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.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bubblegen: A Retrospective

So I think many of you are new to bubblegen, and my HBS blog.

Some of you are understandably a little bit skeptical. Who is this guy, and what the £^%*$! is he talking about?

Here's what we've been discussing with investors, startups, and boardrooms for the last few years.

In 2004-5, we began discussing how the economics of media were undergoing profound transformation as a result of cheap interaction.

In 2006, we began discussing how new modes of coordination, like peer production, were reshaping production and consumption.

In 2007, we began discussing how markets, networks, and communities were the focal points of an edgeconomy.

In 2008, we will be discussing how the edgeconomy requires firms to fundamentally rethink DNA, strategy and advantage.

We will be doing that through my new organization - the Havas Media Lab. Which, if you think about it for a second, is one of a very, very small handful of organizations in the world dedicated absolutely to next-generation strategy.

The point is: bubblegen has been shaping thinking in this space for years now.

I wrote this article about why copyright was economically broken and strategically irrelevant, for example, in 2004.

That was when Larry Lessig was focused on IP. He was thinking about the legal aspects - I was thinking about the economic aspects. The point of the paper was to try and discover new paths to advantage in a world where old ones were breaking down.

Now, I can't give you all the answers.

But if you've been reading bubblegen through the years, I suspect you have gotten a tiny bit closer to at least some of the answers.

The edgeconomy has a funny effect on people: it's so counterintuitive, often people refuse to believe it exists at all.

That's because yesterday's assumptions are incredibly difficult to truly let go. How can Google profit by not being evil? How can Wikipedia exist? Isn't Twitter just a fad? Etc.

Let me offer a very different example.

Look at Hillary. How could Obama - using near-perfect edge strategy - close and then reverse the gap? It seems impossible to Hillary's team - still playing by yesterday's rules.

What Obama's team has realized is that a world of cheap interaction is a very different world economically - and so they are focused on very different kinds of advantage.

Bubblegen has been at the forefront of exploring that world for years. You're welcome to join the discussion. You will get a lot (lot) more out of it if you recognize that I do have the expertise to guide you through these issues - and if you can see the world with fresh eyes, not jaded ones.

-- umair // 1:24 PM // 14 comments


Umair, I commend you for your self confidence as expressed in the last paragraph of this post. It's a pleasure following your writings :-).
// Anonymous Mads // 2:58 PM


I can't and won't stop saying this: you have helped us define ideas which make for powerful new media strategies.

Thank you. We are nothing short of grateful.

-the marcellus team & preetam
// Blogger preetam // 3:48 PM

what you know has been understood in edge communities for many, many years.... what is amazing to me about the umair/bubblegeneration phenomenon is that you may be finding establishment people who will listen to you .... at least some of them, the ones willing to change
// Blogger gregory // 3:51 PM

Umair, I clearly bill you as a inspirational provocateur and spearheading a new breed of visionary economist - driving deep insight, which orthodox strategists, (and marketers) spending millions on fatuous-self-serving **read as fcuking shite** research - can only ever dream of. the cursory work in comparison (in this area) by the "commons crew" lessig etc, though extremely valuable (still reek of self-righteous ideological underpinnings - btw) could never match the UTILITY of your key findings.

A hap-tip to Umair for allowing us a glimpse into the future
**throws flowers on stage** - **applauds** - **curtains fall** - **Umair bows**

Btw, just finished reading your HBS post on strategy and about leave a comment there
// Anonymous Ray // 8:28 PM

hey guys,

thanks, really. it's very kind of you.

it wasn't my intention to sound like i'm in desperate need of some affection - i just wanna to able to educate the new guys a bit.

thx for the comments.

gregory, i'm not sure we can have a meaningful discussion - all you seem to wanna do is diminish the value of my work somehow. that's fine - enjoy the blogs.
// Blogger umair // 8:37 PM

I wrote an essay describing how Obama has used Internet tools to organize his campaign, and how such tools might transform the actual way the country is governed in powerful ways. The essay is entitled "The Coming Digital Presidency" and can be found here:
// Anonymous Ranjit Mathoda // 2:50 AM

no diminishment intended towards you, your points of view are superb, derived from a higher order of awareness, higher than the one found in current financial and political structures.

i simply don't believe the establishment can or will change, and that no matter how intelligent your approach, there is nothing you can actually do to change people.

they need to fail, crash, burn, self-destruct, though the ability to rig the game in order to continue seems infinite.

your work seems to be for the new generation of creator/producers, and this i applaud
// Blogger gregory // 5:27 AM

Umair, thanks for welcome and the reprise on thinking & discussion over the last couple of years. I am indeed a newbie to your blog, and the economics of the new world. Having graduated in Economics 18 years ago, and been buried in pretty conventional corporate life since, I've only just thinking about things in this way. But it's crystal clear that there's a been tec(h)tonic shift happening - and I'm utter revitalised in learning more.

My backgound is the delivery of public services (social housing & associated community cohesion projects). My gut tells me we need to fundamentally re-think how we do it : probably learning some lessons on collaboration, co-production, stepping away from command and control etc. It's not obvious to me yet just what that looks like - but there's no joy if it's too easy. So, am looking forward to reading and learning more, and hopefully adding to the discussion.
// Anonymous Jayne // 12:30 PM

Umair, I'm one of those newcomers to your writing, but we are on the same page, especialy when it comes to the differences between Industrial Age strategies, and those that will succeed in the Networked World.

I characterize it as the difference between scripting and improvising.

Here's a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post on how Obama's ability to improvise gives his campaign such demonstrated advantage over a campaign as beholden to the scripted narrative as Hillary's is.
// Anonymous Mike Bonifer // 10:40 PM

Umair - I started reading BubbleGen after a recommendation from Dick Costolo (Feedburner). He had only two reading suggestions for budding tech entrepreneurs - Techmeme and BubbleGen.

It has been a pleasure to read your work ever since. I don't agree with all of what you say but find your work refreshingly articulate. No wonder that I recommend BG to all and sundry and look for updates every day!

good luck and thanks for sharing
// Anonymous Manu // 7:45 PM

Hi Umair,
Just letting you know that elements your post on VC at Harvard became the subject of a Paul Graham essay on why threre aren't more googles.

It's the top story being discussed at HackerNews
commentary :
// Anonymous jcob // 8:21 AM

With all due respect, I'm not entirely convinced by your posts. I've read your earlier posts and you have a tendency to make post hoc claims i.e. predicting the earthquake after the building falls. You use loosely defined constructs (evil) and ask open ended questions that allow readers to come up with their own answers and assume they are in sync with yours. How much of Obama beating Clinton have to do with open source and how much does it have to do with innumerable other factors that are time proven to work in politics, such as charisma, personal beliefs, strategic investing, etc. In fact, he isn't as strong as he once was because of some classic political blunders.

It seems difficult to generalize your claims across every medium and business model. I want specific and accurate predictions about what will work and what won't. If possible, please link me to an earlier post that does that, preferably a year before the fruit actually bloomed. Furthermore, I'm curious to know how many Google like infrastructures popped before one actually solidified (on a side note, I'm sick of everyone toting Google as the paragon of the so-called "revolution").

To me, you come off as someone who found a few unique examples of open source thriving and then taking those and claiming that open source is the key to the new future. I'm more inclined to believe none of us know the hell about any of this because there are just too many damn factors and variables involved in any model to accurately predict anything. And finally at the very least, I'd like to see some posts about human factors. The Internet no doubt changed many things but human nature hasn't changed and the way we process information and consume still is a major point in how a successful business is run...and people have studied that long before open source existed.
// Anonymous Nick // 3:54 PM

He was thinking about the legal aspects - I was thinking about the economic aspects.

And I was thinking about the mechanistic aspects. From to

Intellectual property can be bought and sold in a free market, without monopolistic privileges such as copyright, and without taxation. It just needs a market that supports deals between artists and their large audiences (producers and customers of trivially reproducible goods).
// Blogger Crosbie Fitch // 3:43 PM

you might be a smart dude, but you sound just as egotistical as max levchin et. al, the kings of the web2.0 universe you so despise.

"Bubblegen has been at the forefront of exploring that world for years.... You will get a lot (lot) more out of it if you recognize that I do have the expertise to guide you..."

get over yourself and start making shit.
// Anonymous Anonymous // 4:54 AM
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