Respect

A picture named newAccordionGuyBig.gifI started this thread called Scripting News back in the mid-90s with the theme of Respect. It wasn’t the only topic, but it was at the core of everything. I had just been through a collapse of an industry because it didn’t do enough listening. I wanted to share what I had learned in the hope that we wouldn’t have to repeat the lessons again. Back then I tried to say what respect means to me. And I wanted to learn to practice it.

To me, respect means listening to what someone is really saying. It’s hard to do. It requires you to quiet your mind, and accept that the world looks different from every point of view. You can do exercises in listening. Sit across from someone, they talk, you don’t lean in, or tune out. No hugs, nods or head-shakes. No interruptions. Hear them out. Completely.

I find that when I get stuck it’s because I don’t listen.

There are lots of corollaries that fall out from this view. People don’t listen to people who work at BigCo’s any more than they listen to independent developers. People who have the guts to make their own software and put their name on it. This is a mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make. I’ve seen them do it over and over. A random guy at a big company has no more sway than you do. But you do what they tell you to do in the hope that their company will help you be successful. It does happen sometimes, but not very often. Only in special times.

Another one is that you can do much better at listening to others if you learn to listen to yourself. At all levels. First the gripes, then underneath that, what are you really trying to accomplish. What do you want to do with your time. Who do you want to co-create with, and on what terms?

That’s why long trips by yourself are good for respect.

In software what I respect more than anything is this.

I respect people who ship software that’s open to competition, and then write specs to show people how to compete with them.

It’s just like the web. People come back to places that send them away.

The last decade has been one of people not pointing outward with their code. Or even worse, pointing out and then when people build on it, pulling the rug out from under them. From this must come a better appreciation for trust. Don’t be blind with it. Don’t give your trust without thinking it through, without really listening.

We’re back in the mid-90s again. Will we do any better this time? I hope! :-)

I spoke at a conference in Madison last week about venture capital, among other topics. The panel that was up before I spoke were talking about how to get VCs to love you and respect you and treat you well (by giving you money to begin with of course).

I thought most of it was bullshit, and said so (in a nicer way of course). People treat you well when you have power. Otherwise, don’t count on it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s mostly true. When you have power, you can decide to change the rules. But my guess is that people won’t like you or respect you for doing it. That’s why the people who show people how to compete with them are so incredibly gutsy and special. It probably won’t profit them immediately or directly. It might lead to their downfall. But it will make the world greater. And if that’s what you’re into, then I want to work with you, because I’m into it too.

These are not easy ideas to understand. I know that. :-)

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About Dave Winer

Dave 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.
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