Steve Jobs on his major mistake during Apple’s troubled years: “Letting…

Reshared post from +Tim O'Reilly

Steve Jobs on his major mistake during Apple's troubled years: "Letting profitability outweigh passion" http://huff.to/nNHjGY #ditto (a tweet by @stevecase) struck home for me, because in the aftermath of Jobs' death I've been thinking a lot about O'Reilly, wanting to make sure that we streamline and focus on the stuff that matters most.

Here's the money quote from the article:

"My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products," Jobs told Isaacson. "[T]he products, not the profits, were the motivation. Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It's a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything."

Jobs went on to describe the legacy he hoped he would leave behind, "a company that will still stand for something a generation or two from now."

"That's what Walt Disney did," said Jobs, "and Hewlett and Packard, and the people who built Intel. They created a company to last, not just to make money. That's what I want Apple to be."
All of our greatest work at O'Reilly has been driven by passion and idealism. That includes our early forays into publishing, when we were a documentation consulting company to pay the bills but wrote documentation on the side for programs we used that didn't have any good manuals. It was those manuals, on topics that no existing tech publisher thought were important, that turned us into a tech publisher "who came out of nowhere."

In the early days of the web, we were so excited about it that +Dale Dougherty wanted to create an online magazine to celebrate the people behind it. That morphed into GNN, the Global Network Navigator, the web's first portal and first commercial ad-supported site.

In the mid-90s, realizing that no one was talking about the programs that were behind all our most successful books, I brought together a collection of free software leaders (many of whom had never met each other) to brainstorm a common story. That story redefined free software as open source, and the world hasn't been the same since. It also led to a new business for O'Reilly, as we launched our conference business to help bring visibility to these projects, which had no company marketing behind them.

Thinking deeply about open source and the internet got me thinking big ideas about the internet as operating system, and the shift of influence from software to network effects in data as the key to future applications. I was following people who at the time seemed "crazy" - but they were just living in a future that hadn't arrived for the rest of the world yet. It was around this time that I formulated our company mission of "changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators."

In 2003, in the dark days after the dot com bust, our company goal for the year was to reignite enthusiasm in the computer business. Two outcomes of that effort did just that: +Sara Winge 's creation of Foo Camp spawned a worldwide, grassroots movement of self-organizing "unconferences," and our Web 2.0 Conference told a big story about where the net was going and what distinguished the companies that survived the dotcom bust from those that preceded it.

In 2005, seeing the passion that was driving garage inventors to a new kind of hardware innovation, Dale once again wanted to launch a magazine to celebrate the passionate people behind the movement. This time, it was a magazine: Make: (http://makezine.com), and a year later, we launched Maker Faire (http://makerfaire.com) as a companion event. 150,000 people attended Maker Faires last year, and the next generation of startups is emerging from the ferment of the movement that Dale named.

Meanwhile, through those dark years after the dotcom bust, we also did a lot of publishing just to keep the company afloat. (With a small data science team at O'Reilly, we built a set of analytical tools that helped us understand the untapped opportunities in computer book publishing. We realized that we were playing in only about 2/5 of the market; moving into other areas that we had never been drawn to helped pay the bills, but never sparked the kind of creativity as the areas that we'd found by following our passion.)

It was at this time that I formulated an image that I've used many times since: profit in a business is like gas in a car. You don't want to run out of gas, but neither do you want to think that your road trip is a tour of gas stations.

When I think about the great persistence of Steve Jobs, there's a lesson for all of us in it.

What's so great about the Apple story is that Steve ended up making enormous amounts of money without making it a primary goal of the company. (Ditto Larry and Sergey at Google.) Contrast that with the folks who brought us the 2008 financial crisis, who were focused only on making money for themselves, while taking advantage of others in the process.

Making money through true value creation driven by the desire to make great things that last, and make the world a better place - that's the heart of what is best in capitalism. (See also the wonderful HBR blog post, Steve Jobs and the Purpose of the Corporation. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/steve_jobs_and_the_purpose_of.html I also got a lot of perspective on this topic from +Leander Kahney's book, Inside Steve's Brain http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Steves-Brain-Leander-Kahney/dp/1591841984 )

Embedded Link

What Steve Jobs Learned From His Biggest Failure
Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs traces the Apple co-founder's career in Silicon Valley--from its soaring highs to its crushing lows. Jobs has been hailed as a tech visionary, but ...

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Now Available: Web 2.0 Mashups and Niche Aggregators

Long in the works, my O’Reilly Media-pub­lished “Web 2.0 Mashups and Niche Aggre­ga­tors” is avail­able. The title could sort of be boiled down to “hey this Quak​erQuak​er​.org thing has become kind of neat” but it’s more than that. I wax lyri­cal about the dif­fer­ent kind of aggre­ga­tor com­mu­ni­ty sites and I throw a new tongue-twister into the social media are­na: “folk­so­nom­ic den­si­ty” (Google it now kids and you’ll see the only ref­er­ences are mine; a few years from now you can say you knew the guy who coined the phrase that set the tech­nos­phere on fire and launched Web 3.0 and ush­ered in the sec­ond phase of the Age of Aquar­ius, yada yada).

A hun­dred thank you’s to my fine and patient edi­tor S. (don’t know if you want to be out­ed here). I’ve been an edi­tor myself in one capac­i­ty or anoth­er for fif­teen years (I’ve some­times even been paid for it) so it was edu­ca­tion­al to expe­ri­ence the rela­tion­ship from the oth­er side. I wrote this while liv­ing an insane sched­ule and it’s amaz­ing I found any time at get all this down. 

As luck would have it I’ve just got­ten my design site at Mar​tinKel​ley​.com up and run­ning ful­ly again, so I hope to do some posts relat­ed to the PDF in the weeks to come. In the mean­time, below is the mar­ket­ing copy for Web 2.0 Mashups and Niche Aggre­ga­tors. It is avail­able for $9.99 from the O’Reilly web­site.

Web aggre­ga­tors select and present con­tent culled from multiple
sources, play­ing an impor­tant taste-making and pro­mo­tion­al role. Larger
aggre­ga­tors are start­ing to com­pete with main­stream news sources but a
new class of niche and do-it-yourself aggre­ga­tors are orga­niz­ing around
spe­cif­ic inter­ests. Niche aggre­ga­tors har­ness the pow­er of the internet
to build com­mu­ni­ties pre­vi­ous­ly sep­a­rat­ed by geog­ra­phy or institutional
iner­tia. These micro-communities serve a trend-setting role.
Under­stand­ing their oper­a­tion is crit­i­cal for those want­i­ng to
under­stand or pre­dict cul­tur­al change and for those who want to harness
the pow­er of the long tail by cater­ing to niches.