Friday, March 28, 2003

Ten Commandments

Thought to frame the day:
"Hope is costly, as Augustine said, but not as costly as giving up."
--Anne Lamott, author of "Bird by Bird," "Traveling Mercies" and other unforgettable works

The excellent story on Google in the new (April) Fast Company Mag. has put to rest, for now at least, my concerns that the magazine's new owner--a mildly clueless, blandly rapacious German publisher--would quickly kill their jewel. There's at least hope now that they'll only slowly kill off what made it special and unique, in the meantime giving us time to at least give it a decent burial. The two visionary ex-Harvard Business Review founders have been patted on the head and given the magazine equivalents of academia's emeritus title, while the rest of us are left to hope that, like the Jesuits and their universities, these two inspired gurus have been able to inculcate sufficient fervor in their proteges to carry on their work even when the clerical collars are fewer and further between. Anyway, the Google story is full of solid reporting and great insights that both say something new about a much-covered company AND provide some take-away clues that nearly anyone could apply to their own situation. I recommend it.
It recalls for me the very story that first made me sit up and take notice of the magazine. Still had the hard copy in my files, and I've reread it occasionally, and been impressed by how true it was at so very early a juncture--summer of '96, even if it was steeped in the then-recent success of Netscape.
Its title is Ten Commandments for Success on the Net, and for a lot of people it introduced new terms such as "strategic generosity" and well-articulated ideas such as this: "Nets punish ruthlessly any attempt to control how they want to evolve..." But maybe the two most important commandments for me were Generosity Begets Prosperity (a deeply counterintuitive, even paradoxical idea for a lot of people) and No One is As Smart As Everyone. I was pleased to find it still available in the FC archive. You'll find it at: (we'll get this damnable blogger linking command working yet. George?).
--John Ettorre

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Okay, So Perhaps I Lied a Little

Yes, in my initial posting yesterday, and of course in the very name of this weblog, I've said that this site is about all things writing. The truth, however, is that I'll no doubt also be delving--more than occasionally--into my other enthusiasms. Many do center around words and writing. But I'll no doubt also be telling you about some very interesting folks, people I've known for decades or sometimes just days, some I've never known at all but merely admired from afar. Others of whom I find myself instantly collaborating with at the recommendation of a mutual friend. And I'll be talking about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship itself, because it's come to encompass so much of my work. Many of these wild, half-genius, full-octane mavericks have informed my work as I've written about them for years, and as they in turn have silently inspired me to do some of it myself. I had a single standard for whom to write about: anyone who was seeking coverage, who wanted to be written about, automatically was disqualified. Instead, I found that the best stories were invariably about people just too damn busy being good and breaking rules to achieve excellence to have the time to think about silly things like taking the time to talk to a writer. Their very disregard for publicity was in fact their best advertisement for themselves. And I'll let you know about events and sites and people you should know more about. I'll tell you about some young, energetic folks who are making things happen in communities about which I care, like Cleveland and the web universe. People like Jason Therrien and Gretchen Grubb. I'll talk about community-building veterans like Cindy Barber and her Beachland Ballroom. And I'll especially be sure to tell you about some long-suffering people who quietly do incredible work, away from the glare of the world's attention, people about whom the world should know more, if for no other reason than they deserve the patronage of that world. Lacking as we do in 21st century America the wonderful ducal patronage system underwritten by the Medici's in Renaissance Florence, we'll try to do our little part to bring to public attention some folks who we think deserve the community's support lest they're no longer able to support the environment which produces their work. Folks like my friend Anthony Scaravelli, who has one of Cleveland's coolest studio art galleries, Scaravilli Design and Studio Gallery in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood, where he hosts everything from blues singers to Irish-themed photo exhibits. A veteran of the local print design community, and then a San Francisco guy, he's certainly one of Cleveland's best-kept secret jewels, and I hope you'll check him out sometime when next you're in the neighborhood, or on the web if you're half a world away. His work is well worth your attention.
Till we get our technical act together, feel free to email your thoughts, opinions, reactions to Be sure to enter two T's and two R's in that name. And thanks for coming back.
John Ettorre

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Welcome To All

Welcome to Working With Words, an online community for those who struggle with writing and the written language. If you're a professional writer--whether that's in poetry, journalism, fiction, web writing or whatever--great, and welcome. If you're a would-be writer, a double welcome. But we're just as eager to welcome into our conversation those who neither derive a living from this work nor aspire to, but who are simply interested in writing and reading--as a way of learning about the world or more about themselves, to capture a fleeting emotion or observation or to just plain touch another heart. Even if the only writing you've tried to do in the last five years is a literate, persuasive memo to your boss (or love note to your spouse/honey), this site nevertheless may still be for you, since it's written with the example of Bill Zinsser's On Writing Well stamped on everything we do. We're looking forward to the adventure...
John Ettorre