John Battelle posted a nice rumination on EPIC 2014 today—how cool is that? It’s still amazing to realize that, back in 2004, this flickering Flash video from two 24-year-olds in St. Petersburg (well, maybe Matt was 23) made it all the way out here to San Francisco and played on screens like his. (Remember, this was before YouTube. The propagation of video across the internet was still a shaky thing.)
But I do want to add one twist. In his post, Battelle grades EPIC 2014 as a forecast by checking its predictions against reality. A snarky commenter calls him out:
This may not be the best example of long-term prediction. The most important statement in the video is the last one – “perhaps there was another way” – which reveals it to be just another desperate propaganda tool by the people who are scared by the prospect of the New York Times turning into a print-only “newsletter for the elite and the elderly.”
Now, I don’t know about “desperate,” but, truth be told, it was definitely a propaganda tool. Matt and I made EPIC 2014 because we’d already given one presentation about the future of news—a slide show made in PowerPoint, filled with graphs and data points and earnest bulleted exhortations—and it was a total clunker. It put people to sleep. So EPIC 2014 was our second try, and I think its most distinguishing characteristic was not that it was a future forecast but that it was a story. It was a fable, actually!—populated by the broad, archetypal characters that the form demands.
And grading it as a story, I (not-very-humbly) give it an A, because thanks to good luck and good timing (and great narration) it spread fast and far—from John Battelle’s desk to Rupert Murdoch’s and beyond—and it sent chills down a few spines along the way. It made people gasp, it made people laugh (yes, the name “Googlezon” is supposed to be funny) and it bent a few careers off in new directions.
I wouldn’t trade any of that, ever, for the cold consolation of being right about the future.