Do We Matter?

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Hopefully, you’ve read the article mentioned on the front page already.

We’ve uttered similiar sentiments in the past.

The only thing worse than to be impotent is to not realize it.

The reality is all these high-performance websites and infrastructure that has been built up over the past few years is a niche market. Period. Do we have some power or influence over those niche areas? Probably.

However, when we go outside the niche to mass consumption items such as OSs or CPUs, we have little influence on overall trends.

OSs? For all the words uttered against it, not only MS should be out of existence, but Redmond should be radioactive rubble. UNIX folks have muttering for twenty years about overthrowing the Evil Empire. Is that day any closer now
than it was twenty years ago?

Let’s take AMD. If there’s been anything that’s approached consensus in this niche environment; it’s been that AMD processors have taken a lead over Intel processors lately.

During the K6-2 era, AMD’s market share in the x86 market was running around 18-20%, running somewhere in the mid-forties in the much smaller U.S. retail market. What is it now overall? 22%. U.S. retail market? 50%. Whoop-de-doo. So much for power and influence.

And of those small increases, most of that was probably caused by Joe SixPack seeing he could get more Mhz from AMD for less money than Intel.

What’s left? Not much.

So where’s the beef?

Scattered Chaff

Small groups can be powerful and influential beyond their numbers. To do that, however, they have to be well-organized and disciplined.

That’s the furthest thing in the world from reality in this realm, on any level.

We had something called Napster. Quite a few of you thought that was pretty important in your life. How many of you ever did anything about it?

Some months ago, I recall Napster trying to organize a rally in Washington on its behalf. A PR exercise, of course, but such things can carry a lot of weight sometimes.

How many of the millions of downloaders showed up? I think around fifty.

Granted, it would have been an uphill struggle for Napster to get some kind of legislative action to save its hide, but that rousing turnout sealed its doom.

Apathy breeds contempt. If you can’t rouse yourself to do anything except whine and moan impotently, why should anybody else do anything for you?

The only thing this group isn’t apathetic about is telling each other how important and influential they are. If you’re sitting in Redmond with a real army and real money behind it, how could you not consider this “group” a joke?

Every Man A King

You might say, with some reason, that leadership should come from above. Presumably, that would mean the websites.

Well, currently, that’s a laughable thought. Right now, we have hundreds, thousands of little castles, with just about every guy running the castle thinking he’s king.

Try organizing that. Try organizing that when the guiding principle of most of those places, especially the bigger ones, is to play it safe and not make waves.

A while back, we tried charging up that hill on an item or two. Do you know what we got? Maybe about a hundred members of the audience managed to stir themselves enough to write a letter.

More importantly, we got virtually no coverage or even mention from the other websites. Not that we expected them to fall in behind us like loyal foot-soldiers and accept our commands, but they didn’t even bring up the subject on their own. Instead, they got very quiet.

If You Really Wanted To Be Important

If this group really wanted to have some say, it would organize. Let’s use the United States as an example.

In the U.S., the way you’d go about it would be to have a formal organization with (fairly stiff) dues and a strong, well-paid, lobbying group in Washington, complete with a PAC organization, that could go toe-to-toe with
an Intel, an AMD or a Microsoft in congressional hearings.

That’s how you get heard and protect your interests in America.

But expecting, say, a half-million to a million computer hobbyists to pay dues of $25 or $50 a year to support such an organization is so ludicrous that I can hardly even write the words with a straight face.

Delusions of Grandeur

That’s the price this group would have to pay for walking the walk: the price this group would have to pay for a chance to be important. If your response is “forget it,” then forget being important. Anything less is just all just empty, impotent talk.

Mind you, you can say, “This just isn’t very important to me; it’s just a cute little hobby” and that’s a perfectly valid answer. Scrabble players don’t have a Washington lobbying group or SCRABPAC, either.

But Scrabble players don’t tell each other they have global power and influence, and this group does.

The problem is thinking yourself part of a powerful, influential group when everyone outside of that group thinks you’re a geek joke at best, or are completely unaware of your existence.

“I Have To Be Important Because . . . I’m Me”

Why?

Isn’t it futile to think yourself important if no one outside of your little group agrees? If all your little group does is tell each other how important he or she is, isn’t that just a mental circle jerk?

This Is Depressing!!

Doesn’t depress me at all. More importantly, it wouldn’t matter at all even if it did.

I cannot go down to Washington, walk into the White House, get saluted by the guards, meet the Cabinet, and have them all say to me, “What would you like to do today?”

Unless I’m Al Gore, should I get depressed about that? Of course not, I never did anything to earn that sort of treatment.

Let’s assume Al Gore wakes up one morning, thinks, “By God, I should be President after all” and tries the same routine. Think he’s going to get much further than me? Even considering he has far more reason to be depressed?

Ultimately, your opinion on how powerful you are or should be all by itself doesn’t count at all. It’s what other people think that matters. Sure, you can make yourself powerful by doing things like win Presidential elections, but just thinking you are or should be important is a self-delusion.

Power is the ability to make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Unless you can do that, you don’t have power.

It’s the same situation here. Until a whole lot of you are willing to walk the walk, you haven’t earned power and influence, and thinking you’re somehow entitled to it doesn’t make it so.

If you want to be legends in your own time, you have to first stop being legends in your own minds.

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