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Books & Articles I wrote.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Jerry Kaplan's StartUp and Web 2.0

After "The Search", the next book i have chosen to read is a book written by Jerry Kaplan (anyone have a link to his blog?) called StartUp. It's 10 years old, but you learn a load about the past if you bother to listen to its lessons (so long as you don't let it drive every decision you make).

I have also read many blogs, articles and even books mentioning things like web 2.0, web 3.0, search 2.0, search 3.0 and so on. I think versioning-wise this is fine. Trying to get all the features in the next release (whether 1.0, 2.0 and so on) to finally make X work (whether search, ecommerce or whatever) is a pointless task. It's easily done, but it's much better i believe to think of the whole thing as an interative process which will iterate each time everyone gets their "heads" in the same place (RSS took a while for adotpion but is core now). In view of this, I read the following in the prologue in Jerry's book (i'd love to know if this remains as important to him as when he wrote it):

[Jerry is talking with his Ph.D advisor Dr. Joshi about a problem he encountered]
"Perhaps you should try a different approach, Jerry."
"Like What?"
He pointed to the clock on the wall. It was round with no numerals, only single tick marks for the hours. "What time is it?"
"Four-Thirty". I thought he was pointing out that the hour was up. Instead, he walked over and rotated the clock a quarter turn to the right.
"Now what time is it?" In its new position, the clock looked exactly as it had before, except for the position of the hands.
"Seven forty-five"
"Are you certain? Rotating a clock doesn't change the time, does it?" He had a point, but i didn't know what to make of it. "It only says four-thirty because someone decided that's what it means. What's on the wall is a dial with two hands, yet what you see is the time"
I was still confused. He sighed and then continued. "All that's happened is that you've walked to the edge of the great mosaic of human knowledge. Up until now you've been living in a world full of ideas and concepts that other people have set out for you. Now it's your turn. You get to design a piece of the mosaic and glue it down. It just has to fit with what else is there. And if you do a good job shaping your tile, it will be easier for the next person to fit around yours."

There is a great lesson in that last part. The power of the web can only really be harnessed by building on each prior version of whatever was there in the first place. Being open allows that next person to build around you. We shouldn't worry about being the single dominating company in the world - we can be such a company by being the aggragate of the work that is buiding the web. The worlds largest limited company :) Everyone can get their 15 minutes of fame, make their small fortune and let the next person do the same, perhaps only to build on what they have. It's a pretty exciting future in that way - the question has to be (1) will people continue to strive to be open and (2) will the smaller businesses creating such tolls be happy to build, sell and reinvent or will they want to try to keep control? I don't necessarily think the two are mutually exclusive - Microsoft for example provide RSS feeds on much ofthe content you previously could only find on their site or at MSDN - many others are doing the same. Should be interesting!

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