Empowerment and Trust
Saturday, March 22, 1997 by Dave Winer.
FUD versus freedom. Here we go again!
FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Given enough time, FUD will shut things down, paralyze technologists that don't work in large famous companies, and because they don't have competitive stimulation, it will even paralyze the technologists inside large companies.
The Internet isn't a platform, it's a rebellion. This epiphany is well-documented in the early issues of DaveNet. It's still true today, even though we're looping thru FUD and NIH once again. The cursor will loop around to rebelliousness again, I'm sure of it. Too many head-trips to be sustained much longer, I think.
The more I go forward and learn, the more I believe that empowerment and trust are the two key concepts in the technology business.
Things work when you trust and empower others. It doesn't work when you attempt to control your own destiny.
I think this is a basic (pointless) struggle of humanity. People try to attain exclusive power, but only gods have that kind of power. Humans who try to elevate themselves to god status are always disappointed.
The would-be god is actually a mortal. It's hubris, in my opinion, to believe that exclusive power can be attained by mortals.
If you believe that's wrong, check out the recent history of IBM. They're back on their feet now, after getting down to business and trusting and empowering others, and losing their aspiration to control the future.
IBM's biggest moment of power came when they let go of the idea that OS/2 could displace Windows. That's when they made peace with the universe, stopped imagining themselves as gods, or even heroes, and marketed what they had, not what they dreamed of.
When people act in their own self-interest, as they eventually do, they don't gravitate towards exclusive empowerment. Power gets spread around. Competition happens. The ouija board rules.
Que Sera Sera. Good ideas win, even if they aren't the best possible ideas.
When I was a teenager I did sound work for rock bands. I liked it, I'm a geek, but I dig music too. I was hanging out with the band one day, and asked the rhythm guitarist to explain what he does.
He played a few chords, demoed all the strings. When he got to the top string, the lowest frequency one, he said "I almost never touch this one." A puzzle! "Why?" I asked.
He pointed to his bass player. "That's what he does."
I look at my software friends and I see a band. Some do great design tools, something a visualist can use to design a template for each page in a website.
I see software that makes TCP connections happen. I see databases and writing tools. We agree to share a community, so our products become relevant to each other.
When we decide to implement something that someone else asks for, even if we don't understand why they need it, that's trust and empowerment. It's the leap of faith, the jump into the unknown, and freedom and fun. Technology can be a roller coaster! No one wants to ride on a whitepaper describing a roller coaster.
Like the go-it-aloners, I want to be elevated. But I bet that the only possible elevation is the lift you get from working with other smart, creative, hardworking people. There are no shortcuts.
I belong to the Church of Working Together. It's my religion. I've invested hard cash in the canons of my church. I bet that knowledge and experience and software can flow around traditional barriers, ignoring intranets and corporate structures and other firewalls.
The religion predicts a great nirvana. A router that runs on a personal computer, directing flow thru apps. A place where the wires meet. A little Internet inside your PC. It's a coool idea.
I first realized the need for this kind of software in a speech given by Bill Gates in the early 80s. The issue was integrated software as it was being promoted by Lotus's Mitch Kapor, the lead developer of 1-2-3.
Gates suggested that a suite of single-purpose apps connected with a scripting language would make more sense than Kapor's all-in-one software. I nodded my head. A decade and a half has passed, and I still agree. Emphatically! Because I have been living in that land for five years and it works.
Gates imagined a scripting system that connects Microsoft apps and Lotus imagined their own scripting system, as did WordPerfect and Borland and everyone else. They all belonged to the Church of Going it Alone.
I was thinking about a scripting system made by someone who doesn't make apps. Someone you can trust and empower. A scripting system where all apps, no matter who owns them, can share the cursor, and become toolkits to be combined in any way a net developer wants.
See the difference?
See what's possible?