There was an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about the metamorphosis of the word fail from verb to interjection. I know, I know, most of the computer-y world has been using the word in this way for quite some time (need some examples? go check out FailBlog). It’s old news.
But when the New York Times picks up on the meme, it means we have entered a different stage of acceptance altogether. It might be time to start paying attention before things get out of hand.
Anil Dash wrote an interesting post called The End of Fail a few months ago where he articulated some of the reasons why FAIL is such an ummm… FAIL for collaborative cultures.
Fail is over. Fail is dead. Because it marks a lack of human empathy, and signifies an absence of intellectual curiosity, it is an unacceptable response to creative efforts in our culture. “Fail!” is the cry of someone who doesn’t create, doesn’t ship, doesn’t launch, who doesn’t make things. And because these people don’t make things, they don’t understand the context of those who do. They can’t understand that nobody is more self-critical or more aware of the shortcomings of a creation than the person or people who made it.
When attempting to build a collaborative culture where innovation flourishes, the biggest enemy, as Tom Kelly has pointed out, is the Devil’s Advocate. I almost feel like the person who shouts FAIL is a worse member of the same species. At least the Devil’s Advocate brings some opposing ideas to the table. The FAILman delivers only judgment.
A long time ago, a smart North Carolina native mentioned to me that the official NC state motto was the Latin phrase “esse quam videri,” which translates as “to be rather than to seem to be.” Yeah, I didn’t know states had mottoes either. Turns out a lot of them do.
I was struck by this phrase. As Red Hat has grown from North Carolina roots into an international company with offices around the world, we’ve adopted this one little piece of North Carolina-ness as an unofficial litmus test for the Red Hat brand voice as well.
Esse quam videri first appeared in the Cicero essay On Friendship, but a similar concept can actually be traced back to the Greek playwright Aeschylus. His line, which later appeared in Plato’s The Republic, was “His resolve is not to seem the best but in fact to be the best.” You can find more on the history of the phrase here.
Esse quam videri inspires authenticity. When Red Hat is communicating at our best, we use esse quam videri as the muse of simple, honest talk; conversation that doesn’t hide behind the foreign languages of marketing, law, or business.
Sometimes it inspires us to not communicate at all, to simply do instead. When we are not communicating well, we are not listening to our muse.
Finished some cleanup work on the site tonight, adding new pages compiling all of the brand positioning tips in one place. Also added a page called books where I combined all of my lists of books and book reviews/commentary in one place. Hope this makes things a bit easier to find from the homepage!
I just finished reading the new book Free by Chris Anderson, which I read on my sweet new Kindle for the low, low price of… you guessed it… free (the Kindle edition was free for the first month, but you missed it, $9.95 now).
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Chris Anderson has been with Wired Magazine since 2001, and is currently the Wired Editor in Chief (a fact that I copied directly from Wikipedia, something he has also been accused of doing).
I’d consider Chris a member of the pantheon of Folks Who Can Decently Explain What the Heck Is Happening On This Planet Right Now, alongside Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Michael Pollan, among others.
However, I have only recently forgiven Chris for his long tail concept that unleashed hordes of marketing droids blathering on for hours about the long tail of this and the long tail of that a few years back. I’m not saying he wasn’t right, it was a great book. But, dude, you have no idea what you put us through. Torture.
Here is my attempt to paraphrase the 300 pages of Free in two sentences:
The price of digital content is moving quickly toward free. So stop bitching about it and figure out a business model that allows you to make a decent living anyway.
It’s a brilliant book. And I’m not just saying that because I work for a company that figured out a way to build a profitable business model that plays well with free. As I was reading, I kept thinking how eloquently Chris was stating complex concepts that I’ve been living with at Red Hat for years, but had never been able to articulate (he even mentions us in the book three times, score!).
I also kept thinking what another great truthteller named Bob Dylan once said: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the way the wind blows.”
Or maybe you do. Turns out there are a lot of people out there who passionately disagree with Chris Anderson about the conclusions he draws in this book that I found rather obvious.
Last week, I wrote a post about our newest version of the Red Hat brand story, which starts with two simple lines:
Your mother was right. It’s better to share.
Over the weekend, I stumbled across an interesting piece originally written for the Washington Post, entitled Recession Lesson: Share and Swap Replaces Grab and Buy.
According to the article, sharing is in again. Which is happy news for us open source folks. Here’s how the article starts:
The recession is reminding Americans of a lesson they first learned in childhood: Share and share alike. They are sharing or swapping tools and books, cars and handbags, time and talent.
The article goes on to cover examples of sharing in everyday life brought on by recessionary times: sharing gardens, sharing chores, sharing clothes– just like the old days, perhaps?
The sharing mind-set is not new to the American culture, but many Americans abandoned it when the nation shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial one, said Rosemary Hornak, a psychology professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. They moved farther from their families and did not have time to connect with new neighbors because they worked so much, she said. Now that people are experiencing financial distress, they don’t want to be alone.
So give your mom credit. She not only predicted where the future of the software industry is headed, but also gave you some great ideas for surviving this tough economy.
Well played, mom. Well played.