Social Lessons From Dan Kaminsky (Who Has Now Left Us)
Social lessons I took from being friends with Dan Kaminsky, in four stories. I hope these will be helpful to you as much as they have been to me.
I miss Dan, we just started talking more thanks to Facebook, and I am devastated by his passing. While sad, remembering these stories, and hearing of his shenanigans from others, has mind-bogglingly made yesterday a happy day, right alongside the sadness. I hope you will find these helpful.
Always make people feel their worth. All it takes is the passion you already feel.
It was defcon 13, 2005, in the Alexis Park. Dan introduced me to some folks.
“This guy,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “I love this guy!” Then he told the world why. “If not for Gadi eCommerce would not have been able to exist, as the Internet wouldn’t be here.”
Obviously, he exaggerated — a lot. But he made me feel appreciated for my work. There was magic in how he spoke to, and of, people.
He then introduced someone else.
“This guy?” He smiled. “I love his work. What he does is nothing less than genius.” Dan then turned to this new person. “I want to work with you. It would be amazing.. Let’s find out how we can do that.”
Gadi of 2005 felt a bit confused, as if Dan does this for everybody, it must not be as real. Today’s Gadi can appreciate it all the more for how Dan found something special, and real, in everyone he met.
Always pull people up. It’s just 15 bucks.
It was defcon 14, 2006, in the Alexis Park.
Dan and I walked lazily by the pool area. We met a young woman (we were young back then, too) who sold t-shirts she made. Dan immediately showed excitement and bought one. I said that the shirt is too small for me, also privately worried over if I could afford to spend the cash. The young woman was upset over my words, disgust came over her face as her lips and nose pulled up, “2X is pretty damn big.”
Dan made her happy with 15 bucks and a good word. I made her upset. Yes, her response was unwarranted, and yes, she fat-shamed me, but that’s beside the point of the story. I learned from Dan that day. I should have bought that t-shirt.
Just ask the question. Many people won’t, or can’t.
23C3, Berlin 2006.
I was speaking about fuzzing, and as usual Dan would come into my talks, and then I’d hand the speaking over to him for the last 5 minutes.
At some point early in the presentation I asked the audience if everybody knows some random technical term, before moving on to the next slide. Dan raised his hand from the back of the room. I was like “seriously? You don’t know what X is?” Then I explained it.
When I asked him about it, he said “many people here may not know it, and won’t raise their hands.” I learned from Dan that day, about speaking, and about raising my hand for others. I also cringe in talks whenever I hear a speaker asking that question.
Objectification isn’t always obvious. I wish guys received training.
2008 in Toronto.
We try to be good people, but sometimes we find we don’t even know we aren’t. I was about to ask the bartender out. I mentioned something about what I want to say to Dan, and he said “don’t be that guy,” sounding sad. I learned that day about objectification in daily language and that it is more subtle than I thought.
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