Listening to Meet the Press today, it's fairly clear that Karl Rove and others will be indicted. A Republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, was spinning like this: Innocent until proven guilty. She hopes the charges aren't perjury or obstruction of justice, the kind of charges (she says) that you file when you can't prove your primary case. Those also happen to be the charges that President Clinton was impeached on, funny how standards change, eh. Democrat Art Schumer said he would accept whatever the prosecutor decided to do. Sounds reasonable, if you assume he's not partisan, but of course everything he says is totally partisan. So he knows the indictments are coming. This week it was exceptionally easy to read the tea-leaves.
The conference website for this week's invite-only Google Zeitgeist conference. If you have a password for the site that you'd like to share, I'd love to take a look. Right now, it's closed. I also sent an email to Google asking for access to the site. Hey if you never ask they can never say yes.
In her writeup, Sylvia Paull compares Friday's BBQ to early BMUG meetings. If Woz were there, he might compare it to the Homebrew club that met at Stanford in the early days of the PC. We all have our points of reference. To me, it was like the first BloggerCon. But all these events have something important in common, something that's very much like the web, they are inclusive and open to all.
How ironic that a conference called Web 2.0 was invite-only. It's so un-weblike to say who can come and who can't. That's not what the web says. It says anyone can come. Even so, there is a price of admission. To get to the BBQ, or the Homebrew Club, BMUG or BloggerCon, you had to have a ride. To get on the web you have to have a computer and a net connection.
A couple of days ago I pointed to an invite-only meeting about open media in NYC. Jeff Jarvis pointed to it, and in the comments on Jeff's site one of the organizers said it had to be invite-only because they had limited resources. Now, assuming this is sincere, and not spin, I don't think there's so much to be concerned about. Take a step back and ask what the goals of the conference are. How do you know who the right people are? Are you sure you do? Maybe it would be better to let the universe decide who should be at the conference. I can tell you if BloggerCon had been invite-only we would have missed some very interesting and important voices. Even if it's open you can (and must) limit participation to the number of people you have room for -- 200 people, or 100 or whatever. Put up a form on the web, announce the conference, let people sign up. You might be surprised to find that you don't immediately get overwhelmed with signups. All three BloggerCons had space left a few days after the form went live. And you can safely overbook, a good guideline is that 25 percent of the people won't show.
My experience with these shows is that if you trust the universe, it will take good care of you. In all three cases, exactly the right number of people showed up. Every seat was filled, a few people had to stand, there were enough lunches, lively discussions, all the goals were achieved. Now we didn't get people who only come when an event is invite-only, but I say that's good! Those people don't come because they love ideas and want to learn and share, they come for other reasons and they change the character of the event, not in a good way, imho.
People who come to open events are true web people -- there's no difference between 1.0 or 2.0 -- it's a constant. You come, like Enoch Choi, to share his story of helping people in a destroyed city (it's a geek story, surprisingly, and a smart one). You come because your three-person startup is achieving success and has big plans for the future, and you want to tell people about how excited you are to be creating something useful, beautiful and empowering. You come because you're young and happy to be alive. Or old and happy to see all the happy young people.
You come because this is the good stuff.
You come because this is totally 1.0.
This is why I came to Silicon Valley in 1979, when I was 24 years old. In Madison there were people writing software, smart people (some) but I wanted to make software at a different level. I wanted to make stuff that changed everything, that opened closed doors, that gave people power that used to only belong to the rich and old. Like an open conference, I needed to give something up to get there. But there was no gatekeeper at the door to Silicon Valley telling me I needed an invite. The door was open because not only is that a value of the web, but it's also a value of Silicon Valley, even if some people usurp that.
Later this week Google will have their invite-only Zeitgeist conference. It's as closed as a conference can be. And this is the company we lifted on our shoulders and held up as a shining example of the web at its best. We were wrong to do that, but forgive us for having hope. At some core level Google did understand the web, but there was also a lot about Google that was against the web, and now that's most of what they are.
This is the struggle we are constantly dealing with in the tech business. For a while we send up a beacon, a shining star, and it's exciting! Then they forget their values, where they came from, what made it work for them, and we follow them down into bad years. You'd think we could learn, but apparently we can't. Now can we survive their downfall? That's a good question, and one I don't know the answer to.
The excitement today has an element of panic to it. In our gut we can see that the growth is likely to end almost before it gets started. We see Google doing what we knew in our hearts they would do, pick fights with powerful industries that we have nothing against. The publishing industry has done more to support my vision that Google ever has, in fact Google has fought me, at a petty, immature level, based on being incompatible, if you can imagine that, where the publishing industry adopted RSS as-is, without trying to change it or break it. They say the publishers are clueless, I think it's Google's management that desperately needs to find its place in the world. I criticize the NY Times, god knows they deserve it, but when I call Martin Nisenholtz, he takes the call, and we work together, in productive ways. This is the east coast way of doing things. It's something Silicon Valley, which is run by immature men, needs to learn. We don't have to agree on everything to work together. In fact we must work together, and honor our differences with respect.
There is cause for hope. Google isn't the only act in town. Yahoo could challenge their dominance. I hope they do, and I hope they don't do it by being like Google. Embrace the world instead of picking fights with it. Work together because it's the right thing to do and because it's good for business. Point off-site, share the flow, come to BBQs and BloggerCons, know that the bright eyes of happy independent developers are the source of the ideas that drive this place, and make sure there's always a sense that this place is come as you are, no invite required and totally 1.0
Like Jeff Jarvis, I read Maureen Dowd's column about NY Times reporter Judith Miller in yesterday's paper. I have a few (blunt) comments.
1. This is why the Times needs a blogger columnist on its op-ed page, to catch situations like this long before they melt down at the level the Miller case has melted down. And I don't mean a columnist with a blog, I mean a blogger who is given regular space on the op-ed page.
2. If you think this is an unusual situation for the Times, think again. We know that at least some Times reporters aren't actually reporters any more than Miller was, they have the hubris to think they should shape the events they cover, that their point of view is what matters. I tried in so many ways to explain this at the Blogging, Journalism and Credibility conference at Harvard in January of this year, but the Times editorial people, as always, dismiss this criticism with arrogance. This is going to cause more problems in the future. People outside of the Times can see the problem more clearly than your insiders can.
3. Bravo to Dowd for seeing that her position can help the Times by getting them to think.
4. Please publish her op-ed outside the firewall (try the front page) so we can point to it.
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