The Mind of Dave Winer

Dave Winer has a bad reputation. He’s got a reputation for challenging anyone who disagrees with him. He’s got a reputation for blocking people by default on Twitter.

Yeah. It’s the rule, not the exception.

See, blocking on Twitter is an acceptable action. I’ve blocked people that are so troll-like, I can’t deal with them. These are people who have indicated in the context of their tweets that Christianity is responsible for pedophilia, nearly all murder and bloodshed in the world, etc. While I won’t argue that Christianity has historically included bloodshed and murder in the name of Jesus and that there are sad cases of unacceptable sexual actions in the name of Jesus, that does not qualify for an ongoing, destructive attack on a religion that has done much good, has a significant number of followers, etc. Blocked.

I also have blocked people who belligerently disparage people unprovoked. But very few, and only after a long period of time where my tolerance level have been diminished.

Blocking is an acceptable action in some cases. Most people looking to filter noise simply don’t follow people in return and if it turns out that a person is creating too much noise, unfollowing is the socially acceptable thing to do. Blocking is an ultimate action that is usually only taken when there are no other options. See, Twitter is all about opt-in. I opt to see your updates and vica versa. It’s a “pull” technology, not a “push” technology. I cannot control who hears my messages, but with a block I can control who doesn’t.

Dave has opted to take the ultimate action on gads of people, and while that is within his right to do (the action is not necessarily in question), the perception is a different story. The perception is that he is silencing those who disagree with him. Like Stalin did. Like Mao Zedong did. Like Fidel Castro did. Like the government of Myanamar is currently doing.

Dave’s inability to tolerate those in opposition to him flies in the face of his political fantasies of inclusion for everyone. Here’s a tweet where, in broad strokes, he paints the Republican party as racists. Another one where he quantifies the use of “average white person” as meaning “racist” – more broad strokes from a guy who demonstrates his own inability to get along with people.

Here’s what Dave needs to understand. While he is, without prejudice, responsible for many of the technologies we use today – RSS and blogs – he is past his time, out of touch with reality, and quite possibly a lunatic. His inability to behave in socially acceptable ways pushes him to the fringe of, not only the social and new media space, but civilized society as a whole. His knack for building technologies that someone else has created and calling them his own innovations – whether explicitly or implicitly) his getting tiresome. See Dave’s Twitter uptime monitor of May 23, 2008 vs. Pingdom’s report from Dec 19, 2007. Also see Dave’s decentralizing Twitter “idea” from May 4, 2008 is something I talked about on Twitter quite a bit months before he came up with his groundbreaking idea.

So Dave, instead of building silly apps that do nothing particularly fancy and using Comcast bandwidth, why don’t you go re-inherit your seat at the table and write a whitepaper/spec for decentralized Twitter. Think of it as a protocol, much like email, and go from there. It should include SMS gateways, APIs for handing messages around. And for a business plan, make the open APIs accessible via a pay model. You might be on to something then and it will allow you to be productive as opposed to squashing dissent and blocking people for no apparent reason.

Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

Note: This is not a political post, nor is it a political endorsement.

Wednesday morning. Just about twenty-four hours have passed since Barack Obama addressed the nation on the issue of race and his relationship to firebrand pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you’re American, you’ve probably heard the speech by now, or at least heard excerpts. Even if you’re not American, given the high profile nature of this political campaign, you’re probably more than aware of the circumstances surrounding the Wright-Obama relationship.

In summary, Wright is the spiritual mentor and long time pastor for Obama, and has been the catalyst for tremendous questions surrounding Obama’s ability to be a uniter, and the life principles that drive his decisions. As the spiritual advisor to Obama, multitudes of sermons denouncing the United States and white people has created significant controversy and question about Obama’s ability to be qualified for Presidential office.

Watching the reactions of pundits, bloggers and listening to radio call ins, it’s apparent that the field is split as to whether Obama knocked the speech out of the park and put aside the concerns of critics, or if he didn’t do enough and that “true bigoted colors” shown through.

Regardless about how you feel about his success, I personally feel like he painted a beautiful picture of how to manage brand. Listening to critics, it’s apparent to me that those who didn’t think he did enough feel that way because they want politicians to play a political game. Obama has to say just the right thing. He has to do just the right thing. And if he doesn’t, he’s not fit to be President.

I’m of the mindset that politics is not what we need in politics. As I’ve said many times before, brand is about authenticity and trust. Relationship is built on authenticity and trust. I’d have more distrust of Obama if he came out and threw his spiritual advisor under the bus, because his spiritual advisor is part of who he is! Whether he threw Wright under the bus in public or not, Wright would still be a significant part of who Obama is! And that cannot be denied or covered by politics. Faking it will always cause distrust.

A difficult part of blogging, particularly professional and corporate blogging, is the balance between what makes sense in terms of transparency and what could ultimately be detrimental to your company or personal brand. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that the flow of real time conversation allows people to put themselves on display. We see folks for who they are, if you’re like me (and I’m guessing most of you are), we like people and trust them more for it. That’s brand. It’s trust. It’s relationship.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much the Obama speech helped or hurt him in the polls. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know if that makes him electable or not. Time will tell. The transparency of a man who is under fire regarding a very sensitive socio-relational issue in America, makes him more electable, in my opinion, than any politically charged and correct speech he might have otherwise made yesterday.

Again, this is not a political endorsement, but it plays well to the things we deal with daily.

The Value of Personal Brand to a Business

So you just graduated from communications school. You have your business degree in public relations, or you might be a marketing major, etc. You hit the ground running with an offer from several companies looking for “young, eager professionals with a communications degree” to “engage customers with social media tools”.

Let’s cut to the chase. They want to hire a social media evangelist or a social media PR goon.

You start your job and begin to hit all the usual spots. You setup Facebook groups and fan clubs. You get a Twitter account going. You start adding bunches of people to your LinkedIn network. You make sure the company has a blog. You do all the standard things to get going.

Then something surprising happens. Nothing. Yeah, that’s right. Nothing. You end up following 1500 Twitter people and 30 of them follow you in return. This causes other people to look at friend/follower ratios and determine that you’re not “worth it” to follow.

Been there?

Your Facebook groups never get traction and the invitation to join them are ignored by people who get 30 or more invitations to something or other on Facebook and only have enough time to click “Ignore” on all of them.

Starting to sound familiar?

Your LinkedIn profile gets 300 connections – friends of friends, generally. When it comes down to hiring that marketing analyst, no one responds to your questions soliciting leads.

I know I’m talking to someone.

So what am I getting at? Networking and Personal Brand are the most important thing you can bring to a company. It’s more important than that communications degree. It’s more important than your years of experience, if that is the case. It’s more important than the company you work for.

Picture this. You’re at SXSW and you have not taken the time to cultivate your personal brand, it doesn’t matter if you are a CTO, CEO or a marketing intern – no one is coming up to you and talking to you. However, if you’ve taken the time to be a “known entity” – you blog and get a critical mass of readers, you are present and visible in the social media community or otherwise – your position, title, rank, and degree becomes irrelevant. You have a magnetism that attracts people to you. Magically.

Now, you are an asset to your company. You have people wanting to know about what your company is about? What do you do? Why do you do it? Can I get some advice?

On the flip side, companies have to understand this and not feel threatened. I’ve talked about my friend Shashi before and he is a great example of someone who has a tremendous personal brand that benefits his employer, Network Solutions. They had to give him the space to have a brand outside of his company, but the moment he became their Social Media Swami, they began seeing benefits – some more tangible than others.