Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Etech Gets Ninged?

Having gone through as much Etech stuff as I can, I have to say: it seems like Etech was less than hugely insightful about the attention economy, as many were hoping.

Now, I wasn't there. But given the fairly broad feedback I've heard, and all the stuff I've read, there seemed to be a notable dearth of good ideas.

The best, IMHO, probably Doc's notion of the "intention economy"; but even this has a fatal flaw: it squares the marketing circle nearly bringing us back to the much-loved/much-loathed "persuasion", and it's logical consequences are nasty things like focus groups and intrusion wars.

Attention is not intention; nor should it be, because intention leaves a huge gap open for heavy-handed, ham-fisted, marketing 1.0 style "persuasion" (that's when marketers begin thinking they should try to change your intention...). But I digress.

Why the lack of good, seminal ideas?

Because, like Erick Schonfeld points out, there is a big problem: there are no first principles (definitions, etc) to base discussions of attention on.

This begs the question: why not?

My take: Etech is still very much a geeky thing. And geekspeak, by itself, unfortunately, can't get to the bottom of the attention equation.


"...The problem that Slashdot faces is the tragedy of the commons. The aggregate attention of the users is the commons. Everyone has an incentive to see that maintained for Slashdot to thrive. Every poster has an incentive to defect, to get attention for themselves. So here are how Slashdot attempts to maintain the tragedy fo the commons."

This is from O'Reilly Radar's summary of Shirky's talk. Let's note a few things.

1) We are talking, here, about the oldest, crappiest piece of "social" software on th www: Slashdot. Is it really relevant to talk about Slashdot in 06? I don't think so.

2) Note the (deeply flawed) assumptions behind this analysis: attention is a public good (Slashdot threads are the public good, actually), everybody's payoffs are like Prisoner's Dilemma payoffs (are they? does everybody really want to be always and everywhere a troll? I don't think so), etc.

Let me put it another way: Etech didn't invite the guys the are really revolutionizing the economics of attention.

Who are these guys?

MySpace, teens in Korea, a handful of very smart ad + branding agencies, etc...

So how could deep learning really take place, when the real innovators weren't at the conference?

This is another form of getting Ninged - too much geekiness, too little interface.

Of course, this is just my take - so feel free to comment if you were there and loved it.

-- umair // 8:25 PM // 7 comments


Amen. The same people repeating the same memes.

I wouldn't be surprised if Rupert Murdoch is the most important Web 2.0 player in 2 years. Scarily enough, Fox seems to be the only big company in the US thinking about real people instead of techies. The people of the media companies may misunderstand tech badly, but they apparently do understand their audience. (And I work for a well-known tech company; maybe it's time to dust of the resume...)
// Anonymous Anonymous // 1:27 AM

Teens in Korea? Are you refering to a specific community or website?
// Anonymous Mitch // 5:13 AM

Cassandra, Cassandra; throw down your hair:)
// Anonymous Marcus // 7:34 AM


I agree (and that's what I don't get).


Not really, just teens and how they interact.


Ha ha.

Thanks for the comments guys.
// Blogger umair // 7:44 AM

Abs. agreed U. Glad I couldn't go after all! How could a whole event be organised around this critical subject and produce so little of insight/interest?
// Anonymous Michael Bayler // 1:48 PM

People are always downplaying the relevance of everything from Slashdot to Google. Maybe they are not brand new but they've each made much more of an impact than the new "web 2.0" crap. I too am interested in the next big thing so I can understand where people are coming from. With the constant flood of every new AJAX/social software startup, perhaps there really isn't much innovation going on?
// Anonymous Scott Hildebrand // 10:54 PM

Ha ha! I'm sure Umair just dissed /. to get the traffic. :-)

[quote]I wouldn't be surprised if Rupert Murdoch is the most important Web 2.0 player in 2 years.[/quote]

Did Murdoch *do* anything? Other than buying an existing site? Isn't that like calling TimeWarner "visionary" for buying AOL?

Frankly, this is just the oldest story in the book. Innovators invent new stuff and share it among themselves. Then, later on, other people jump on the band-wagon and popularize it for the masses.

Does that mean the innovators were "wrong" or "stupid"? Or that the popularizers are "smarter" or "get it" better? Of course not. There's an innevitable rhythm to these things. The techies couldn't create a populist cultural phenomenon from scratch. It needs some time in beta before we all work out what's really going on.

Everyone thought that "big media" had the web cracked in the late 90s, during the bubble. Because, after all, they understood the ordinary, real people who made up the audience. That turned out to be dramatically wrong, in terms of investments, *and* in terms of predicting where this was going.

The people who did, really, get it were the geeks, who stayed underground, working on obscure stuff like PageRank and syndication formats etc. Now, these things are getting popularized. Some of the popularizers who understand the mainstream enough to bring this stuff to it will get big. The majority will flame out again.
// Blogger phil jones // 7:41 PM

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