Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


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

Thursday, February 21, 2008

2008 + The TechCrunch Effect

Mike A has mirrored this post anyways (with a few comments of his own, worth reading), so here it is again, esp for all of you who asked to see it.

Let me add something before it kicks off.

First, take a deep breath and relax. If you're here just to rubberneck, it's lame, and you should leave.

That said, I pulled it for two reasons.

First, because it was turning into a bit of a pissing match (with people I know and like, no less). That's distinctly not the point of Bubblegen - if people don't want to be discussed, it's their prerogative not to be.

Second, because the cost of criticizing TC is taking on the larger TC machine, now and in the future. You get almost instantly tag-teamed by several people at once - guys who can spend all day blogging about you and your post, no less.

It's not just a pain. I think that's fundamentally unfair. It's not a game that's worth playing. What should be debate feels suddenly more like minor-league intimidation.

Maybe that's why it feels like, as several commenters point out, there's an elephant glaring at everyone from the middle of the room; an elephant with a keen ear and a short fuse, whom everyone is afraid to look at, for fear of getting stomped.

Anyways, blah, blah, blah, here's the original post, enjoy (or not).


Admit it. You're getting just a wee bit tired of TechCrunch. Erick's posts are usually pretty cool, and TC UK is interesting. But otherwise...between Mike, Duncan, etc, it's a bit like mistakenly walking into a room filled with screaming harpies.

I'm gonna make a prediction. TechCrunch (etc) are peaking. Without investing in the community - instead of just endlessly playing the community against itself - further growth (real growth, not just beta) is going to be more and more costly.

I'm gonna call this set of dynamics the TechCrunch Effect. It's the opposite of building a community. Instead of making a set of people with similar interests better off, you wedge them and divide them.

Yes, you can get attention that way - by tapping the dynamics of competition. No, you can't sustain it - because the returns to competition are dominated by the returns to cooperation in a world where anyone can compete.

2007 was the year of networks. 2008 is going to be the year of communities.

If we're lucky, Etsy is gonna start emerging as the next Google. Microcommunities are going to explode. Etc. Why? Because at the edge, love is more powerful than hate - a lot more powerful.

NB - Mike B has a nice and funny response here, which you should read.

I have a feeling I'm gonna take maaajor heat for this post, so let me leave you with three thoughts.

1) When I say love in the context of communities, I don't mean just giving good reviews. I mean managing the community so everyone's better off, not arguing all the time.

2) If you wanna comment, no flames for either side please. Bubblegen and TC aren't competitors, there's no need for anyone to feel threatened, so let's focus on constructive criticism.

3) Yes, of course, I could just be wrong.

-- umair // 1:58 PM // 24 comments


Not sure if Etsy will be the next huge thing, but do agree that Microcommunities are where the value is at - and their DNA is much better then Techcrunch and the like.

Techcrunch, Mashable, Readwriteweb are all competing for a limited of good stories and eyeballs. Growth might still come to all of these but the growth rate compared to the value they're generating is the issue. The growth curve of all of these is pretty similar too.

We need an aggregator and a filtering system through all of these sites to show us the valuable content.
// Anonymous Farhan Lalji // 3:41 PM

Interesting points. Here's what I think:
// Anonymous Mike Butcher // 3:48 PM

I don't think you're far wrong! I think as well as well as communities being the new networks, 'local' is going to be a big factor too (actually, not just local but sharing stronger connecting links). Many of us struggle with how thinly our identities are spread online - being part of really connected groups is much more rewarding.
// Anonymous Lisa Price // 4:50 PM

techcrunch, like all things, will pass, but not for awhile, and it is because there is an emotional genuineness to their tone. in your language, they are loving. they are supportive, have a social side, and their personality and heart is on their sleeve. that is worth money and creates longevity.
// Blogger gregory // 4:53 PM

Standing ovation. I'm in the PR business and we all know Techcrunch is overrated. Thank you for posting this. Here we have someone who finally has the guts to say what we all are thinking. The public secret is that Techcrunch isn't as big as it seems.

Mike's behavior of late is a pretext to that fact that he is exposed. Mike attacks people personally to shield his weakness. Community is important and Mike has burned every relationship that has come in contact with him just so he can earn a buck. He'll make money and that is his ultimate goal. The price for his success is no community and no relationships.

I think even calling it the Techcrunch effect is generous and is a direct insult at the Slashdot effect which became famous for shutting down sites. The fact is that Techcrunch doesn't deliver that much referral traffic. Certainly much less than Slashdot.

I don't want to leave my name in fear that my firm would fire me. I felt the need to speak up and support this post.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 5:34 PM

techcrunch. one word. inbreeding.

The TC community has the following 3 things.Proximity,self-similarity and shared activities - which is common with all communities (networks). the last one being the most powerful discriminator for a 'vibrant' community.

you can create community tools like blogger, flickr, digg, twitter, ebay which have the following varying degree of flavours: identity, groups, conversation, reputation, presence and groups.

u've mentioned on your blog (cuz', i've been lurkin' since y'day, when i accidently came across your wonderful blog for the first time via the obama post)...that communities need love (more than mere tools)

i agree. a love for a shared activity . actually, a very passionate love.

However, imho, communities need one more thing...variety.

Let me explain. Self-similarity in networks... u keep feeding of the same people over and over minded people....affirm your point of view - its simpler to trust someone who views the world thru the same lens as you do. expect that person to act as you would. Recognize the same concepts which makes it far more efficient. - but the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Before long, the community becomes inbred.

suffering from expert-think **read as groupthink** ideas become stagnant...

TC need to spread the love maan. with a wider variety of people.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 6:10 PM

Nah, we're just taking a breather. But thanks for the shout-out, Umair. I think your posts are usually pretty cool too. Usually.

I didn't realize we were competing with Etsy, though. Maybe we should let our commenters sell hand-crafted goods on the site.
// Anonymous Erick Schonfeld // 6:13 PM

I'm not sure if TC will become irrelevant any time soon and truth be told I could care less. Only problem I have them now is when I'm actually bored enough to take a dip through ValleyWag, Arrington posts on a ratio of 1:5 are unavoidably and annoyingly inevitable.
// Anonymous Zach // 6:24 PM

Hey Erick,

Thx for the response.

I'm going to offline the post, and I'm sorry if it made you angry - that wasn't the goal.

The "usually" wasn't a dig, just an unparsed sentence. I think you're a great writer.

Do you compete with Etsy? Maybe, maybe not, but my point was to note that Rob's love for his community is what's making it explode.

And that was kind of the larger point of the original post, not to create bad blood.

Thx for the comments guys.
// Blogger umair // 6:30 PM

So history's getting erased now, Umair? :)

But yes, I see it provoked some deep-stomached feelings, so perhaps offline-ing it was the thing to do.

On the other hand, because of your post, I heard:

"We need an aggregator and a filtering system through all of these sites to show us the valuable content."

"Many of us struggle with how thinly our identities are spread online - being part of really connected groups is much more rewarding."

"suffering from expert-think **read as groupthink** ideas become stagnant..."

And I saw Schonfeld take your post personally and not answer some of the fundamental issues that were just raised.

I also looked at Mike B's post and wondered:

- Yes, 684K is great. And maybe Jan is a slow month. But why have TC's page views gone up and average time spent on site gone down? Could it be that users are starting to look for relevance and not finding anything, they're leaving? Could it be that TC does a really bad job with accessibility and presentation?

- "A blog is in fact quite a lot more about community than meets the eye" we're talking about invisible communities now? Or maybe the intangible benefits of being a part of a blog? I would love to hear some more on this.

- "TechCrunch might appear divisive at times, but surely it is stimulating discussion about its industry? One of the problem’s the poorer trade publications seem to have is the sheer level of blandness.", I understand why you are in business(vis a vis certain inadequacies in the trade publications sector), but the question asked was, how long do you think you can stay in business if you're being divisive about your coverage at times?
I actually took offense to Duncan Riley's distortion of the Zuckerberg interview. I thought it was pretty damned mean. It would be presumptuous of me to assume why DR said what he did, but you had a point, Umair...sometimes, they do seem to be working against their community.

- "maybe we’re pissing in the pool?" We won't know till we know. But if pools were my thing, I'd have gotten my water-chemistry act together to get some color indicators to show up in my pool if there ever was anyone pissing in it.

And I definitely wouldn't make a pissing contest out of it, either, like TC just did.
// Blogger preetam // 7:42 PM

Umair, can you please email me the original copy of your post? I missed it.

(No luck on GOOG cache or


EthanBauley /at/ gmail
// Blogger Ethan Bauley // 9:55 PM

Etsy is the new Google? Yeah, sure community, value creation, the coordinated edge...but things are made by hand. The basic economics are still physical and can not jump the curve to make fantastic things cheaply. They are on the same quality/cost curve as mass production, just different ends.

I think you just burnished a good one in my mind though like the Paris Hilton post from Sept 06 that she's actually brilliant.

err, sorry, was the question about TechCrunch?
// Blogger Lloyd Fassett // 11:48 PM


Nobody at TechCrunch took offense at your post, me included. Have we peaked, is our community more divisive than it once was? All worthy of debate. I hope we haven't peaked. All we can do is keep writing and let the audience decide.

The Etsy comparison threw me off a bit (totally different kind of community, in my mind). But, okay.

Nobody should fear that we are going to retaliate against them if they criticize us. We might defend ourselves, but that is our right. We're certainly not tag-teaming you. Believe it or not, we do have other things to blog about :)
// Anonymous Erick Schonfeld // 4:01 AM

"In a world where anyone can compete . . . returns to cooperation dominate."

That's an incredibly useful insight to toss around, Umair.

Clearly, we're so used to a world in which only a few can compete that it seems a radical (dangerous) idea.

Yes . . . and Etsy. The love (of the type you refer to) is absolutely palpable in that community. Did you read the (198) comments to Rob's post on their investment ( I'm sure you did. Stunning.

So, we couldn't ask for a better example to look at the economic advantages of cooperation.
// Anonymous Brooks Jordan // 6:23 AM

Most entertained by Mike A's phrasing: "a blogger called Umair Haque" indeed.

Two possible ways of parsing that, I think

(1) he's a media/tech blogger and he really doesn't follow Bubblegen. That would be remarkable, and funny.

(2) he really does follow Bubblegen, but he's pretending he's never heard of you. That would be less remarkable, but more funny.
// Anonymous Seamus McCauley // 9:58 AM

Umair - What Erick said. Please don't think anyone at TechCrunch takes offence at your post. On the contrary, it was thought provoking and interesting, which was why I replied to it on TechCrunch UK.

What has happened also raises an interesting point. Some may think that a big blog can sort of intimidate a smaller blog. But in reality what happens is the crowd comes along and potentially starts kicking the bigger guy for picking on the smaller one!
// Anonymous Mike Butcher // 4:30 PM

Etsy is the opposite of community. It's taken something that has a strong sense of community - hand made, craft, self sufficient, local, green, women - and exploited it, turning it into an inefficient business with a costly head office and crafters, suppliers, vintage making nothing or virtually nothing and all at each other's throats in the forums. Rub that fairy dust out your eyes and have another look.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 11:43 PM

great post, but here's one moral point to the story that even umair missed. Forget arrington for now, he's delusional with illusive power.
The fact of the matter is Techcrunch is first and foremost a news site, it’s not an idea site, nor is it an inspiration site. You simple go there so see what just came out that is cool or “innovative” in the web 2.0 world! (lately nothing they publish is either cool or innovative)
Here is the problem, Techcrunch/mashable/… got big because web 2.0 got big with lot of hype. It is a direction relationship and they are interdependent. Since web 2.0 is losing hype and has become a bit boring with tons of new projects coming out every week that seem to solve nothing, it is no rocket science to predict the same faith for TC. Web 2.0 has evolved into multiple branches, more than 15 in my count, in the coming months or year these multiple branches with succeed to 4 to 5 practices that each will get their own hype. Semantic web is NOT one of the branches, it still is a part of web 2.0, which sort of makes it web 2.5
TC is still a news site, but the stories it covers right now are not getting that much attention, traffic is still there because we’ve made it part of our daily routine so visit the site, but as we start looking for better sources of information and quality/informative blogs we will visit TC less and less.
// Anonymous Bam Azizi // 11:59 PM

Tech Crunch and Bubblegen have different DNA, (nes pas?) + different markets, ambitions/pretensions... so, pretty simple.

One could also postulate that Bubblegen risked "peaking" with Umair's involvement in Havas Media Lab, especially as the entry introducing the explanation for posting "with a bit less frequency" was disingenuously entitled "Bubblegen 3.0"

"I used to post a lot about bigger picture stuff at Bubblegen. (edit) you know why." - Umair.

But, ofcourse, the different DNA means that this site can easily survive Umair's divided attention. (BTW, Umair, I'm a big fan, as I think u know, I was just pointing out an obvious parallel jab that could have been made)

OK; my take is this: The current orthodoxy on the Web is still old-fashioned hierarchical (like Google's page-rank system) and Soooo-Broadcast, i.e.'Few-to-Millions' in its basic logic and culture. So, the few that stand out in a niche compete like hell, consciously or unconsciously.

The (stuck in the 90's) Web, still resonates to the misleading Alexa-Philia 'popularity-contest' metrics, as if numbers of visitors had anything really to do with relevance to "Me", and "My Interests"... That's all sooooo not 2010.
// Blogger Simon Edhouse // 6:09 AM

Umair loved the over-simplification: 2007 was the year of networks. 2008 is going to be the year of communities.

2007 was the year of fragmentation. 2008 will the year of more fragmentation, and 2009 will probably(if we're lucky) herald the beginning of cohesive networks and symbiotic walled gardens. which ultimately might lead to the creation of gated communities by 2011 - is so much more boring...
// Blogger Me // 8:57 PM

I think my last comment needs clarification:

Yes, 2007 did see an explosion of social/ad networks, but the explosion took a part of our core and created smaller fragments out of it . And we will see more such fragmentation in 2008.

Community building can only happen after a majority of all these fragments are actually networked with each other(as opposed to being stand-alone networks..which were and are getting created everyday).

Yes, the edge economy will be made of markets, networks and communities, but my point was simply this: for the edge economy to take shape, there’s going to have to be a lot more hyper-fragmentation than happened in 2007. And as that hyper-fragmentation is about to peak, we ought to start seeing the walled gardens I was referring to.(Eg: Facebook <> LinkedIn users share connections, but are on either site for different purposes).

To me, a community and a network are used interchangeably today. Is FB a community or a network? Is MySpace a community or a network? Is LinkedIn a community or a network? Is Etsy (your favorite.. J) a community or a network? I’d say that aside from Etsy, the rest are all networks. A community in the edge-economy needs to be able to play with others, in order for it to be a successful one.

Yes, networks and communities will solve the problem of hyper-fragmented markets, but we need to see more fragmentation, more networked networks, and true communities, before we can see a hyper-efficient marketplace.

I love BubbleGen, and I love it that you take the time, effort and sincerity to say what you say. I think you basically rock. Sorry about the miscommunication…I should have been more specific, so hope the above helps..
// Blogger Me // 6:53 AM

Interesting points. Here's what I think:

// Blogger fdds // 2:44 PM

Interesting points by pretam. I like this article
// Blogger fdds // 2:47 PM

I think this discussion just re-started. :)
// Blogger preetam // 7:23 AM
Post a Comment

Recent Tweets


    due diligence
    a vc
    tj's weblog
    venture chronicles
    the big picture
    bill burnham
    babak nivi
    n-c thoughts
    london gsb

    chicago fed
    dallas fed
    ny fed
    world bank
    nouriel roubini


    uhaque (dot) mba2003 (at) london (dot) edu


    atom feed

    technorati profile

    blog archives