Wetmachine Blog: Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo

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Publishing: A “New Yorker” for the 21st Century

I’ve bumped into a series of issues related to publishing recently. I don’t know that they ever will or should combine to form a coherent idea, but it feels like I should record them as though in a design notebook…

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Context is King

Musing: While Google’s business model is based on advertising, it seems to me that the essence of their business is that they are all about meta-data. They don’t own or deliver data, but rather they keep subject, ranking, tagging, and other data about the data. In an information world, if you can’t own the info, owning or at least organizing the metadata about it is pretty good.

In this way, I think my professional activity is all about context. I don’t create or control collaborators nor the artifacts they collaborate on, but I do try to provide a means for people to organize and recognize the contexts in which these act. When we can access everything that anyone in history has ever done, plagiary becomes meaningless, and content is no longer king.

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Validation In Depth

A neighbor and I were introducing ourselves to a third at a block party. The first made designer genes, while I made designer worlds. Everyone knew what we were talking about.

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I hate software

I wanted to post a quick response to John’s link to a new book on IT management. But the site wouldn’t let me because my reaction didn’t fit in the 5000 character box. So I’ll have to do it this way…

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The Other Road Ahead

Last time I argued that from a technical perspective, the “server”, “client”, and “P2P” labels were complicated. That narrow view deliberately ignored the roles that these technologies have on the user, and on communities and business built around them.

I’ve been looking back at Paul Graham’s 2001 essay on “The Other Road Ahead.” He laid out a bunch of benefits that accrued from his successful company’s use of what he called a server-based architecture. While Viaweb originally relied on generic “Web 1.0” clients not distributed by his company, his essay looked ahead to richer clients such as what would come to be known as “Web 2.0.” I think the essay applies just as well today to mixed-technology deployments like Google’s current development. And I think it applies to some Croquet deployments, including those by my employer Qwaq. A lot of what Paul describes turns out to be things we’re already doing. But by explicitly identifying the benefits and what enables them to be realized, even a peer/client-centric geek like me can appreciate the operational value of the different technologies I’d mentioned last time. From this perspective, I’d say we’re “half-server-based.”

Worth a read (as are his other essays). See if you don’t agree.

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Going to California With…

I like to think I’m particularly adaptable on those occasions when I happen to recognize that I need to be, but I perpetually feel inadequate in recognizing when the rules of the universe have changed. That’s a pretty significant skill to be lacking when you’re trying to invent the future.

So it is with even more than the usual range of emotions that I have come to “sell” our home in Wisconsin and will finally be moving to California. I am told that this is an extraordinary accomplishment, but I’ve “adapted” so much, the celebration has a Pyrrhic cast.

The US housing market has all but ceased to exist as a functioning market with any sort of liquidity. In my neighborhood, there should statistically be about one home sale each week. Ours was the seventh in the previous eight months, and I think all of those were the previous calendar year. The issue seems to be that every sale is contingent on having the buyers sell their home, which isn’t happening, so the whole country is waiting for one big circle jerk. Many housing industry folks are claiming that prices have not fallen much, but that’s disingenuous – the average selling price nationally and in most areas hasn’t fallen much only because the average home size continues to rise. The average price per square foot of any particular existing fixed-size house is dropping like a stone in a still pond. (Areas that do not see average housing sizes grow have indeed been seeing a big drop in average selling price.) And with bankers knowing this and knowing that several hundred of their ilk are being carted off by the FBI – no I’m not making this up – they’re not making a lot of bridge loans that would allow folks to buy one house before they sell the next.

So here’s what we did:

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We have an industry

I just turned 44, which kind of sucks, but as they say, it’s better than the alternative. I think I’ve been old for a long long time, but now I have to admit it. Virtual World have been growing up, too, and my feelings are somewhat the same. Despite reports by Gartner and Forrester, articles in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Information Week, and even popular press like the LA Times, I still hadn’t quite caught on to the idea that we now have an industry. But when I saw Christian Renaud’s blog, I had to admit that “Virtual Worlds” is an industry category, and I’m in it. None of these articles are about the technology (what I do), but about what people do with it and how businesses make money with it. I guess it’s better than the alternative. OK, it’s pretty cool, but kind of weird. This stuff isn’t household technology or household names yet. The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. It’s an interesting life-span inflection point.

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Inventing the Present

Here is some new-media content about Information Week’s Mitch Wagner and Gartner’s Steve Prentice vs SL’s CFO and even Prokofy Neva. It is mostly about Second Life’s power and problems and how that relates to others. Croquet’s Qwaq Forums comes up a lot.

You can probably get out of this whatever you’re predisposed to. (I took away that Geoffrey Moore is right.)

Do follow the link from there to the video. It’s long and not densely packed, but it is a good tour of the non-technical state of virtual worlds — i.e., the things that matter to most of the world. Ten years from now, this is going to be how archaeologists remember today.

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“Who would've thought…it figures”

John Sundman, friend, founder of Wetmachine and my colleague at Curl, wrote some reflections on what went wrong at the two Rich Internet Application startups he worked for. (One was Curl.) I think his comments are spot-on. Here are some concurring reminisces, and one additional hindsight: we engineers were wrong not realize the deep structural flaw in our position.

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Intel, OLPC, and Croquet

It is interesting to compare Intel’s participation in Croquet vs. the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC).

Intel is a corporate member of the Croquet consortium, along with HP and Qwaq. Intel’s CEO Justin Rattner demonstrated Croquet-based Qwaq Forums during his keynote at the big Intel Developers Forum, and they are building a joint product with Qwaq. This all makes complete sense for Intel. For example, this week the market research pundits at Forrester released a report that says the 3D Internet will be ubiquitous in business in the next few years and that Information & Knowledge specialists should get started now with Qwaq. But there’s an even deeper fit specifically for Intel, which does not apply to OLPC.

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