May 23, 2008
Lately I have been thinking a lot about leadership and this quote keeps coming to mind.
“Great thinkers have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” – Albert Einstein
Ever wondered why that’s the case?
I think It’s because genuinely new ideas usually disrupt old ideas – therefore new ideas appear at odds with an old way of thinking. When something is at odds with the way you think, your brain interprets it as ‘wrong’. So therefore often what you percieve as ‘wrong’ is just something outside your experience.
Interestingly, though, I have found that many new ideas can actually be modeled on old patterns. Patterns that have been tried and proven.
For example in my recent discussions about distributed Twitter on the Gillmor Gang and Techcrunch posts, or with the DataPortability project I run, I am basically modeling my thoughts on Blogging (independant software, RSS as glue with aggregators doing most of the work) and the work done on WiFi/DVD (multiple standards combined together under a friendly brand).
Patterns are my thing.
This is a great video made by Pascale Diaine from Orange Labs featuring a set of interviews with young entrepreneurs – including me!
May 23, 2008
May 18, 2008
I’ve heard a lot lately from executives at the highest levels at vendors that do not run large social networks. They might be more traditional media companies, telecommunication companies, device manufactures etc.
There are a few common and resounding themes from those conversations so I thought I would share them here:
- The issue of data portability has only recently crossed their radar and it’s something they are very keen in getting involved with. They have heard about it either from the a-tier blogs or mainstream publications like the Washington Post or Wall Street Journal.
- They had heard of OpenID, Microformats or the Semantic Web but never quite understood what the business or user experience imperative was. They have each asked me to pass on my thanks to the DataPortability project for coining a phrase and an organization that has helped to shape the core set of technologies into a cohesive story.
- They have also expressed a concern that big social networking vendors can not, and should not be able to run the table on what is (and must continue to become) essentially a user-centric solution.
- They tend to look to the DataPortability project as a sort of independent lobby group that can bring disparate industry players together to create a grass-roots, standards based solution.
- They have asked how they can help.
I explain to them how the group works, how the standards groups before us have created many of the technologies and how we are proud to lobby on behalf of our community to shape and promote data portability best practices. And then I point them to the ‘Get Involved‘ wiki page.
This is, of course, very gratifying feedback and I look forward to having more conversations with similar organizations in the coming weeks.
May 17, 2008
On the latest Gillmor Gang we debated the evolving Data Portability landscape.
Let me try to summarize the positions:
Marc Canter: At least the big social networks are doing something – and Facebook seems to give the user most privacy control.
Robert Scoble: When I give you my email address (or friend you) I have to assume that you are going to do whatever you want with it – including import it into other apps.
Michael Arrington: Facebook is behaving like old Microsoft and Marc Canter and DataPortability should demand better.
Me: Users need an additional check box when friending each other – ‘You may move my data to other applications’. The big vendors are trying to keep control for as long as possible – that’s to be expected. Startups, second tier social networks, non ‘social networking’ sites will ultimately implement first, and the big vendors will compete themselves towards open.
Over on Techcrunch Arrington claims:
“DataPortability founder Chris Saad was also on the call, but failed to take a leadership position in the debate (he did, however, weigh in with a blog post on the subject before the call). Their influence may be waning.”
Mike, don’t confuse and conflate a thoughtful position and long-term view as ‘not taking a stand’.
May 13, 2008
I was told recently that a big part of leadership is listening. That’s true of course.
I actually think a bigger part of leadership, however, means learning how to say no. No to distractions, no to the nay sayers and no to feature creep.
Being able to say no is a very empowering and important leadership quality I have only just begun to learn. It is a super hard skill to master. Particularly saying no to the right things in the right way. Saying yes is far easier.
The problem with saying yes to feature creep is that you end up a big blob trying to do everything while actually achieving nothing.
The problem with saying yes to any and all criticism and changing your behavior is that you often end up being put into a corner by other people’s expectations. You end up trying to please everyone and you actually achieve nothing. You never break through expectations, passive and active resistance and the ‘old way of doing things’. It’s said if you have a genuinely good or original idea you will often have to drag people kicking and screaming to your way of thinking before they will get it. You can’t do that if you give way to any and all criticism.
Like with all things a balance needs to be struck. Each of us, as leaders of something in our lives, need to be clear about our end goals; our vision. We need to continue to execute on our daily tasks with true north in our sights.
Balance is particularly important in today’s political climate. There is far too much extremism going on from all sides of the political spectrum. For example ‘staying the course’ is not a call for balance, it’s a call for stubbornness.
The course may (and must), of course, involve all sorts of corrections to account for criticism, new scope and other changes ‘on the ground’, but being able to say no to major deviations when you still believe in the final destination is a mark of true leadership.