In March I mentioned that perhaps we ought to ignore the Web 2.0 guys completely. Now, I’m figuring we ought to actively shut the up. Everyday I wake up to discover more and more not only do these people not know what they’re talking about anymore but that it’s likely that they never have.
Let’s compare two posts from earlier in the week, one from Marc Andreesen and one from Robert Scoble.
Now, in the first one, Robert Scoble is making the announcement that he will not spam his friends with paid for posts on Facebook–the social network that he seems to have only recently discovered. Now in the second, Marc Andreessen is announcing that he just sold his SECOND billion dollar company–the one he formed after literally inventing the world wide web.
But who do we hear from more? Who is supposed to be the expert? Maybe you could make the argument that before people like Marc started blogging we had to settle for Scoble, but that’s not true, Mark Cuban has been writing for years. And even if it were true, shouldn’t we gravitate towards the higher authorities when they become available? Scoble is a Top 100 Technorati Blogger, Marc is a full 500 places below him.
What I have come to realize is that all the talk of these tech guys being on the cutting edge, playing with tomorrow’s technology today–it’s all bullshit. They don’t see themselves that gate monitors but gatekeepers. If it doesn’t fit their narrow interests, they’d like to get rid of it. How else can you explain their recent fascination with Facebook? When I got my account over 2 years ago, I was still a late adopter. The only thing different today is that they added some gaudy nerd gadgets and NOW, they say, it’s the next big thing. They got lucky with blogs, and Myspace and YouTube. It wasn’t that they predicted a few massive cultural phenomenons, it was that by chance the public interest and the nerd interest happened to be aligned. But when you throw in Second Life and Twitter and Ze Frank and Lonelygirl15 and Rocketboom their record starts to look less accurate.
If it was about studying how the internet is affecting our media, you’d see a hundred articles about Tucker’s 11th week on the NYT Bestseller list. And you’d see a lot more honesty about the fact that hardly anyone plays Second Life. We’d be talking about why almost no one has successfully transitioned from User Generated Content to Hollywood consistency instead of about how YouTube is changing the world. We’d be discussing how despite all the hype the iPhone really isn’t changing anything–that it’s just a fancier version of the existing competitors instead of something entirely new. Or how Podcasting has not caught on with the general public and how the decline in music sales really has very little to do with technological disruption and is actually the result of an investment in unsustainable genres.
There is a real danger in getting caught up in the wrong camp here. For the first time in forever, an awkward minority of society has been given the microphone and they are not going to give it up easily. They latched onto the web precisely because they didn’t fit in elsewhere. As the walls come down and the internet is more seamlessly integrated into our lives, those flaws are more difficult to hide. Here’s the question that helps me align myself with the people that are doing something instead of just talking.
Have I ever gone a day without wanting better hardware or application technology? Yes. Have I ever gone a day without wanting better media–be it radio, tv, internet, cinema, books? No.
There are guys out there like Cuban or Andreessen (sometimes Calacanis) who succeed because they see what people want and then give it to them. Then there are people like Scoble, or Arrington (sometimes Rubel) who appear successful because they are always moving on to the next thing–because they are running away from appearing obsolete. Sometimes they’ll get luck and end up being right, but most of the time they are hopelessly out of touch. So you can follow the ones who have made billions of dollars but don’t have as many RSS readers, or you can follow the ones who cling to their online validation but have yet to turn it into anything. Your choice. I know who I’m learning from and I see the results everyday.