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March 24, 2008
Overcoming the skeptics
Clifford Stoll probably didn't imagine that his 1995 essay in Newsweek dismissing the Internet as a "trendy and oversold community" would ever become an item for discussion again, much less 13 year later.
It did yesterday (thanks to Digg), mostly because of extreme irony: his various points of skepticism, that computer-aided education would ever become important, that we'd buy books and newspapers over the Net, or that ecommerce would ever take root, have largely come true.
They were big ideas then. They didn't have a clear pathway to fruition, which is where skepticism breeds. Skepticism about technology is easy. Skepticism about ideas is not.
The big ideas of today, like making all of your intellectual property available for free, or launching a social network for customers or developing an extreme niche like space tourism, are easily dismissed because they're not safe bets, and they upset the existing balances of power -- two additional sources of skepticism.
Just as they did 13 years ago, the big ideas of today don't have simple and clear pathways to fruition that anyone can understand, but someone probably does. You'd better believe that virtual communities dismissed by Stoll in 1995 are breeding grounds for idea generation in 2008.
The big ideas Stoll dismissed required years of evolution to become viable. They went through a period of natural selection and homeostasis, where the idea remained intact but the external forces around it changed.
These days, a big idea person has to be a biologist just as much as a marketer and a technologist.
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Ah, very interesting. Digg always seems to "digg" up the best stuff eh? It'll be interesting to see where we are 13 years from NOW. The most unimaginable things will be created and we will again be in awe. things are moving too quickly!
@Brick: So true about Digg. Another example highliting the power of distributed thinking!
If you never read this book http://tinyurl.com/2c7cn7 you might want to pick it up. It talks a lot about the phases the internet would (it was written in '97) go through and how in the final phases it would really be about communities and defining oneself by the community you belong to.
Given your work -- you may find it interesting. By the way, big fan of the books. Even bought the workbook ;>).