The Go Ahead People
Sunday, June 23, 1996 by Dave Winer.
It's Sunday morning. What a great day! So gore-juice. Phthewwwww. Ah ha and yee-hi! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the air is cooool. I'm having a nice day!
Eric Clapton is wailing Lay Down Sally. Rest you in my arms. Don't you think you want someone to talk to? Lay down Sally. No need to leave so soon. I've been trying all night long just to talk to you! Love is all that matters. Won't you stay with me? Don't you ever leave!
It's a bouncy song. La la la. Don't sing this song sitting in coach on a crowded cross-continental plane flight. You'd rock too much. Your space would intersect with the space of another person. A stranger!
Ohhh. Plane trips. My Texas-sized body just doesn't fit into those coach seats. My shoulders cram into my neck. My arms bow. Space is invaded. Oy. I look out the window. All that space! Why so little for me? I think from now on I'm going to spring for the bucks and go first class.
I got a chance to catch up on my reading. According to Fortune, Lee Iacocca flunked retirement. A riveting story. Three marriages, two divorces. A big mansion in LA. He misses his friends, and he misses his life. He's an old man, but it isn't over yet. He struggles to find meaningful things to do, but he misses having someone to eat with and to lay down with. People have no sympathy for a man as visible and rich as Lee. He's a sad man!
I'd like to hang with Lee, I'd show him what I did when, as a much younger man, I faced the same problem he has now. It's tough being alone. But that's reality. Each of us stands as an individual. The acknowledgement we look for from others can actually only come from within. When we find love, the light is actually shining from within us. It's only an illusion that it's coming from outside.
Even so, we need friends! Not for love, but to share our love. I give to you, and you give back. The loop closes; that's how we know there are other beings. Look at I what I created! Look how wonderful it is.
We're a symbolic species. We show what's going on inside by creating things that other humans can see and appreciate. Iacocca gave us the Mustang and minivan. If you love them, Lee is happy.
But he gave us much more. He's a teacher. He taught us about strength and courage. When Chrysler was in mortal danger, he went on TV, appeared in his own ads, and told us that he was going to bring excellence back to Chrysler. You could see in his eyes that he meant it. He wasn't scared. And by teaching us to believe in him, we felt good, because he taught us to believe in ourselves. He set an example we could all learn from.
Happiness is actually that simple. It's about recognition first. And it's about sharing second. That's why a beautiful sunset is beautiful even if you're seeing it by yourself. Share with yourself first, then you're ready to share it with others.
Now Iacocca talks about his fear. No longer the invulnerable resurrector. He's found himself, and he's shocked! Believe me I know what it feels like. No more insulation, nothing to protect you from your aloneness. No wife to not give him the love he deserves. No unions to not get the big picture. Nothing interesting to say to reporters. So he hides in his big mansion, afraid to go out because of the recognition he attracts. He's got a famous face! He can't be anonymous. But that's a good thing, not bad.
My advice to Iacocca -- join the world. Use your famous face to help other people. Use the trust people place in you to make the world a better place. Share your creativity with us, and we'll thank you! Stand alone, share yourself with us, and you'll feel good again.
Hey -- that's what he's doing! You can't hide on the cover of Fortune. So I disagree with the premise of the article. He didn't fail retirement. He's very successful! He's learning the lessons, and teaching us that it's never too late. As long as you're alive there's more beauty to share and more lessons to learn.
At 12 midnight on Thursday morning I stood up in front of an audience of 300 leading Mac developers at a hotel in Detroit, Michigan; the town that Lee Iacocca misses. I told them the story of my life as a Mac developer. The short version. Just a few snippets from twelve lesson-filled and productive years. I gave them an example of a person that's centered on himself, that knows what he wants, and has the courage to ask for it.
I learned that there's a major imbalance in the Macintosh community. Many of our most creative software designers aren't centered on themselves. They're centered on Apple.
The counterbalance is there. It's always this way. If the developers who survived the repeated shaking of the Mac community look to Apple for recognition, there must be the equivalent need at Apple to *be* the source of recognition.
Like all dysfunction, it's a lie, it goes nowhere. The people who seek recognition can never get it. The people who hold out recognition as the reward can never give it. If either side let go, the cycle would break, freedom would result, and creativity would return. But that evokes everyone's fear. Hold on. The future is unknown! What ever you do, don't let go!
Imagine you're riding a roller coaster. You're strapped in. There's a security bar. Hold on as the car goes up and then down; makes impossible turns. Your heart leaps out of your chest, but then comes back in place. Hold on for your life! Death is everywhere. Your fear is evoked. Totally!
Imagine you're riding a roller coaster. As the car approaches the top of the first crest, unstrap your seatbelt. Raise the bar. Unclutch your hands. As the car picks up speed your butt raises off the seat. Your eyes bug out. Your cheeks flatten. Your body whips around, from side to side. Up, down, UP, DOWN, again and again.
On the fifth rise your butt doesn't come down. You look down and see the chain of cars, the people recede below you. You can hear your heart beat, you're aware of your breathing. You thought you were going to fall to your death, but instead you're flying and soaring like the birds with huge wingspans I wrote about last summer.
Where do you want to go?
Letting go is the only way to get free. And the truth is that we're floating in space, not tethered down. You have always been free. Security is what you look for when you're scared, but security is a total illusion. You think all you need to be truly secure is one more victory. To lose some weight, win a million dollars, get a new wife or husband, whatever, but all this is an illusion. There can be no security for human beings. Sorry!
Lee Iacocca and the Mac community are in the same place. We've been given our walking papers. If it isn't clear now that Apple can't provide us with salvation, what's it going to take? At this point, to look to Apple to sustain us is totally unrealistic.
The man at the top of Apple knows he needs a thriving developer community. But he's at odds with important parts of his organization which are struggling to find ways to again be the arbiter of success in the Mac community.
The developer community contains people who are capable of great independent development. People who have already (for the most part) let go of the need to be acknowledged by Apple. I said in my presentation at MacHack that we can be friends, and this is true. But in order to be friends, we have to be strong. We have to learn to say no to Apple, and members of the press have to learn to recognize our power in saying no. We need to say no, so that when we say yes it will mean something.
At MacHack we shared our Apple war stories.
Don Brown, the lead developer at CE Software was looking for recognition from Apple in the early nineties. He drafted a beautiful spec for the scripting interface to electronic mail software. Don's product, QuickMail, was the clear market leader when he made his proposal.
Since I was working on scripting software that worked on the other side of this interface, I was in the loop. I remember the email exchanges that went back and forth between Brown and Apple people.
They shut him down, turned him off, told him to go away. Apple was going to dominate email. Don's spec was irrelevent.
At the time, I asked Don if we could go ahead with his spec anyway, but he said no, he would bow to Apple's wish that he disappear.
Now, half a decade later, the loop has closed, and it's clear that a lot of time was wasted. Now there is a standard scripting interface for email, the one implemented by the Eudora mail client from Qualcomm. Anyone entering this market will be Eudora-compatible.
We were mistaken, the world did not revolve around Apple, not even the Mac market revolved around them. Don Brown was already floating in space, but he didn't know it at the time. Eventually Apple failed in the mail market. They never filled the vaccuum that could have been filled by CE Software on one side and UserLand Software on the other.
I argued for independence at the time, but I learned that I had to wait; it wasn't time for the Mac development community to let go. I was pretty certain that the day would come eventually. And now it has.
The old Apple would have ignored Internet Config. The standard would have gone the way of Don Brown's email scripting spec. A forgotten opportunity until it was resurrected by some developer, then Apple would kill it (if they noticed!), and on and on, round and round the Infinite Loop.
But this time the loop broke. Instead of erasing IC, Apple took the high road and embraced it. They let go of a very important way of life. Now the developers can ante up on the other side, and create new standards for Apple to embrace.
So, to Don Brown, and all other creative Mac developers: THINK BIG.
All is lost. (It was never there.) So why not have fun?
Who's there? A Mac developer. What do you want? Let's have fun!
Hey -- the Go Away People are still running the show at One Infinite Loop. Boy are they holding on. Like the gatekeeper in the land of Oz, all they want from us is for us to go away. Sorry!
Some at Apple have let go, including the top guy, Gil Amelio. Let's call them the Go Ahead People. Good fences make good friends, they say. I like that! Once the fences are up we'll be free to play. And if it gets rough so what? Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I think Arnold Schwarzanegger said that. Or maybe Don Corleone? I don't remember.
But Don Crabb, a MacWEEK columnist, says Apple should cook great meals and let developers serve the appetizers. No way Don Crabb. Apple could be a stove. A hot fast file system and net connection and a clean low-tech process manager. The user interface stays constant. No one likes a stove that moves around too much. They tend to explode. Simmer for a while, then turn up the heat, get it right, and then don't mess with it. We'll cook the meals. Tasty stuff! And filling.
Crabb's colleague, Henry Norr, says we have to accept that Apple will pick at our meals and then kick out the cook. A totally vestigial attitude. He's referring back to the system that created the disaster we're digging out of now. Henry, everything in the Mac space must be subject to competition. No more edicts. No one with the power to say Go Away. Even Apple is disclaiming that responsibility. No one is smart enough to say what the market deserves.
The system Norr calls for reminds me of Soviet communism. Planned economies with bureaucrats calling the shots. What a ridiculous prescription for the most dynamic industry of the late 20th century. We tried that approach and it didn't work. You can't hire people to do what independent developers do. All you get is wasted shareholder value, PowerBooks that explode, and dead developers.
But you can see the lightbulb turning on elsewhere at MacWEEK. The main editorial in this week's issue points to the competitive market for web content tools on the Macintosh, and repeats a claim I've made in DaveNet many times: we're leading all platforms in web content tools and technology. It seems every week there's a new wizzy HTML tool, a GIF editor, a table editor. They will eventually all work together; some already do. We have a thread that connects BBEdit and Eudora to Netscape, MSIE and WebStar, and thru Fetch and Anarchie to servers running on Unix and Windows and other Macs. We'll keep repeating the message. Market share isn't our Internet strategy. Feeding content creators the tools they need is our business, it's where the growth of our platform comes from. We'll show them how to build dynamic, full-featured web presences. How to capture their readers' interest and hold it. We have a bright future, one that Norr and other Go Away advocates don't understand.
The most effective web content comes from Mac users, and the developers are responding to the challenge. When we look back a year from now it will be clear that nirvana happened on the Mac platform. We're there, we just need a few more pipes and more important, we need to recognize each other and work with each other.
Some developers say it's time for Apple to grow up. How true. But it's also time for Mac developers to grow up.
Let's work together. We can be friends. It'll be fun. You'll see!
To trust, you have to believe that the universe is a user-friendly place. It's a choice, the difference between being a positive person and a negative one. The truth is that I don't know the true nature of the universe. So if I don't know, why not choose to believe it is a good universe? Exactly.
It's OK for people to have different opinions and values. I don't have to convince everyone that I'm right. That makes it possible for me to relax and say what I have to say. If you disagree, that's totally OK. We compete and maybe we learn from each other. Free expression. That's what makes the world go round, and that's what makes the universe such a nice place to live in. There's so much space between the planets. We can all exist and have fun.
I don't hold on to you, but I touch you if you're open to it. Like Iacocca's Mustang and minivan, I make things I like and hope to make contact with other people who like them.
It's about symbols, but our ultimate act of creativity is ourselves. No one makes us one way or another. The illusion that they do is the excuse we provide ourselves to succumb to our fears and avoid living. So Apple doesn't put me out of business, I do. No point laying blame. Just go where the fun is. That's my new formula.
It's fascinating to see Apple struggle with this. Can they trust the developer community to deliver new markets to the platform? They have no choice. What's next? No one knows. Will Microsoft reduce Netscape to irrelevence? No one knows. Will the Macintosh market grow again? No way to tell. Can we do it alone? No. We have to trust each other because we have no choice.
A clear choice.
The Go Away People versus the Go Ahead People.
I know which is the winning strategy.
If you've been paying attention you do too.
PS: I liked doing the MacHack keynote so much I scheduled another one for Sunday July 14 at the San Jose Convention Center, 7PM. DaveNet goes live, one more time! It's free, part of the Mactivity web conference. You bet we'll have fun!