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31 July 2007


Joseph Daniel Zukiger

If Tim considers it a personal attack, he has lost his focus on freedom. Constructive criticism can't always be encased in warm fuzzies, and people who are free can take constructive criticism even when it is rather sharply delivered.

Web 2.0 is about using free tools to do the same-old-same-old. Yes, there is something wrong with that, and that something is the reason systems always end up bloated. There is, in fact, a very serious technical error in the concept of centralization, and most of the web 2.0 stuff I have seen have been obfuscations of the return to centralization.

Why should we publish on YouTube instead of publishing on our own servers?

I know, personal servers aren't easily enough managed yet for the average phone customer to each have one instead of the current dumb phones. But that does not excuse wasting time and money on what will ultimately be a blind alley just because a lot of young people think it's cool. (This was one of Bill Gates's original sins, not just selling it because people would buy it, but pushing it because some people would buy it.)

Does that example help?

How about the digital identity business? (Verisign, etc.) Can a central repository really store universal trust? Even though the sellers deny it in the fine print, you know that's what the average customer thinks he's getting.


Hi Joseph: Thanks for commenting. I think a lot of people would have been happy in the audience with the content of what Eben said. The delivery was however personal. Almost verbatim: "You've spent the last ten years making money and building your personal brand instead of having the debate about freedom that needs to happen." Unfortunately, the two accounts of people supporting Eben's position were written by people NOT actually in the room to see the debate. I was in the room. I watched the social reaction. This isn't about making a point that needs to be made. Eben deliberately burned a bridge.

Tim actually took it all gracefully. I think it's only in hindsight that he's feeling a burned by the rudeness of the attack. And I'll be clear: I like Eben and I strongly support what he stands for. What I don't understand is why he didn't choose any of the other ways he could have framed the bigger discussion.

I would argue that Tim's fascination with "Web 2.0" is precisely because he sees a rush to things like YouTube and Google Maps and the content controls and formats that are happening. Ignore for a moment the companies that will likely fail on bad execution and the lack of a value proposition. There is a genuine shift in the commercial world happening. Eben arguing that "Web 2.0 is heat noise" is a bit disingenuous. Historically, this is the sort of things we saw happen in the proprietary hardware world, and the proprietary software world.

I think it's exactly the problems you call out in your Verisign example that worry Tim. (I could be wrong.) It /is/ a discussion that needs to happen before we get burned again as consumers. It's always been my impression that that is the debate Tim wants to have.

Holding conferences and selling books that teach people interesting technology tools is a GOOD thing. I'd far rather give O'Reilly Media and USENIX my tutorial dollars to learn the software tools that give me a choice in construction, than have the likes of Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft dictate my programming platform. I don't see Tim "selling" those courses/conferences/books as a bad thing.

If he never tried to call the question, then he'd simply be a business man. The fact that he's calling the question means he's paying attention to the broader industry. Power to him for doing the hard work of executing.

I just wish Eben had delivered his message in the context of the discussion. I think it IS an important discussion. I think we are about to trap ourselves again.

Nat Torkington

Jane Jacobs's point about politics and commerce reminds me of this piece in the Economist explaining the failure to "rebuild Iraq" in terms of the military and commerce being mutually incompatible.

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