The Oldest Trick In The Book

April 16th, 2010

Brent Simmons reveals one of the biggest secrets for making friends and influencing people. Yes, it’s the oldest trick in the book: be nice.

Be gracious. Be thoughtful of other peoples’ interests. Don’t be a whiner. Be generous. Be inclusive. Pay it forward‚Ķ you get the picture.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon of the internet? As the ultimate reference archive, it reveals the most arcane and lesser-known facts of science, art, and trivia. It teaches us about the world. But as the ultimate social connector, it teaches us about people, how we do or don’t, and how we should or shouldn’t get along with each other.

I experienced this the other day when I was tweeting enthusiastically about Tweetie for the Mac and how I might be interested in taking the product over if it doesn’t fit into Twitter’s plans for the app. In the excitement, I not only violated one of the social rules of politeness by filling my followers’ Twitter screens to the brim, but I made the mistake of taking a stab at a company called Brizzly.

See, my friends Buzz and Neven built a wonderful iPhone Twitter app called Birdfeed. A few months ago, Brizzly acquired Birdfeed from my friends, and revamped the user interface a bit to match their style. I’m not a fan of these revisions, and I have stuck with the original Birdfeed app on my phone. But I used this distaste for the UI changes to fuel a less constructive tweet that I would characterize as a “low blow” against Brizzly. I have since deleted the original tweet, but it prompted a response from Brizzly’s CEO:

@phopkins He may be hella cool but does he realize that smacking Brizzly isn’t going to get him anywhere?

I immediately had one of those wake-up-call feelings where you realize that what was just mindless banter at “somebody else’s” expense was actually at the expense of somebody very particular. Yes, I reminded myself, there are actually people on the internet:

I should know this by now: there are people behind products. Ashamed of my tasteless treatment of Brizzly, and by extension, @shellen.

Some people who don’t know me very well assume that because my Twitter name, @danielpunkass, is a bit crass, that I must be a provocative and thoughtless person. They are surprised to meet me in person and find out that I’m actually pretty nice.

What my Twitter name represents to me is my willingness to be the cheeky one. To defy the standards and be a bit of a jerk when it’s called for, but only when it’s called for. Sometimes, the most unexpected, uncalled for,¬†provocative, defiant move you can make is to be nicer than people expected you to be.

4 Responses to “The Oldest Trick In The Book”

  1. Russ Harlan Says:

    Humility is an all-too-rare trait on the Internet. Good on ya, Daniel.

  2. Mike Furtak Says:

    Around the same time as this was playing out I recall stumbling across “A real person, a lot like you” ( The points you both make are important and worth remembering.

  3. Jane Quigley Says:

    The point of being nice was exemplified by Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show sign-off, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

    It’s not easy to make an opinion or point come across in 140cts, and sometimes it can veer towards mean to people who don’t know you (general, not specific “you”). The difference is addressing the issue as soon as you realize, as opposed to moving ahead – good for you.

  4. Danilo Says:

    Oh man, I hate those just-stepped-in-dogshit moments. I think it’s important to be a menschy guy for its own sake and feel strongly that substantial rewards exist for those who are. Sadly, my mouth is frequently much faster than my judgment and I’ve been in your spot as a result. Solid example of how to make things right, instead of the sadly more common reaction, which is to dig heels in and pretend everyone else is the dick.

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