A Message for the Alt-Right This Holiday Season

Dear Atl-Right,

You’re riding high on the fumes of your supposed success, so you think you’ve won the fight.

You haven’t.

I’m still still here—we’re still here. The “others” you so very much detest and scapegoat for problems which have nothing to do with us. Change is hard and uncomfortable, so you don’t like it. You think it would just be easier—better—to keep things as they were. Except, ironically, you don’t seem to realize or care that you were on the periphery then, too. You’ve just found another “other” to turn your frustrations to.

You think that because my skin is black/brown/olive/caramel/tan/not-white that you can intimidate me. You can’t.

You think that because I go to synagogue/mosque/temple/non-church to pray that you will make me doubt myself. You won’t.

You think that because I’m an immigrant I don’t belong here. I do. And anyway, that’s pretty self-righteous talk for someone who lives in a country of immigrants and their descendants.

You think that because I am gay/lesbian/bi/female/trans/feminist/queer that I should just shut my mouth. I won’t.

You think because many of us have different opinions and political ideologies that we can’t and won’t work together against you. We can and we will. We intend to.

And most of all, you think that if I am any of the things above, I won’t be supported by others in my fight to push forward. I am, and we have all made the decision that you won’t win in the end. Singular victories are hollow if they’re not followed by lasting legacy, and they ultimately brittle and turn to dust.

Look at Ozymandias:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

You are him, proclaiming victory when time is coming to swallow you up. The empire you seek to build will soon be in dust, so don’t get too comfortable on that pedestal you’ve built for yourself.

All this time you’ve thought we could be scared away, content to meagerly limp out, tail between our legs.

You’re wrong. We’re not going anywhere.

Happy holidays.


The “Others”

Continuing to Build with Product Hunt

It’s 3:00 AM here on the east coast, and I would normally draft something like this a few times over the course of a week to get it just right. I’d rewrite it over numerous cups of coffee, but tonight it’s just one glass of seltzer water until the job is done. Tonight, it’s less important that it be a perfect piece than that it goes out by dawn.

I’ve written extensively on Product Hunt over the past few months. I’ve discussed why their main sale isn’t tech products at all, but rather community. I’ve discussed how their sophomore effort could be has been arguably their greatest triumph yet. I’ve argued that the team which has assembled under the Product Hunt banner, and the community it’s built around itself, is something special that should be recognized and emulated. Ryan Hoover’s post a few hours ago convinced me of why that’s true.

The Medium article to which Hoover’s first couple of sentences refer becomes almost completely irrelevant because of the way in which he opens his own piece: he’s not aggressive, defensive, or combative. He’s much more approachable than that. His verbal acknowledgment at his (and his team members’ hurt) over the post, and subsequent chin-up response of taking all feedback with a positive hand, might very well go unnoticed as readers try to figure out and/or find the post that stirred up this whole range of emotions. It shouldn’t.

Where so many might jump to a defensive tone, or a dismissive air, Hoover sets himself, his team members, and their company head and shoulders above by opening (and then closing) the piece with a dynamic of measured grace. It’s very easy to be graceful in your writing when you’re responding to praise. It’s very, very hard to do so when you’re responding to criticism, especially when that criticism is critical for criticism’s sake, with no discernable constructive overtures.

It’s been my pleasure to have numerous, daily interactions with numerous members of the Product Hunt team, and so I’m personally not surprised at such an honest, well-written piece. For those who are really paying attention, they know that this is precisely the reason why PH has shot up in popularity and virality. This is the reason why it’s growth and positive reputation seem to be stupidly big and expanding: because the community which they’ve built inspires people like me to come to their aid at 3:00 AM without batting an eye. It’s because they’ve engendered in their users a desire to see the most positive parts of the community grow, and to help work on the parts that need a little elbow-grease.

In the music business, there’s an adage I hear a lot: for those of you who forget us on the way up, we’ll see you on the way down. It means that for those artists who forget their early fans, and their initial community when they “get big,” there’s no guarantee that those same fans/early community members will be there when the lights come on; don’t take people for granted.

In writing this post (among others), the PH team has proved why it doesn’t take anyone for granted, and why they want to build a place where no one feels taken for granted or forgotten. If nothing else, this is why they win. The tech products, the guest chats, the games, the growth metrics…all of these stem from how they’ve constructed their community. It’s the reason why their community will continue to build with them, regardless of whatever critical responses they might receive in the future. If you want to emulate something, emulate that. I know that my team members and I are. Emulate how to build a damn good community with strong ties. Everything else can come after.

Karma, Passion and Identity: A Response to Chris Sacca’s Bleeding Aqua

Chris Sacca‘s post “I Bleed Aqua.” yesterday is the must-read (or rather, reread) for me today. It’s poignant and candid, enabling it to speak on a deeper level than perhaps would be possible, had it been more reserved. It touches on business terms, but it’s really not about business at all. It’s about relationships and identity.

Sacca illustrates his relationship with the service in an intriguing way, preferring to start the post with a declaration of his passion for it, rather than examining it as a wise business investment. Though he touches on this candidly in the following paragraphs, they fade somewhat when compared to the arguably deeply personal thoughts he shares.

For him, it seems to be so much about the relationships and personal experiences it’s allowed him to have—how it’s allowed him to share milestones in his life with friends (and complete strangers), and to glean from that a certain conversation with the world. As he bluntly notes, “Twitter went from just being an investment to a huge part of my identity.”

And like with so many things, I make the music analogy in my head. If Twitter was the indie band trying to gain any sort of traction in its early days, then Sacca was the truly passionate fan who brought people to their shows and proudly wore their T-shirts. He was (and is) the fan who identified something so magnetic that by his own words, they became a part of him—a part of his identity.

For anyone who missed Sacca’s Periscope talk with Peter Pham on Wednesday, a huge topic that they covered (well, huge in my opinion) was the concept of good karma and relationship building. When discussing the process by which he builds and cultivates his relationships (personal as well as professional), Pham stated that one should do things for others without asking for anything upfront: “create value before asking for value.” Pham and Sacca seemed to agree that the dynamic of good karma was something they both subscribed to. Pham went on to discuss how it’s through this dynamic of good faith and positive relationships that he’s built his (former and current) companies.

Sacca’s subsequent post on how he thinks about his relationship with Twitter is telling of this sort of relationship dynamic. In many ways, it illustrates the notion that I discussed in my post on being excellent; letting your passion inform your professional decisions as much as good business strategy. As I examined with Product Hunt, letting concepts of community and positive relationships inform one’s business tactics is a winning strategy. Even as he discusses the concept of being critical of some of Twitter’s moves towards the end of the post, he does so in a way that reaffirms his love of the service, and excitement at what it is and can be.

Perhaps the strongest sentence is also the simplest. Just three words: “I bleed aqua.” That’s how Sacca caps his post—a blunt, positive statement. And that’s exactly how the post as a whole comes off: blunt, positive, reaffirmed, excited.

Musings on Community

My earlier post this week on Product Hunt’s community seems to have struck a nerve—in a good way. It’s underscored in my mind the notion of community, and what that can really mean on a macro level. As such, I’ve begun to seriously question what things can be gleaned from communal dynamics, and how one can learn from these dynamics to look at society and “read between the lines,” so to speak.

Inasmuch as I would like to make the bold statement that I’ve examined concepts of community and “figured it all out,” the more tenable reality is that community as a concept is far more difficult to understand that to simply experience. Experiencing community is easy because it’s something that we learn to do naturally from day one. We are (mostly) comfortable with the intricacies that flow between communal conversations and relationships, even as we struggle to understand their deeper meanings.

Certainly no bold statement or thesis can be made at this stage, but perhaps one will appropriately materialize in the future. Only through these examinations, though, can one truly begin to understand and fully appreciate how communities work on their simplest levels.