I got into a long conversation with Robert Scoble on Facebook earlier today. I asked him, as I always do when I get a chance, to put some of his writing on the open web. Not all, just some. Start a WordPress or Tumblr blog for example.
Not sure why he won't do this, but I'll tell you why I want him to.
If he did, we'd see the weakness in the model, very clearly. But using the Facebook and Twitter APIs, we might be able to fix it. We could make it so that the open web gets a chance to distribute his ideas, as well as Facebook or some other commercial service (he seems to use many of them).
Not sure what direct benefit would be for Scoble, other than to know that he gave back a little of the flow that the web has given him. A bit of the attention. Maybe developers can do something with this. But if the people that other people read, like Scoble, don't do this, there's little chance we'll have an open ecosystem for ideas much longer.
This is what we, as adults, do. We pay a little more than we have to, to help good rise above other kinds of human nature. When you go out for a meal, you don't have to tip, but we do anyway (at least in the US, different traditions elsewhere). We all try to give to charity when we can, and help out people, again when we can. Why? Because it feels good. This is one of the things human beings do.
We need the people who the web has made rich and/or famous to step up and do their part to make sure there is an open web for years, decades, for generations to come.
I liken the VC-based tech industry, which Scoble is very much a part of, to the coal industry before we became aware of the damage that fossil fuel does to the climate. In tech, we're early on this, but now is the time to catch the problem before it's much more expensive and takes more time to fix. I said this to Bill Gates as he was amassing his fortune, that a little kindness to the ecosystem now will go much further than all the philanthropy you promise later. I say it to Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos, and to Robert Scoble. Be a leader. Show people that freedom matters. Show the tech industry too. Eventually they're going to want more open formats and protocols to build on. How are we going to make them without users like Scoble helping out. We can't create in a vacuum, without users.
Obviously I posted this on my blog. I could have put it on Facebook. I ask Scoble, if he has a response, to do the same. Put your response on a new blog you start, on Tumblr if you like, it's part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, or WordPress, another company that's raised huge VC. Let's accentuate the good that tech does, by supporting it. Thanks for listening.
PS: Robert is already helping the open web by letting me use him as a foil for this discussion. Whether or not he does it, people understand the idea of a Scoble pitching in to help the web that helped him so much. Now they know how important it is that they follow the leadership that Scoble could be providing.
PPS: I ask Tim Berners-Lee to join me in asking Scoble to come back.