Amanda asked what are you PASSIONATE about and Doc said he is PASSIONATE about infrastructure. That’s pretty much bullshit, I think. Doc is passionate about geology. Doc is passionate about the night sky. Doc is passionate about photography and his pictures of earth and sky weave these passions together. Doc is probably passionate about a lot of stuff, but I want to take exception to the use of passion to describe his feelings about infrastructure.

[damn. Doc just linked to me because he got a smile out of my “Leonsis bought Calacanis” line. Now I feel bad about saying that what he said was bullshit. damn. I should probably change it. But no…]

The reason I’m writing this post is not to offend Doc nor to offend Amanda, not to cast aspersions on what was a good phone interview by a woman who does good phone with a guy I really respect. The reason I’m writing this post is because a day or so ago I read a brilliant essay by one of my favorite writers about saving the word PASSION for when we really mean it. Amanda, you are so busted…

We’ve used up so many great and needed words this way, and passion is a sacred one. It’s the language of Abelard and Heloise, Petrarch, Anna Karenina, Beethoven, and Oppenheimer. It belongs to lovers, artists, and worldchangers—who rarely need to talk about it, because they live it—and it means something more than “kick it up a notch.” We have good words for what we need—curiosity, enthusiasm, craftsmanship, and dedication. Let’s stick to them, and save passion for when we (really) mean it.

Posted in Creative Arts, Journalism, People, Writing
9 comments on “Eeeewwww…
  1. chuck says:

    Doc named photography as one of his passions. I’m not sure at the moment if that made the final edit, but I think he was caught off-guard by the question (understandably).

  2. I mentioned my somewhat snarky post to Beth, my wife, because we’ve had that conversation about the misuse of the word “passion” in corporate America. She thought maybe if Doc had thought more deeply about it he might also have said “language.” But whatever compelling interest he has in infrastructure, I’m almost certain it isn’t a “passion.” OTOH, I’m not now and never have been a mind reader. Maybe Doc just gets his sick-on with routers and wiring closets!

    But, did you have a chance to read Dervala’s essay on “The Passion-Industrial Complex?”

    I happened past the ValleyDrag post on Amanda’s 11/14 announcement (because YOU linked to it). I never would have seen it without that link. Recommendation: don’t send these lamers traffic. All I gathered from watching it was that they are clueless.

    Amanda’s team does good work. You must be very proud to be part of it!

  3. McD says:


    I think it’s perfectly OK to tell Doc that he was spouting bullshit. Doc is all about riffing on ideas and he IS rather passionate lately about some infrastructural ideas: like Net Neutrality and Identity.

    So, he actually was showing his *new* academic side of “passion” rather than his avocational loves…

    Cut the guy a little slack: he’s a Berkman Fellow now and is really trying to focus on something that might a bit of difference with that new “bully pulpit”.

    Of course, you could go medieval on his ass and paint him to be a slick talking hypocrit and get your technorati ranking back on track… you call. What’s your passion?

  4. bmo says:

    Actually, infrastructure seems to be a natural extension (or maybe abstraction) of the things that he is passionate about – geology, the stars, connections, networks, links – a connect the dots kinda kind. Infrastructure may be the omphalos of his passions.

    Passion lost its lustre for me years ago. A friend in advertising use to talk about people with a passion for ‘the business’. I cringe anytime I hear the word. But that’s just me.

    Btw, ever notice Nancy Pelosi sounds like Joan Rivers?

  5. chuck says:

    Yeah, I later thought I shouldn’t even link to Valleywag. At the same time, I wouldn’t mind my post coming up in a Google search. 😉

  6. Jon Husband says:

    I get passionately sick about the potential (rapidly turning into a requirement in corporate America) of becoming empassioned about things other than food, wine, music, art, literature, nature, sex, cars, strolling on wide tree-lined boulevards in foreign countries and 300-count bedsheets. That’s not to say that I don’t believe one can have and hold real and great passions, but imo it’s one of those knives that cuts both ways.

    Wow, Brian .. omphalos ! Way to go, or “beauty” as we say up here in the Great White North 😉

  7. bmo says:

    psssst Jon…I slipped that one by paynter, he never noticed…a diachronic knuckleball

  8. Doc Searls says:

    Y’know, when you’re talking to a lens, or even when you’re talking to another person — and I was doing both there, in that interview — you’re not operating in Final Draft mode. Hell, you’re not even operating in Final Draft mode when you’re blogging. Or doing anything. Life itself is a trail of errors, all of which teach more than successes.

    When I read Tom Friedman’s The World Is Flat, I wrote about 15,000 words in response, rather than the usual gotcha-type book review, because I thought he could use some help for his Second Edition. (Also, I’m paid to write by Linux Journal, where those words were published.) Tom not only quoted me in that edition, but ran with some of the ideas I shared, adding enormous value to them.

    Actually, when it comes to passions, I kind of agree with Jon Husband, above. I *care* about infrastructure, and geology, and art, and photography, and great architecture, and all kinds of stuff. But as for passion? Need to explore the difference. Libidinal, perhaps? Not sure.

  9. McD says:


    I think of Doc as a Technical “Impressionist” or a Tech “Stylist”… in others words, he’s
    improvising on his latest thoughts.

    And the one thing you can say about Doc without absolute certainty… he loves to think… he’s passionate about using his brain… constantly… when being paid or otherwise.

    I don’t know that passion can be so precisely discussed. It does have a variety of meanings:

    A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.

    Ardent love.
    Strong sexual desire; lust.
    The object of such love or desire.

    Boundless enthusiasm: His skills as a player don’t quite match his passion for the game.
    The object of such enthusiasm: Soccer is her passion.

    An abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger: He’s been known to fly into a passion without warning.

    The sufferings of Jesus in the period following the Last Supper and including the Crucifixion, as related in the New Testament.

    A narrative, musical setting, or pictorial representation of Jesus’s sufferings.

    and I’d add:

    To advocate a position or argument with extreme prejudice.

    “Failure is NOT an option. You simply must agree with me or I won’t stop talking. Capice?”.

    It’s also pretty easy to get Doc to listen,
    and stop talking, so, he does appear to be somewhat passionless because he’s so good natured in his advocacy. He is, at times, opinion neutral.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Eeeewwww…"
  1. […] I have a couch and table that need to be repaired under warranty. I called and scheduled them to come pick them up. They then called me no less than 7 times over 3 days to confirm that I would be there. Then when they got here they were only going to swap out the table, and didn’t know about the couch. A few hours later another guy comes by to get the couch. I was ridiculous how disorganized it was. Maybe that recent experience is why Doc Searls’ thoughts on vendor relationship management are resonating with me today. Our problem is that relationships with vendors don’t work both ways. What we have had for decades are “relationship” systems that aren’t, because they live entirely on the vendor side. They’re all silo’d. Isolated. And they handle everything, but only for the one vendor. The customer relates to that vendor through a few hunks of authentication data (login, password, answers to questions for recovering lost logins and passwords…) and then interacts (“relates” is a gross exaggeration) inside a narrow and highly confined system that totally controls what the customer can do — and utterly cuts off any possibility of useful contributions to the company other than in through repeated purchases and whatever secondary data might be gleaned from the transaction and customer history. “Your opinion counts?” No way. They don’t care what I think. They care what their survey results tell them. Huge difference. One relates. The other doesn’t. Before I have tended to dismiss that idea because I see it as too impractical from a technical standpoint. I must admit, I would love to have an autodialer that called up my credit card company and said ‘please hold for an important message from Jackson Miller’. I am glad Doc is passionate about infrastructure 😉 […]



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