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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Loyalty? Who Needs It?

In our culture, many people speak of the virtue of loyalty.  We hear radio stories about soldiers who oppose the war in Iraq but returned to the desert to fight beside their band of Brothers.  When loyal employees of corporations retire we give them gold watches and often invite them back as consultants.  In the United States, it is our presumed duty to be loyal to God, family, country and, in our corporate culture, to our employers.

Once upon a time, corporations were also expected to return said loyalty to their employees.  Sadly, corporate human resources are today, more often than not, treated like office equipment – they are beloved until they are worn out at which point they are discarded.  This holds true for the access technology industry as well as any other and, while I was an executive in this industry I readily admit that I behaved with the goals of the corporation above those of my fellow employees and of the users who purchase the products I made..  To make matters worse, I have perpetuated certain myths about the AT industry in the articles I’ve written on BC and, hence, I am a lying liar just like the rest of the greedy fuckers in corporate America.

For this past behavior, I apologize.  I deeply regret choosing the side of corporate greed over virtues like loyalty and honesty and promise to avoid doing so in the future.  I ask my readers’ forgiveness for these indiscretions.

Last week, I learned of an AT dealer who had been selling products from the same manufacturer for something on the order of ¼ of her life losing her distribution contract for said products.  Only a few years earlier, she had received a ridiculously large and heavy trophy for being the top seller in the eastern third of the nation for the company who now felt they no longer needed her services.  She was dismissed without warning and without a stated reason.

This woman, someone whom I know more by reputation than by contact, is blind and has an intimate understanding of the products she sells.  In New England, blind people have come to rely upon her and her great staff for service, training, installations and all sorts of other activities that assist them in using what can be very complex products.  She is the consumate professional and, after well over a decade of service, deserved far better than the, “Good bye and thanks for all the fish,” that she received.

I have started hofstader.com as a portal for open source AT projects and Adlib Technology, a company you will be hearing much more about in the coming months, to dedicate my time and energy to products built under the principles of universal design.  As I often repeat, we do not make software for blind people – we are blind people who make software for everyone.

I intentionally set up Adlib in a fashion that makes it impossible for me, the CEO and Grand Poobah, to have too much power.  I can break ties on the executive committee level but, mostly we are designed to build consensus and function as a group.  My management metaphor is to defer to the expert and, on many days, that is our 20 year old hacker and not our 53 year old CFO.  Age and experience matter less than good ideas and implimentation strategies.  Adlib Technology and hofstader.com are not about me, they are about the team and the community they serve.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing a number of articles with the intent of dispelling the myths of the AT industry, many of which I have perpetuated while in the biz and have continued to do so in this blog.  In all honesty, I have tried to wrap the bullshit in language that made it sound like the lies that is but, alas, without a lot of insider knowledge, many people would assume that my stories are true.  I apologize for this too and promise not to do it in the future.

Afterward

My colleague in blogging, Ranger, proprietor of the Ranger Station blog (link above) wrote an excellent comment about the open source article I wrote on Sunday.  I wanted to point out a few small things about it:

I never said that altruism was the driving force behind the open source screen readers; in fact, if it was, I don’t think it would be making such excellent progress as we see in LSR and ORCA.  Section 508 motivates these projects, as it did VoiceOver from Apple, but, no matter the motivation, good screen readers available as part of the OS distribution is a good thing.

Ranger also reminded me about the GW lease to own program.  I neglected to mention it and, in all honesty, I had forgotten it existed.  Ranger is correct that this is an excellent, low cost way of test driving a product outside of the product line of the biggest game in town.

-- End

2 Comments:

Anonymous Will Pearson said...

Hmmmm. You just reminded me of something. JAWS is pathetic ... JAWS is pathetic ... JAWS is pathetic. I don't think I've said that since Eric's little note on "loyalty".

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The IT, Computer (hardware and software) and all related industries have followed the course of the "mature" corporate world. It sucks! The workplace in the computer industry has changed, it is not what it used to be. Now everyone is expendable, innovation doesn't matter as much as the bottom line. It is a jungle out there, loyalty, you would be insane if you don't maintain a pragmatic view of it. The corporate world will bite you, chew you up and spit you out when done. Basically, there are very few companies worthy of loyalty nowadays. Has to go both ways and sadly, corporate america is not a place to invest your loyalty in. Whatch out for number one and that is you and your loved ones

3:20 PM  

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