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Hire execs who love the product

Thursday, September 03, 2009 by Dave Winer.

I've been in and around the tech industry since 1976, which makes me a 33-year veteran. The industry loops every 5 to 10 years so I've seen something like five or six iterations. There are some mistakes they make over and over. Wish I could tap them on the shoulder and say Don't Do It but it wouldn't make a diff. Every crop of entrepreneurs thinks it's different. They never are, but they have to learn that for themselves. Permalink to this paragraph

One thing they do over and over is hire execs who don't love the product.  Permalink to this paragraph

It's as if the guy who ran professional football didn't like football. Or if Valentino Rossi didn't love MotoGP. Or the CEO of a vintner didn't like wine. Or if Alice Waters who runs Chez Panisse and is Berkeley's most famous entrepreneur didn't have a passion for great food. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named rossihelmet.jpgYet Twitter just hired a COO who has one of the most out-of-whack follows-to-follower ratios out there. He follows 40 and is followed by 650,263. This is probably why his RSS company, Feedburner, made it to be acquired by Google and then crashed. It wasn't built on a foundation of love for RSS (I can attest to that) and while the people of Twitter use it and they have very passionate users, the execs at Twitter, at best, dabble. And now we know they hire dabblers. (An instance of A people hiring A people and B people hiring C people?) Permalink to this paragraph

When your ratio of follows to followers is 0.00006151 it's inevitable that you see Twitter as a stage like the one Barack Obama stood on in Berlin or in Denver. "I'm up here," he must think, and "they're out there." His ability to understand how people see his product is limited because his view is of users as little dots, and he and his 40 insider friends loom large.  Permalink to this paragraph

I've sat in board meetings listening to other board members explain our users, having never met one, having never used the product. Needless to say their advice is pretty general and usually wasn't very useful. Permalink to this paragraph

I've had it explained to me that cancer doctors don't have to get cancer to be good doctors, and of course I agree. But using a product like Twitter is supposed to be a joy. It's supposed to be an expansive thing, not a life-threatening one. And I'd add, every company that viewed its own products with fear fails. If you make a product that is not a disease and you treat it like one, people will find some other place to congregate. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, 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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