
Tuesday, April 9, 1996 by Dave Winer.
Listening to Bonnie. No she ain't no Queen of Sheeba. Hmmm. We can choose, you know we ain't no amoeba! What a rhymer. What a cutie! I love Bonnie. Yes. That cry of love is so alarming! Love -- what a powerful thing. She's a three time loser. Bonnie has music for all the moods.
If you get a chance, see her live. If not, get her Road Tested CD for a taste of Bonnie live. It's cool. You don't know which Bonnie I'm talking about? Immediately, stop reading this email and get a life! Right now.
Last week, when my Macintosh sea legs were still shaky from a system software catastrophe, I got an email from a top Apple exec, Dave Nagel, that asked why Apple should work with me when I'm so critical of Apple in DaveNet. Good question!
Apple should work with me because with my software you can tie together the leading Macintosh Internet applications into a customizable suite of client, content development and server solutions. We could lead the market together, Dave, instead of waiting for all these apps to work with OpenDoc. We can deliver the benefits of customizable integration right now.
A bunch of years ago I complained to one of your predecessors, Jean-Louis Gassee, that Apple was investing too much in HyperCard, that it wasn't the right longterm answer for Apple or developers or users. I was in the middle of developing Frontier, which embraced the Macintosh operating system, instead of trying to replace it, as HyperCard did. I felt it was a strategic mistake to split the operating system into two parts -- the desktop interface on one side, and HyperCardLand on the other side. They were so damned different!
Gassee asked me the kind of question that a business person, concerned about meeting payroll and making numbers, would ask. Would I mind if they sold HyperCard until I got my software ready? I couldn't argue with this! It made me feel respected, and I understood that I was doing what I had decried -- I was FUDing a product that had delivered, with my promises of a much better land -- someday. HyperCard may have been ill-conceived. But it was shipping and people were liking it.
Gassee was right to say no to me, then, as it would be right for Apple to say no to OpenDoc now. It's hogging all your attention. You have put all your hopes on it. But, at best, it's years away from delivery.
I can hear you objecting right now! No, you're saying, OpenDoc will be ready for end users in August. But how long before OpenDoc is something users will want? It isn't about menus and windows and code. A lot of things have to happen before it's a platform. And it's very, very far from a sure thing. Most proposed platforms don't make it. It's just a fact. It's not my fault. It's not yours.
Gassee had a sense of keeping the users entertained. He got it. Keep them coming back for new goodies. And maybe a breakthru. For that you need lots of risk-taking developers. That's how you get winners, not by hiring researchers to invent miracles for you. I'm sure he did his share of hiring, he's a good guy, but not perfect, but there was an important lesson. Don't be picky about where your software comes from. Promote what you got.
And it really is an either-or thing, developers can't compete with the platform vendor, no matter how well-intentioned the PV is. You have to leave well marked voids in the market, places where you won't play, to create markets. Apple did the opposite, invading competitive markets with void-creating white papers.
Here's a new direction. Assume there are 20 million Macintosh users. Assume that one tenth of them are already on the net. Let's offer them something better. Assume that half of them want to get on the net. Let's make it easy for them. If we can give them software that makes a Mac user ten times more effective on the net than their Windows and Unix counterparts, why shouldn't we?
Apple has always promoted the Mac as easy to use. My claim: that may have worked in the past, but we lose now if you sell Macintosh as the easy to use platform, because that negates the power of the platform. The power comes from its depth and maturity. And the profits come from longtime users who want to do new things.
You have to catch users when they're busy inventing. Right now they're working on getting on the web as readers and writers and servers. Things that help them do that will make sense to them. Other things will seem like diversions.
Fact: all the Internet apps support the System 7 scripting standards. That technology must be commercialized before it can be used by lots of users. Commercialization. An important concept. It doesn't end with delivery. We never completed the task of commercializing System 7. Let's finish the job, and then turn it over to the developers and users.
As I've said previously, there's a new independence in the Mac development community, and that's unlocking a lot of power, and that's a really good thing. No, we won't need Apple to make it happen. But it could work better with Apple's support and acknowledgement and resources.
I have already disclosed the first step in the plan to Apple, and outlined where I want to go from there. I want to hear back from them, but we're not waiting. An important distinction.
By the way, the only reason I criticize Apple is because I care about the platform, and I care about the script writing community, and I care about my software, and I care about me! The day that I stop criticizing Apple, you can assume it's because I've become a Windows developer or a Be developer, or have chosen to go sailing around the world, or to make pottery. I am not a quiet person. If I'm in a room, it's likely that you'll know I'm there.
I have a friend, a man, who's going thru a hugely painful process. A long marriage. Divorce. Lots of stuff comes up. Old wounds open. Pain and confusion. I've been there myself. It all comes back. Oh man!
At times like this it can be really hard to be positive. But when the wounds are open, they have a chance to heal; if you really go into it, and fully experience what's happening. After a long dysfunctional relationship ends, there's huge pain, but you get a chance to redesign your life.
It's like a wakeup call in the middle of the night. You're groggy and upset. I just want to go back to sleep! But the pain is so great that you can't sleep. It's time to wake up. Like it or not.
When a big tree falls it creates space for new life. But you really miss the old tree, the old way of life, and all the support that it gave you.
Sometimes I think we're all searching the planet for the perfect parent, the replacement for the ones that let us down. That's probably the biggest pain we feel when a relationship ends. Where's my mom! Who's going to take care of me now?
The answer -- inside each of us is the perfect parent, the one we never had. You can give that to yourself, just like you give it to your kids. I can take my boy on trips. Show him neat things. And make promises to him, develop his trust. At times he doesn't trust the adult Dave. Acknowledge that. It's OK. Promise to try to do better. Really mean it. When I can do this I really feel free and happy. I'm not kidding, that's really what it takes.
Little boys are very forgiving people. All they really need to know is that you care about them, and are doing your best. You don't have to *always* protect them, they don't want that, and will struggle against it. It's cool because that's how I express my creativity. But the little boy inside me needs to know that when he goes on an adventure, he can always come home for acceptance and good home cooking. I never want to be very far away from home.
So, I am both a little boy and a big man. I am a source of caring and protecting and giving. I can be responsible, which means I will respond if a situation calls for a response. But I also like to have fun!
There are actually lots of voices inside each of us, but we're discouraged from seeing this by the way we were brought up. I have a voice inside me that's my father. I need to challenge this voice. Something bad happens. He yells at me. I say firmly, respectfully, sometimes even aloud, "No, Dave is not an idiot. He's a very smart person, and I love him very much, and I'd like you to stop saying that." After practicing this dialog for a couple of years my father's voice has become more loving. It turns out that the parent inside me can learn and let go of his pain instead of giving it to the little boy.
A disrespectful voice coming from inside. We are not single consistent entities. Each of us is actually a community! But we get to create the rules for this community. I find that the most important rule is that we treat each other with respect. It's OK to disagree, but be respectful about it.
This sense of a person as a community is part of a new exploration in psychology called voice dialog. Often people who practice voice dialog call themselves hypnotherapists; a lot of people think that's about going to sleep when in fact it's about waking up. Many of us have been in a trance ever since something happened, as a kid, that was too much to handle. You gave up on something, realized your parents were selfish beings, not good protectors. You couldn't trust them and you needed to trust them because you were just a little boy or girl.
Now we are adults, and are responsible for caring for ourselves. We have to look inside to find the good parent, not outside. Once this happens, you can't be lonely anymore. You have great company, all those voices can be your friends!
You can empower them selectively, as appropriate, according to circumstance. If it's safe, go for it, be a kid, have fun! If it's dangerous, let the kid rest, the adult responds. Often we look to other adults to provide safety, and later are disappointed and hurt when they let us down.
All this came up for me by sharing the experience of a divorce with a friend. I found I wanted to send him a message -- you are not alone in the world. I am your friend. Look into my eyes. I'm here.
I think that's another common theme. We're all searching the planet for proof that there are other beings. If you just open your eyes, have the courage to make eye contact, you'll see them.