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Thread started by Dave Winer on Thursday, June 27, 2013.

The basics of reality distortion

A picture named jobs.gifI once got a call from Steve Jobs, really -- out of the blue -- the phone rings, and the voice on the other end says "Hi this is Steve Jobs." I didn't dream it, it actually happened. I just listened as he ranted about how idiotic the people at Apple were. This was just after he took over, he was cleaning house. I never figured out why he called me, I didn't ask (it would be impolite) and besides, I was too star-struck to think to ask.

It happened again, almost ten years later, outside a restaurant in San Francisco. I was with Scoble and Dean Hachamovitch. Scoble worked at Microsoft then, and Dean was in charge of Microsoft's browser. Jobs was ranting, again he was the only one talking, saying how Microsoft was going to steal all the good ideas in Safari, he just knew it, and he didn't mind, because he's an artist and they're something else that's not an artist. I thought it was funny because the ideas he was so proud of were themselves stolen, and memorable because I got to watch the reality distortion of Steve Jobs up close and personal. Once again, uncharacteristically, I didn't say a word.

It must have been tough being a programmer working for Steve Jobs. He projected a distorted reality, but programmers have to exist in plain old reality. You can't lie to a compiler. Or you can, but the code won't work until you take the lies out. Garbage in, garbage out. Programs internally are rigid and inflexible and are not subject to Jobsian persuasiveness.

Anyway, there are two sides to reality distortion -- on one side is the purveyor and on the other are the people who are effected it. There are many RDF's out there, not just the one around Apple and its products. Android has a reality distortion field. At one point open source software had one, but it's not so strong anymore. Same with Windows and MS-DOS. Old school journalism is a total RDF, where the belief is that reporting has to be done the way it was in the 20th century or else everything will crumble. People like David Simon and Lowell Bergman are major purveyors of this style of RDF.

Having been a developer for many years, and having spent quite a few of them around Apple, I've had to deal with RDFs almost constantly. Only the other day did I realize something very important about them, that I wanted to share.

1. The people in distorted reality believe it. They don't know they're in a RDF.

2. When you you say something that conflicts with their RDF they feel threatened.

3. You can calm them down by saying very clearly, that your desire for something other than what they think is the only true way will not in any way effect their ability to continue to exist in their version of reality.

I learned this because people who believe in mailbox-style RSS readers are in a RDF. If I say "I like a river style of news" they almost explode in passion and sometimes rage. They tell you what they need. At length, in great detail. I never understood why they do this. But I have found the solution. Just say "Hey I can have a river and you can have a mailbox and the earth will still revolve around the sun, birds will sing in the morning, people will fall in love and have babies, etc etc." My getting what I want won't effect you getting what you want. That does seem to settle it, in most cases.

One more thing. When Jobs died the power source for Apple's RDF went with him. The last keynote, which was broadcast so I got to watch it, was a constant reminder of that Steve is gone.

The demo of the car-racing kids from Carnegie-Mellon at the beginning was the first clue. Yes, some of the execs have been taking Steve lessons. But none of them have the chutzpah, the self-confidence, the swagger, the ability to induce a drug-like euphoria. Having never experienced that myself (I never liked the Steve way of selling, I thought it was smarmy, I mostly wanted to slap him for being such a dork) I can only theorize.

Even so, I used to love buying new Apple stuff. I so totally wanted to buy something after watching the keynote. I even tried, subconsciously of course, pouring a bottle of water on my MacBook Air, but it booted back up a couple of days later.

They have nothing I want or need. I hope they get it together again, I'm still a shareholder, but I fear that was it. The man behind the curtain is dead, and we now go back to normal reality. Have to find someone else to excite us.

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