Everything’s an inkblot

A picture named inkblot.gifA great piece by Alex Hillman this morning about app.net, ostensibly, but it’s really about everything.

He says, accurately, that everyone who put up $50 to fund app.net had their own idea of what it is. They can’t all be right,because at least some of what they want is impossible and some is contradictory (both x and not x can’t be true in the same universe). Something is coming into view, for all of them, and they can project it on app.net. $50 is a way to express their vision. They “get” it too. What it is, exactly, they still have to work out.

Hillman says it’s an inkblot. I love it when people quote movies in blog posts. “The Rorschach on the wall isn’t an image of a bat; it’s nothing more than an ink blot, and that people see what they want to see.”

Meanwhile Jay Rosen tweets, quoting Nate Silver that the “pick of Mr Ryan [by Romney] seems to have been more of a gut-feel decision than a data-driven one.”

A picture named nixon.jpegI agree. When Romney looked at Ryan he felt he was looking in the mirror at a young version of himself. Ryan is like that, very easy to project on. As Anthony Hopkins says in the Oliver Stone movie Nixon, “They look at you and see what they want to be. They look at me they see what they are.” I don’t know who came up with that line, but it’s brilliant. Do you doubt that Nixon dreamt of being loved like Kennedy? And I imagine that Romney felt he could be Ryan, if he had a Ryan. Patricians and plutocrats think like that, I imagine.

Back to tech, when I look at the fascinating app.net inkblot, I see a lot of people who want something new and exciting. They know it’s not Twitter, because the new stuff in Twitter is now six years old, and they’re removing capabilities, not adding them. And the ones they’re removing are the most exciting ones, the ones that got us interested in the first place.

What I’m looking for is a core of doable stuff, that, like previous tech explosions is simple and loosely-coupled. Geeky and fun with enormous potential. There have been lots of them. Things like C, PCs, memory-mapped video, Unix, email, the web. And there are so many interesting new things out there now. Bootstrap Toolkit is certainly one of them. Where there’s something highly leveraged that people adopt easily, there’s potential for technological combustion.

What seems very unlikely to me is that the new thing will fall neatly in place on one company’s servers, or even with one company’s servers at the center. It’s never been that way. Going back to the previous examples, C and Unix shipped in source and were widely adopted. After a short period every system had a C implementation, with a lot of interop. There were huge numbers of PC clone makers that all ran each others’ software. ANyone could start a web server. And yesterday Mark Otto, the guy who worked on Bootstrap at Twitter, said he was pleased to see it being used in app.net. That tells you, right there, that Bootstrap has the potential to be one of these platforms that raises the level of everything.

A final note. Twitter and Facebook have been trying to trap the power of news syndication on their servers. That’s not their job. Basically I’m probably not going to be talked out of my belief that if you want an open Twitter or Facebook it pretty much has to be based on RSS or something exactly like it.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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