June 20, 2005
Supernova: Whole New Internet?
Janice Fraser, the author of this article, is facilitating a discussion about what’s new on the Internet — what developments like Flickr, Technorati, Del.icio.us, &c. mean. Do they signify a broad advancement in the pattern of innovation?
She starts off with a slide explaining her thesis: “The new internet embraces openness, relinquishes control, and assumes an unknowable future that will be realized through collective effort.”
So where does this leave us? We’re turning away from publishers providing content and embracing people as content providers, Janice says. We’re mistrusting centralized authority in favor of collective wisdom. We’re rejecting a packaged experience for an authentic one.
A rumble from the crowd. “OK, I’m getting bored,” says Man-from-audience. “You haven’t said anything controversial.”
A period of back-and-forth ensues over the question of what’s really new in all this. Janice says marketers have to figure out how to respond to the trends listed above. Man-from-audience says they’re just repackaging corporate products as “authentic” ones, nothing’s really changed there.
Back-and-forth ends. Janice continues with her list of what’s changed in the new internet. Tech advancements can be cool, she says, but what we’re looking for is new design insights. The new Internet doesn’t care all that much about business plans; it just wants to make “things.” (Cf. Chris Anderson re: long tail being less about financial compensation and more about self-expression.) Our applications have changed from being feature-rich to being “feature-stingy.”
This last point draws some fire. Flickr is very feature-rich, someone points out. But it started out with a lot more features, rebuts someone else. But for every specialized software application, someone else says, there are tons of broad apps as well. It’s just a function of having more apps.
Yes, these are the disagreements that are happening right now. I feel a little bad for Janice. She just wanted to define the parameters of the new age of the Internet. But she got handed an audience of attack dogs. Man-from-audience empowered the rest of the crowd to unleash snark. Now, smelling blood, they’re almost at the point of attacking each other.
Marc Canter asks why apps can’t adjust themselves from feature-rich to feature-stingy based on the preference/mood of the user. Man-from-audience says it’s ridiculous to try to build such a super-granular app. Two participants each attempt to deliver a can’t-we-all-just-get-along broad theory of everything moment. Janice has seemingly abandoned the conversation to surf the Web.
Honestly, the most interesting thing on display is the gender dynamic of the conversation. I can’t tell whether this is a relevant detail or not, but I’ll include it nonetheless: The room is very predominantly male. Janice, you might have noticed from some pronoun clues, is female. Has that set the tone of the discussion at all? Would Chris Anderson have drawn more snark from the audience had he been Christine, instead of, ostensibly, Christopher?
I think I might have noticed one other black man at the conference so far, so maybe that’s the only reason I’m sensitive to this.
Then again, only one of the other two women who’s spoken thus far made the point that the fairly narrow demographic represented here can’t possibly describe the experience or parameters of “the new Internet” for people across the globe. I think she’s thinking what I’m thinking.