The programmatic ask

Favors are part of the glue of our culture. It’s not easy to ask for a favor, it’s not always easy to say yes, but when the two people engaged in this dance find a connection, it means something.

Alas, the modern hustle, amplified by databases and computers, has turned this equation upside down.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” the hustling spammer says, using second-order connections to “reach out” to hundreds of people. “No pressure,” they add, as if this diminishes the coarsening of the conversation.

If you ask 100 people for a favor to “get the word out,” then of course you don’t care so much if 80 or 90 people decline. The problem is that you’ve just hurt the relationship you had with these people (as thin as it was) as well as made it more difficult for the next person, the one who actually put some effort and care into making a connection.

The honest first line of the programmatic ask is, “I’m using you to get what I want right now, because I didn’t plan ahead, care enough or show up with enough generosity to do it the old way.”

No one wants to be hustled.

Just because you are in a hurry, know how to use mailmerge and have figured out how to hustle people doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.