Sunday, April 23, 2006

Guess I won't be using LinkedIn to meet Barry Diller

You never quite know what will come from a longish interview, so it was a fun surprise that the quote Andreas Kluth used in his great survey of participative media (requires sub.) in The Economist this week was my saying "What an ignoramus!" -- about major media mogul Barry Diller.

I don't think Diller's a slouch. His IAC/InterActiveCorp has been busy buying up companies that power transactions on the Net, from TicketMaster and HSN to RealEstate.com and LendingTree. They just did a terrific makeover of Ask.com, formerly the perennial also-ran Ask Jeeves (though I do miss the Jeeves reference).

Match.com is still in the running, but Evite... I always thought of it as a feature posing as a company, and if you've tried the invite feature built right into Google's new calendar, you'll see what integration does for invites (and events, and more).

But when it comes to media and talent, I put Diller's "there is not that much talent in the world" comment alongside other executive hubris, like AT&T's Ed Whitacre threatening to charge sites for using his pipes. (I can't get over the irony of SBC resuscitating and adopting the AT&T brand. Ouch!)

The thing we tend to forget is that until this Internet thingie came along, an average person could not leave stuff out in the world for many others to find and use. Impossible. Through all of human history.

This remarkable, short period since the very end of the last century is the first time ever that we've been able to share essays, comments, songs, film clips and code with one another. Worldwide. All the time. With very few constraints. It's remarkable and brilliant, a turning point in human history.

Even better, the tools for producing all this stuff now cost a couple thousand dollars, not several hundred thousand. And when you buy a commodity connection to the Net, global distribution comes free.

So of course there will be excesses. People will post junky, goofy things. They will experiment. They will do the most senseless things with the new medium. They will also get obsessive about it, sinking hours and hours into it. No wonder: they can now connect to everyone. It's overwhelming and exciting. And messy.

As they learn the tools, experiment with the forms and invent new ones, we will see the latent talent that exists everywhere.

Perhaps more interesting, their talent won't be constrained by the artificial busines pressures that so constrain "media" today, like the very concept of mass markets.

At a conference about the future of newspapers a half-dozen years ago, I remember a guy from an African-American periodical describe his market as a "niche." If the black American population is a niche, we've got real problems.

I realize this will sound too utopian and "everything will be free"-ish, so let me add that I'm actively involved in creating novel ways for talented people to be rewarded.

It happens that much new media can be produced at low cost, merely for the attention it attracts or the needs it fills. Over time, though, we'll find ways for new media to support promising talent outside the pretty dysfunctional music industry, for example, or the painting scene. The solutions are likely to be authentic and low-cost, with fractal markets built through long-term relationships. But all these things will take a couple decades to materialize.

Till then, I'm betting on an abundance of talent.

Oh, there's also a nice podcast interview accompanying the Economist piece.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Four (friends') terrific conferences

Looks like interesting-conference season is under way.

The first one is under way right now: David Isenberg's Freedom to Connect, in Silver Spring, Maryland. I met David years ago when he invited me to speak at AT&T Research, where he worked when he wrote the milestone essay, The Rise of the Stupid Network.

You can listen to the full conference live, today and tomorrow, by following the links on the conference's home page. There's also a nice real-time chat, which we're watching on a big screen at the front of the room as each speaker talks. Here's the conference schedule.

The next is Shannon Clark's MeshForum, May 7-8 in San Francisco. This is his second-annual collection of interesting people and ideas around networks of all types, including social networks, communication networks, political networks and network visualization. Here's the schedule.

Then comes Andrew Rasiej's Personal Democracy Forum, May 15 in New York City. It seems that every passing year PDF reflects a revamped environment. The tools and infrastructure haven't changed much -- blogs and the Net are roughly what they were three years ago -- but the general awareness and power dynamics seem to change quickly.

Finally, Cecily Sommers' engaging PUSH conference will take place in Minneapolis (at the Walker Art Center, as usual), June 11-13. Every year, I meet fabulous people and hear talks I don't hear elsewhere at Cecily's do. Plus, Cecily shows up in a dress made entirely of newspapers and she invites choruses and street performers in. Very cool. The schedule is here.

So jump in! Many fun people to meet, conversations to have. Schtuff to learn.

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