Today I was going on and on about this same topic in a preso to a public company considering doing some meaningful stuff in the new/social media realm. We always talk about “coming bearing gifts” — not in the sense of bribes, but in the sense of generosity, and genuine stewardship. This is precisely “the ability to influence people using skills in responsible ways to fulfill their needs and interests,” as Dacher Keltner, professor at U.C. Berkeley, points out.
This is a really fantastic (if long) piece, which is really a excerpt of his forthcoming book, by Chris Anderson on the economics (and inevitability) of FREE. His agrument almost eerily mirrors the argument that Nick Carr makes in The Big Switch, which isn’t ultimately surprising, the two are close, and Carr quotes and references The Long Tail frequently in TBS. Anyway, it’s interesting because utility computing, like electricity, is on a direct and predictable path to zero (ish) in terms of cost, and the ramifications extend beyond technology and/or business, but to culture and society, effecting profound changes in how, ultimately, we behave. This is an issue that is going to hang around for a very long time, and we’re going to see the next 2-3 years as a major turning point.
On the other hand, you’ve got DHH and 37signals running around talking about the “freetards,” which is a completely tenable POV given that people will still (and always will) pay for quality products, cultural artifacts, etc. But these two viewpoints aren’t ultimately at odds with each other, in my opinion. Here is Anderson’s fundamental insight, which has to do with how we value things, of which currency is only one measure:
[The word is externalities, a concept that holds that money is not the only scarcity in the world. Chief among the others are your time and respect, two factors that we’ve always known about but have only recently been able to measure properly. The “attention economy” and “reputation economy” are too fuzzy to merit an academic department, but there’s something real at the heart of both. Thanks to Google, we now have a handy way to convert from reputation (PageRank) to attention (traffic) to money (ads). Anything you can consistently convert to cash is a form of currency itself, and Google plays the role of central banker for these new economies.
There is, presumably, a limited supply of reputation and attention in the world at any point in time. These are the new scarcities — and the world of free exists mostly to acquire these valuable assets for the sake of a business model to be identified later. Free shifts the economy from a focus on only that which can be quantified in dollars and cents to a more realistic accounting of all the things we truly value today.]
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is something that I can get behind.
Great piece on coworking in the times, still trying to get coworking up and running in Austin — Tom Ball, you wanna right a check or what? Whurley’s got a great space lined up above Wahoo’s that just needs a little love…
What Richard and team are doing here with comments is really innovative, and is in line with their brilliant overall “zag” approach to getting outside of the news cycle, engaging the community, and focusing on analysis (see also their DEMO coverage).