Thursday, October 27, 2005

A plethora of Start-ups, and Spolsky on WWW II

Semi interesting link from /., if only because it hints at interesting things but surrounds them with a bunch of technocrap: Thinking Outside the VC Box - on the "Momentary Enterprise". A Slashdot comment picks up on why it might be a bad idea for economic stability, but fails to convince me as to why it won't happen. What I find intriguing is:

a). the idea that very short term profit as an aim for a company is very much in-line with economic thinking. In the long term, for instance, you have to factor in such context as environmental damage, etc, which cut into costs, which is detrimental to a company (let alone humans). A narrowly-scoped, project-led existence actually makes some kind of economic sense.

b). the contrast to current theories of firm's existence - namely (and correct me if I'm out here) either profit-making or survival - or, generally, some mix of the two. This "momentary" model purposefully sacrifices the latter in favour of the former (which is what separates it from, say, the dot-com bubble of pure hype but with implied hope of sustainability and growth.) The "sustainability", as it were, takes effect on a much lower level - that of the individual. If people are free to create businesses, join/leave businesses, and destroy them, then isn't that like just swapping project teams within an existing, long-term company? So long as there are abundant businesses, then the survival of the individual, across many individuals, is something near-constant.

Hell, some people think it strange that people used to stay with one company for 30-40 years. Now people think 5 years with one company is too long. Extrapolated trend?

Secondly, Joel Spolsky makes me laugh with this quote:

When people use the term Web 2.0, I always feel a little bit stupider for the rest of the day.

The line between "yes there is a revolution" and "no there isn't" is fuzzy (as Phil points out) - too fuzzy, says I, to really care about. "AJAX" is to javascript + the new browser generation + XML, as "Web 2.0" is to RSS + AJAX + tagging + stuff. In other words, the fuzzy packaging isn't really - technologically, at least - as important as what it's doing, and how people use it. The ability to package all these concepts up into one phrase may help to alert people about these new technologies, but they still evolve "independently" (in that they're realtively (and increasingly?) modular) of each other. "Evolve" perhaps being the key word. Anyone can define such phrases (in fact, I'd say this is Web 3.0 at least), so in the end they don't matter a huge deal. People are impressed by Google Maps. I'm impressed by RSS feeds in Thunderbird. Whatever you call it as a "concept" makes no real difference, I say. Will bundling them together have an influence? Maybe so, but probably not as much as you think.

I think perhaps there's also an argument that web "sceners" are inherently culty, and love anything that differentiates themselves from the hordes. Before everyone started using the net, "The Net" was the big cliquey thing. But now it's popular, it's much more difficult to stand out. Thus, "Web 2.0" is for sure a marketing invention (based on some very useful tech), but alongside that it can be seen as a psychological need for attention. These two things then combine to stretch vocabularies and ideas, such that we're now adopting (buzz?) words for things that have always been around, but have been less important. An economy of attention, long tails and power laws etc have always been around. Do they act any different once they've been identified? Or are they just excuses and justifications for when things go wrong?

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