As if they have all materialised from an alternative reality, the new wave of sites, tools and services have descended upon the technorati almost simultaneously which is causing many to wonder where the web, and publishing in particular, is heading.
- We have a new focus on context and discovery as our online and offline lives converge and we are seeking more relevant information.
- Dave Winer argues that the web is, should be, and was always designed to be socialist but organisations try to make their sections of it capitalist resulting in walled gardens which block the flow of information.
- Services such as Medium are putting the topic ahead of the author in an attempt to focus on quality of data rather than the identity of its author.
There appears to have been a collective epiphany, a realisation that, although the web is the most "open" and easy to use it has ever been, things are in need of (yet another) shake-up. There is something wrong on the Internet.
As I wrote earlier some seem to be "letting go of the ego and reducing the emphasis on the personal brand" all in favour of the greater good, but for many this requires a large mindset shift which they may not be ready, or even able, to accommodate.
Who are those looking to change the way we publish? Who are those looking to guide us on the path to Internet enlightenment? They are the people who already made it, they already have a widely recognised personal brand (and often the wealth that goes with it). They are the ones who have served their tour, but what of those who have not?
Many will not want to sacrifice authorship for the sake of the collection (or the collective). It may not even be as simple as wanting to sacrifice authorship - they may not even be given the chance.
Who watches the Watchmen?
As Anil Dash so eloquently puts it: "Building a social tool for “just us geeks” permanently privileges the few people who get in the door first". There may be a new emphasis on quality but is that at the risk of creating an elitist culture (think Svbtle where you have to be invited to join) which goes against the principals of an open and inclusive web that the very same people are suggesting we need?
Are we experiencing the "white flight" as it is called, with the privileged few suddenly "too cool for school" and bored of the current offerings now that everyone else is playing in their sand pit?
There is an attraction to the new, the shiny, to the need to be constantly pushing forwards dragging the world along kicking and screaming whether it wants it or not.
Each new wave is seen as the saviour of the last - until the next - with the same stewards overseeing its progress. That progress, however, transfixes us and we want in, we want to be one of the cool kids invited to the party which just goes to show that we can't really sacrifice the ego.
Who is to say that any path we take is the correct one, that the choices of the few are the best for the masses, but who watches the Watchmen?
Image by tikilab.