DaveNet: Sunday, July 6, 1997; by Dave Winer.

blue ribbon Jacob Levy Responds to Doc

From Jacob Levy, yl@tcl-tk.com, in response to Doc Searls on Bill Gates:

No argument from me that Bill Gates won. However, Bill Gates is no Mozart. He is the quintessential plodding Salieri. Does the phrase "Three times makes it right" ring any bells? Salieri is reputed to have written all his music three times, to make sure that it sounded right, because he couldn't visualize how it would sound when played. Mozart wrote one sheet copy and could play the music right away.

No, in our generation, Salieri beat all the Mozarts. And, I think this is an appropriate reflection of our generation. A bit of background will help see why. Salieri and Mozart squared off on the issue of virtuosity and who could write "divine" music. Mozart won, because his music was full of frills, twists and innovative surprises. This frillyness suits the way people (at least the rich ones) behaves, dressed, ate and lived. In our times, the emphasis is on utilitarian and functional. Frillyness, variation and originality are out. I guess there were fewer people on earth, so the very rich could afford to be wasteful and extravagant: now, Bill Gates spends $40 million on a little hut made of wood. In his time, the King of France spent about twice that in today's dollar value to build all of Versailles! I guess wood is getting pretty expensive these days..

And so it is with software: Lotus 1-2-3 was ages advanced when compared to today's Excel, and the Apple's user interface *still* has lots to teach Windows. But it doesn't matter that you're better. Today the winning entrant is one who is just barely "good enough", not original, extravagant or surprising.

One thing doesn't change: Salieri lived all his life in comfort, while Mozart's widow couldn't even pay for a proper grave when he died.

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