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Tag: innovation

Bootstrapping the Live Web: Declaring Independence from the Selfish Meme

The Williamsburg Alternative

There are some distinctions that need to be made when thinking about the creation of new modes of interaction on the Network. A number of metaphors are currently employed when talking about services like Twitter ( imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). The judgement we seem to be trying to make is whether this new thing will go viral, or will gain broad market acceptance. When we answer questions about the new thing in this way, we’re pretending to be venture capitalists. What we’re asking is: will my investment pay off? And since we have no real skin in the game, we’re really asking, will Fred Wilson’s investment pay off for his investors? There’s an assumption at the base of the question about what’s really important. In a sense, it’s a moral position about what’s most valuable and a definition of the fundamental drivers of innovation. Thus the endless questions about “business model.”

After the money question, we’ll ask what most people will do. Will this new thing be adopted and become common practice? There are a number of binary oppositions we use as sledgehammers to beat the daylights out of any emerging form of life. These tools are a substitute for thought and discovery, they stand between us and what is unfolding before our eyes.

  • Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants
  • Young People vs. Old People
  • Early Adopters vs. Most People
  • The Enterprise vs. The Consumer
  • Geeks vs. Jocks
  • You vs. Your Grandmother

Tools for thought need to be put into question even as we employ them. When we thoughtlessly pick them up and use them as a hammer, we’re just repeating memes. The meme is speaking us and just asserting its evolutionary destiny as a selfish gene. When a meme is repeated to a group in conversation and all heads nod knowingly, no thought has taken place. Rather, this is an example as language as a virus.

So when does thinking begin as we continue our conversation on these new modes of the Network? It starts with a question and the deepening of the question. The Answer puts an end to the dialogue. Think of an answer like a software release; there’s alpha, beta, release candidates, golden masters — but in the end everything launches with bugs and has a version number assigned to it. The only way to move the ball down the field is to return to the question.

We’re starting to see the emergence of the Live Web from the established Static Web. The mistakes we make at this point give us important information about the future landscape. Twitter built a static web application using a content management system metaphor. But by opening pipes to the live web through SMS, XMPP and Track, Twitter enabled a compelling live web experience. Twitter’s ensuing stability problems have taught us that static web architecture can’t support live web usage at scale. The team there now has to start over with a live messaging architecture that can support the experience that was discovered. In this effort, Twitter’s simplicity is its friend. Oddly, the imitators don’t seem to have comprehended this lesson.

The interesting conversation around Twitter isn’t about whether it will make someone money or whether your grandmother will use it. Rather it’s the question about whether it’s a real foundational piece in bootstrapping the coming Live Web. Twitter’s Follow and Track relationship models have uncovered a much larger social space for real time interaction. Where the real-time web as IM is largely point-to-point, allowing two previously connected individuals to trade messages, Twitter enables a space where meeting someone new is a possibility. Our bootstrapping activity is only partially about technology, fundamentally it has to be about how we use the service right now and our ongoing conversation about its possibilities.


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Mark Lucovsky and Jason Calacanis suggest National Heathcare as a Web Service

Red Cross

Shuffling through my notes, I found a post that slipped through the cracks. It references a Gillmor Gang from earlier in the month, Mark Lucovsky of Google was a guest on the show:

The conversation was wide ranging and focused on Lucovsky’s current role at Google and his former role at Microsoft. Jason Calacanis shifted the discussion on to the general ecosystem of online business infrastructure. He’s in the middle of making some decisions about the growth path for Mahalo and sees the cost of these services dropping rapidly.

Calacanis’s political point was that the virtualization of fundamental web infrastructure lowers the cost of business creativity and therefore will be a major economic driver– and may pull us out of this recession. Lucovsky commented that he didn’t see a consolidation of infrastructure providers, but rather an environment where each of the big online companies provided the thing that they do best as an API or service.

In a comment on Microsoft’s Live Mesh, Lucovsky asserted that the complexity of the problem required a seasoned professional like Ray Ozzie. He’s made the requisite number of mistakes to take on a project of that level of difficulty. Lucovsky goes onto say that there’s a difference between this kind of creativity and the frothy sort of Web 2.0 stuff that comes across our screens every day via TechCrunch.

Assuming that business creativity in this ecosystem is not the sole province of the young and the rich, there are a couple of pieces missing. This picks up the thread of a conversation that happened about a year ago about age and business creativity. It was a conversation that unleashed a lot of passion. Here are a couple of links back into that conversation space:

Creativity in any space is tied to risk taking. The young assume immortality and therefore have a high tolerance for risk, time allows for recovery from failure. The rich also can recover from failure through the buffer of money. As we all know, time is money and conversely money is time — and time heals all wounds.

If, as Calacanis asserts, it’s all about ideas in this new era of cloud-based infrastructure, then implicit in that is the notion that the services that sustain the human side of that equation take a similar form. National healthcare and a decent retirement system would reduce certain aspects of risk and open the field to a broader range of individuals: people who’ve lived a little and made the requisite number of mistakes to create at a deeper level.

A new era of a meritocracy of ideas in the technology businesses is deeply intertwined with the political questions that sustain the humans that do that work. In our conversations about the path of technology, these background processes need to brought to the surface– if there is to be change we can believe in.

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A Recording Organism contra The Figure Signaling Through the Flames

Antonin Artaud

When we look to the new, the thing that really connects: it’s technology like a punch in the face, a figure signaling through the flames. It’s not the code, it’s the hunger, the blood, the bone and muscle. It’s the electricity that connects one human soul to another. And it’s the connectors that allow that surge of power to flow freely from one node to the next in the network.

Fragments from the introduction to Theater and its Double by Antonin Artaud:

“What is more important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.”

“If confusion is the sign of the times, I see at the root of this confusion a rupture between things and words, between things and the ideas and signs that are their representation.”

“A protest against the idea of culture as distinct from life–as if there were culture on one side and life on the other, as if true culture were not a refined means of understanding and exercising life.”

“We must believe in a sense of life renewed by the theater, a sense of life in which man makes himself master of what does not yet exist, and brings it in to being. and everything that has not yet been born can still be brought to life if we are not satisfied to remain mere recording organisms.”

“Furthermore, when we speak the word life, it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from the surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach, and if there is one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.”

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