The baby squirrels grow up

Posted by Dave Winer, 3/23/04 at 3:24:11 PM.

There's nothing surprising about the atmosphere around Six Apart these days. Every tool company goes through this transition. UserLand went through it in 1998 when we took Frontier commercial after a period of four years when it was free. We had to, there was no choice other than shutting down the company. Blogger went through it when they started having reliability problems due to growth at the same time their staff dwindled because of financial problems. Now Six Apart has two groups of users that are very different, and it's forcing a transition.

Basically Six Apart has been at a fork for some time, on one fork are the paying customers, and the other fork is the "community" that has carried them along. I recognize some of them as early UserLand people, and I recognize the attitude as that of software believers. These are good people, they report bugs diligently, cheer you when you add a new feature or fix a problem. They are the salt of the earth. You need to have people like this around to make good software.

But you also need the people who pay the bills, and eventually their needs conflict, and you have to a make choice, and if you're running a business, as Six Apart is, you have to go with paying the bills. That leaves a bunch of people behind, and they are angry (justifiably) as they decide whether to stay or go. Either way is painful. They yearn for the old days. And they've gotten used to the tool, and all its problems, and switching software is painful. But you can't get back to the old days, no matter how much you want to.

It would be better if the users could factor this into their thinking and not hate so much and also not love so much. Software is not a miracle, it's a lot of hard work, and it's expensive hard work. And the funny thing is that as the anger escalates, the work gets harder, and you end up in a spiral.

The Cluetrain says we should be more open and communicate. I've bought into that. So have the Trotts and their investors. If they have to walk on eggshells in order to communicate, they're going to do less of it. So try to give them the benefit of the doubt, and try to work with them. I will too, overlooking how they've treated me in the past, because it's good for the community for us all to work together.

Dave Winer

PS: Shelley Powers calls the Trotts the "baby squirrels" -- a cute nickname because until recently they have been above criticism.

Discuss this message.