June 28th, 2007

Bruce, Caroline

If You Can't Stand the Heat

In this entry I will deliberately refrain from naming names, either of
products, companies, or people, as I think to mention names would be
counterproductive. However, since everything I'm going to mention here
took place in public forums and blogs, I feel I have a right to comment
on it.

I've learned a lot about human nature this past month from a set of
circumstances that have played themselves out on some of the
blindness-related mailing lists as of late. A certain person, I get the
impression, really wants to make a name for himself in the so-called
blindness community, to grease palms, to know people, to be one of those
household names ... When you think blindness and technology, you think
of this person, that sort of thing. I can understand this, there was a
time when I wantdd that for myself too. That's changed, for me: now I
want to be involved behind the scenes, to be a ground-breaker, though
not necessarily a well-known one.

Anyway, this guy got wind in advance of a new product that was coming
out. He saw this as the way of the future, so jumped on the bandwagon in
a huge way. He did his best to hype the product before it came out:
something huge, revolutionary, groundbreaking, monumental will be
announced in a week, he said. This ruffled a few feathers. First, people
don't like being told that something huge will be announced in a week,
but I'm not going to tell you what it is, nanner-nanner-nanner. Second,
it's been the experience of too many of us that events introduced with
such fanfare rarely live up to expectations. So this guy took small
amounts of flack about this. But he flew off the handle, repeatedly
calling those of us who questioned the situation closed-minded.

I found out about the product some five hours before the big
announcement. While it was a nice idea, it wasn't, in my opinion, the
earth-shattering, mind-boggling product the hype had suggested it would
be. No big surprise on my part. I saw, and see, several potential
problems with this technology and its intended purpose. I pointed thse
out, as did a few others of us. The person who had "leaked" the story in
the first place (stealth marketing), was really upset by this, reverting
back many times to calling us closed-minded. It was clear that he wanted
desperately to be in with the developer of the project. If I had been
the developer of the product, I would have been embarrassed, frankly, by
this gentleman's conduct. He reminded me of a nine-year-old who has
befriended the twelve-year-old down the street and is trying to play up
this friendship for all its worth.

Part of what this person was doing was a rather negative campaign
against one of this new product's competitors. One of the highers-up in
that competing company called him to talk to him about his concerns, and
he immediately reported all of the proceedings to the public lists.
Again, it seems to me he's trying to become the go-to person in the
blindness and technology field. This divulging of private conversations,
not surprisingly, led to irritation on the part of the higher-up from
the competing company.

What have I learned from all this? There are right ways and wrong ways
to move up in the world. Greasing palms is important, but you don't do
it by being a puppy dog. You do it by building real, genuine, lasting
friendships, friendships based not only on business and upward motion,
but on living, breathing, feeling human beings. You follow channels. You
want to be a reporter to the blind? Report on that which should be
reported, not on every single tidbit that reaches you, because if you
can't sit on things said in confidence, you won't get the trust you're
looking for. And most importantly, you shouldn't be on the front lines
if you don't have a thick skin for that sort of thing. If you want to
disturb the crap, don't start crying because of the smell.