The striking thing about [the startup phase] is that it's completely different from most people's idea of what business is like. If you looked in people's heads (or stock photo collections) for images representing "business," you'd get images of people dressed up in suits, groups sitting around conference tables looking serious, Powerpoint presentations, people producing thick reports for one another to read. Early stage startups are the exact opposite of this. And yet they're probably the most productive part of the whole economy.
Why the disconnect? I think there's a general principle at work here: the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance worse.
People sometimes ask me why I always send out my emails as plain text rather than a more "professional" looking HTML message. I guess I could spend more time laying out pretty tables and funky hyperlinks only to have the email program at the other end strip it all out (or worse, dump it in a junk mail folder) because it's possibly unsafe. Or I could just say that the content is more important and as long as the information's all there, it gets through and it's in a format the recipient knows is safe, that's the most important thing.
Nowhere is this more true than in the field of RSS. Content is king and while we put a lot of effort into making sure the bits of the company you guys see, the website, the forums, the software itself, look good, below deck where the real work happens, we get down and dirty and worry less about what it looks like.
I wrote a while back of the value having a touch of what some might describe as "unprofessionalism" and I'm sure any self-respecting CEO would have a coronary if someone in his PR team wrote on the public website about pulling chicks and, um, pulling chicks 😀 so I guess it's a good thing self-respect was never one of my strong points 🙄
There is one thing I draw the line at, though. The image of Paul Graham sitting at his computer, churning out code wearing nothing more than a towel is one that I'm still having trouble purging from my mind I can assure you all that I make the effort to pull on at least a pair of pants when I'm posting here or in the forums or sending email. Of course, what I wear (or not) when I'm offline and cutting code is nobody's business 'cept my own 😉