ARCHIVE: March, 2006

On Second Coming

Adam Green’s The second coming of the Web, a satire:

“When Tim Berners-Lee first gave mankind the Web, he made a tragic mistake. He granted us free will to use less than perfect HTML. His tools, and the tools of those to follow him, allowed users to develop sinful habits based on ignorance and sloth. The result was a Web of corrupt data, in which misformed tags abounded. This great fall from grace by the users of the Web prevented it from ever attaining the state of perfection desired by all computer scientists, a completely machine readable database.”

On Congenial

From Newsweek’s The New Wisdom of the Web (print version, simply kill the print popup):

‘”It’s clear that the Web is structurally congenial to the wisdom of crowds,” says James Surowiecki, author of a book (“The Wisdom of Crowds,” naturally) that argues that your average bunch of people can guess the weight of a cow or predict an Oscar winner better than an expert can. That’s why some people believe that an army of bloggers can provide an alternative to even the smartest journalists, and that if millions of eyes monitor encyclopedia entries that anyone can write and rewrite (namely, the Wikipedia), the result will take on Britannica.’

20 Important Tools

Forbes has a nice writeup on The 20 Most Important Tools Ever. Their list is fascinating, including:

  • knife, abacus, compass, pencil, harness
  • scythe, rifle, sword, eyeglasses, saw
  • watch, lathe, needle, candle, scale
  • pot, telescope, level, fishhook, chisel

In Forbes’s words, “these are the tools that have most impacted human civilization and helped move the course of history.”. Notice how simple the tools are, how they perfectly represent the GMC slogan “do one thing, do it well”.

Don’t look too hard at the list, however, because the methodology by which they chose these items is a little frustrating. They purposefully left out a huge number of tools, including social tools like language, simple machines like pulleys, sophisticated tools like computers, and for some reason the printing press. They make the case that the axe is not included in the list because it is simply a wedge, and then they don’t include the wedge but do include a chisel, which is also a wedge. But, as they say, the list is meant to be a idea-generator, not an end-all be-all list.

What I find interesting is how this list compares to software. Are there any tools that we can use software to replace or make better? Surely we use software to write, so we are replacing the pencil in a sense. Also, we use software maps to find our way, although that’s slightly different than using a compass because it’s still hard to use software to tell where we are in relation to north. But we do use GPS software for that…We share images with software, images that could have been taken with telescopes, or stood in for the need of one. And, of course, we use computers for telling time and for counting…does anybody use an abacus anymore?

On Growing

This is an obvious analogy, but here goes:

In the network, we grow things. We seed them with a DNA of sorts (the framework of how they work) and then we unleash them in the wild. Wind, rain, sun…we get all those things in the form of trolls, criticism, and fans. We need those things…they each help us grow in different ways. Become hardier.

For example, Digg has grown despite the myriad of attempts of mean-spirited people who try to game the system (some are just curious, too). But in combatting those people, Digg is emerging stronger than they were. I for one really like Digg’s Apple feed.

In the network, we don’t build things fully-formed. We don’t plant huge trees and watch them gain another 10% of their final size. We watch them grow a thousand-fold instead. We can’t predict which way the branches will go, but that’s OK. They’re growing up.

So, while the original ideas are important (the seed), the way you care for the tree and shelter it from the elements might be more so. This might explain why some projects which are just as good as others (like the open source clone of Del.icio.us – De.lirio.us) don’t catch on like the original. They were there first, of course, but they also had someone watering it daily.

Evolution of Ideas

As I mentioned the other day, the Wisdom of Crowds is an important idea in Web 2.0. (Before you start complaining about the term Web 2.0, go read this). And, like many other ideas being taught to us by the network, the Wisdom of Crowds is counter-intuitive. Even so, it represents with great clarity the notion that we’re learning a tremendous amount about how we work, how we relate to each other, and how the world relates to us.

But why is this happening now? Why are we finding so much innovation and ideas popping up now? Is it because technology has reached a certain level of functionality? I don’t think so. Is it because it wasn’t true before? I don’t think that, either.

I think our observations of what seems to be working and what seems to be not working have finally changed the way we think about the world. I think we’re just getting used to the Web and the implications that it has on our lives. It takes years for people to change the way they think. Some never do.

Continue Reading: Evolution of Ideas

Where is your money?

It is widely agreed that the number one way to produce a successful web site is to provide compelling content.

Similarly, the number one way to produce a successful web application is to provide compelling tools for use.

Is this where your priorities are?

I don’t mean the priorities in your head. I mean are you continually investing in compelling content and tools. Not advertising, not graphic design, not marketing, not promotion.

Compelling content and tools. Is that where your money is?

On Individual Wisdom

Kathy Sierra talks about how she misinterpreted the Wisdom of Crowds idea. Great read. I had a similar AHA moment about it myself recently, which is why I still consider it the most crucial idea of Web 2.0.

The Wisdom of Crowds is not about group decision making. It’s about aggregating individual decisions.

Big difference.

On Breaking

Umair Haque on Breaking the Corporation:

“it’s time to innovate not just what we produce, or who we sell it to, but why we produce.

Design is like a Hand of Cards

Each design is a new hand of cards. Not only are the cards we’re holding different every time, but so are the hands of the other players. Our hand is our own knowledge of the design project, and the hands of the others are the constraints that we must deal with.

The difficulty with design is that each design project has different problems to solve. While we want to be able to generalize those problems, doing so actually hurts our chances at creating an appropriate solution to our specific problems.

Designs, when successful, are successful because they acknowledge and deal with the unique constraints of the project at hand. When not successful, designs usually fail because someone didn’t fully understand the constraints of the project. It is dangerous to generalize constraints.

Continue Reading: Design is like a Hand of Cards

On Real World

Thomas Vander Wal:

“most of the information that is on the web is not really usable or reusable as it is not structured to be used in the place or context where it makes most sense. Most people do not live their lives on the web they live them in the real world. Information and media must be built with this understanding.”

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