The year is almost over, and finally we're getting some winter weather in NYC.
A few notes, along with coffee. A tradition here on Scripting News.
1. My visiting scholarship at NYU is over. It was a two-year thing, and with the fall semester complete, I am now once again a free agent. I'm going to go without a title for a while. I've changed my blogroll bio, accordingly. Thanks to the folks at Arthur Carter Institute for giving me the opportunity of associating myself with you all while I get my boots on the ground in NYC.
2. When Diaspora came out, privately I said to people that I didn't give it much chance of success. I offered to help, since it came out of NYU. The kids were studying math and compsci just three blocks away from where the J-school is. They were being lauded by the press as the antidote to Facebook. I wanted to encourage them to try to lower expectations, both with the outside world and for themselves. It's true that they were no younger than Zuck was when he embarked on his adventure. But it's not wise to plan for such success. I'm sure Zuck himself didn't.
And Diaspora would have one problem that Facebook didn't -- they would have to contend with an installed-base leader with hundreds of millions of users. Much better to aim for a small piece of the problem, do it well, and move on from there.
3. If I hadn't been at NYU at the time, I probably would have said something publicly. But I had a responsibility to them more than I had a responsibility to relate my theory publicly.
4. Now there are news reports that some people associated with Occupy are taking aim at Facebook. They want to make the Facebook for the 99 percent. Oy. Here we go again. There is no market for that. Facebook is the Facebook for the 99 percent. The goal should be to make something open and non-monolithic that provides many of the most valuable services of Facebook without the silo walls. It should not be something that an individual does, or a small group laboring heroically, rather it should be something that the Internet does.
5. The reporters thirst for a David vs Goliath story. They live for it. When they spot one they seize the moment. And then they copy each other, and the people become famous, but the product never materializes. Because the people promising to displace Facebook don't understand Facebook. The whole point is that everyone uses it. Not that it's good, or what people need or want. It's the universality that keeps them occupied. Merely cloning Facebook will likely not get a significant number of people to switch. Something new and fun that captures imaginations in ways that Facebook doesn't -- that's the goal.
6. That it emerges from the Occupy movement is a good thing of course. I've gotten to know some of the technical people there, and I don't think they have the idea, any more than I thought the Diaspora guys did.
7. I'm going to stick with building writing, reading and presentation tools around open formats, each component replaceable. I'm fairly sure that's what the open system of sharing ideas and media will look like. From there, let's try out lots of ideas. I should have been able to hook my tools into Diaspora. That I couldn't says that Diaspora has zero chance against a juggernaut like Facebook. Same with the new Occupy devteam. They aren't trying to make their stuff work with existing open tools. No way does that have a chance against monsters like Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
8. Is the "golden age" of tech blogging over? Jeremiah Owyang says it is. I guess it's all about point of view. If you think tech blogging was Mike Arrington and TechCrunch, then yes indeed, it's over.
Not much more to say, except that TechCrunch was a blog when it started, but fairly quickly it became a tech pub pretty much like CNET or ZDNet. That one of them goes away doesn't add or subtract anything from the universe. The writers they employed will find other jobs. They will likely write the same stories they would have otherwise.
In the end they had the same point of view as CNET. A fundamental belief that money makes ideas worthwhile. It's understandable because they earn their salaries based on how much they please advertisers. It's like the hamster-farms they write about -- the readers are the product, and the customers are the advertisers. Bloggers, as I use the term, are the product without bothering with the advertisers. It's people and their ideas, for better or worse, and nothing more than that.
If that's what you mean by blogging, what they were doing at TechCrunch was not very relevant. They only wrote about bloggers in the aggregate, as if we were undifferentiated frankfurter meat to be counted and appraised, and then paid for. It's so much like the bundling that was being done in the real estate bubble. Eventually, I hope, the hamsters will buy their own cages, and make pubs like TechCrunch completely irrelevant.
My main concern with TechCrunch is that when they went to war with RSS there was a chance some Dilberts who read it would make bad decisions and decide to remove their feeds. Smart people would see it as hypocrisy, because if RSS is dead, why did TechCrunch bother to maintain an RSS feed? But there are managers at companies who don't think things through.
But RSS has no advertisers, so it's a safe thing for TechCrunch to criticize. Not many things left that they can be negative about.