Or: Consumer-Made Media and the Almighty Buck
Jason Calacanis is the P.T. Barnum of the weblog world. Barnum took a hirsute woman and turned her into The Bearded Lady. Calacanis took something as banal as paying writers to write and turned it into An Issue That Must Be Discussed. And I'm glad, because it is.
If you don't know the story, here's a recap. Calacanis sold Weblogs Inc, a network of topical blogs, to AOL for a staggering amount of money. Then he was put in charge of netscape.com, another AOL purchase, which was once the most visited site on the web but had since been micromanaged into a wasted wreck of pointless marketing nonsense. Calacanis announced that he was simply going to clone the tech news darling Digg. And then he did.
The new Netscape differentiated itself from Digg in three key ways: It was uglier, it worked against its own bottoms-up process by pegging stories approved by staffers at the top of the page, and they started paying the top contributors.
The other day I found myself needing to contact a friend. This friend and I, we're both bleeding edge technology nerds, so it got me thinking about how many ways there are for people like us to contact each other, and what the unspoken rules of etiquette are for each one.
Here were the options, in order of most immediate to least.
These days, I answer the phone with, "Is everything okay?" The phone is so pressing, so overt, so immediate, the only socially appropriate reason to use it is if you're trapped in a fiery building or someone's in the hospital. The phone insists itself upon the user, annoying everyone within earshot, and has to be answered immediately to make the noise stop. A hateful experience for everyone involved.
I'm 33. That means I'm stuck somewhere in between Generation X and Y. Generation X was stereotyped as lazy postmodernists, too comfy with our liberal arts degrees to get off the couch and do anything. Generation Y was defined by being, um, younger than that.
Frankly, I never saw much connection between myself and those labels. And lately, I've been thinking about what truly defines my generation. Us web geeks, us iPodders and remixers. I think we're Generation M. Here's my loose, entirely unscientific definition in three parts.
The "M" is for Multitask. We like to do two things at a time, minimum. We listen to music while surfing the web and having four IM conversations. We check our email on crackberrys and hiptops under the table during meetings. We don't feel fulfilled unless there's more than one thing going on. The closest thing my parents generation had to this kind of multitasking was reading the paper on the toilet.
My first laptop was a black Apple Powerbook G3, aka the WallStreet. I dragged the ten pound sucker across Europe in a backpack. I've had many computers before and since, but this was the one I pecked out stories on while riding trains through the European countryside, the one I fell asleep next to in Amsterdam, the one I jacked into phone lines to dial home to check email. This was the one I loved.
I've longed for a similar computer ever since. Black just seems to be the right color for a computer you're going to be traveling with. And the plastic was just more resilient than the easily dented metal Powerbooks that came after. In short, I've been waiting all this time for the computer that Apple just released.
Meet the new MacBook (formerly iBook). It's half the weight of my old WallStreet, same size screen, and so much faster I can't even imagine. And, yeah, black. So I went to see it in my local Apple store tonight and, frankly, walked away unimpressed.
I've used Apple computers since high school. If it wasn't for the Mac, I probably wouldn't have wound up working for newspapers, getting into the web, moving to San Francisco, and living the life I have now. I've sung the Mac's praises to friends and family for almost twenty years.
And now I know what, or more specifically who, Apple thinks I am.
Apple thinks I am a whiny kid who looks like he sleeps under a bridge. A kid who murmurs snidely to himself. A kid who can't grow a beard to save his life. Specifically, this kid.
Don't get me wrong: I think it's nice that Apple is finally touting its computers again. I just wish they could have done it in a way that didn't make me want to defenstrate my laptop and go buy a computer from that funny guy playing the PC.
I've been thinking about something lately. What do you call it when you voluntarily give up control of some piece of your life, because technology makes it easier? For example:
There are more examples every day. In a way, the march of technology is all about the speed at which it takes over the little things we used to do ourselves. Personally, I remember having to take my own messages, have computers and phones tied to land lines, and look up information in card catalogs. I wonder what things I do now that someday some new technology will do for me?
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts about Technology, including:
Will Post for Money
22 September 2006
The Etiquette of Modern Communication
29 July 2006
31 May 2006
Back in Black
18 May 2006
Thanks a lot, Apple
12 May 2006
7 May 2006
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Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »
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Will Post for Money 22 September 2006
The Etiquette of Modern Communication 29 July 2006
Generation M 31 May 2006
Back in Black 18 May 2006
Thanks a lot, Apple 12 May 2006