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If you never listen you never learn

Saturday, November 29, 2008 by Dave Winer.

I just re-read the Rosen thread over on FriendFeed and another irony struck me. The argument is over things that I didn't say in the piece they're arguing about.  Permalink to this paragraph

The piece is about listening, and they didn't listen. ;->  Permalink to this paragraph

Listening is hard. When you respond after listening make sure you aren't responding to something that came out of your head because you're having that argument with yourself, not the other person. And they're likely to get confused, or angry. Permalink to this paragraph

You never know what you'll learn if you listen. Maybe the people who want to say something to you might just make the difference between driving off the cliff and finding a new future. Maybe it'll help you find the great idea that cracks the nut. Or maybe what they want is something you can give them, maybe it's something you'll want to give them. Some users are pretty smart, I've found. Permalink to this paragraph

Knowing how other people see you can be disturbing, but it can also be eye-opening. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named rules.gifIn 1986, I had a meeting with Guy Kawasaki when he worked at Apple. I showed him an early version of one of our products, we had thrown the kitchen sink into it, every half-baked R&D idea, cause our company was failing and this was our last chance. One idea intrigued him. He said everyone at Apple was hand-designing foils to print on Laserwriters (they were new then). He took a piece of paper and drew a box around one of our pages, and asked if we could do that. Of course we could, and we did, and we immediately sold 1K copies of the product for Apple people, but more importantly, they were so excited by it, they in turn sold many more thousands to their customers, and our company went from being in the brink of shutting down to gushing cash. All because (drum roll) we listened to a user. Ask Guy if you don't believe me, he's on TwitterPermalink to this paragraph

One more thing -- when did listening become "listening in the aggregate." If you know anything about me, you know that I don't think of users as couch potatoes, passive participants. At the same company, we designed regcards to solicit original thoughts, not just box-clicking. When a new batch of regcards came in I grabbed them and studied them for interesting comments. They told me how our new stuff was being received, what they liked and didn't like, what was missing that would make the difference for them. When I had a question, I called and asked. It's also good for business if people get that you care what they think, if you really do. They can smell it when you're being patronizing. Permalink to this paragraph

It really is long past the time for the news industry to listen to its users. We've been trying to start this conversation since the first blog post, but there's not been much listening. That may turn out to be the epitaph of the news industry, the users did care, but the industry never listened. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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