On my Twitter profile page I've added to Media Hacker another title, Toppler of Paradigms. It's kind of a joke, because just being alive is enough to qualify for the second title. If you doubt me, think about what happened in 2008 and what's happening in 2009.
Some are in the middle of paradigms that are being more heavily toppled than other, like people at the New York Times. Today I offered a virtual hug to all of them. I explained, in two twits: "Today's 3rd hug goes to the New York Times. The whole place, top to bottom. Everyone gives them [a hard time] cause they're on top of the heap we expect so much, too much -- so at some point you gotta just say 'We appreciate you' and leave it at that."
Hugs really work. They help soothe the feeling of disruption. Kind of like an analgesic for change. I'm not kidding. If you find the world isn't treating you like you want, try giving out some hugs. You'll be amazed at what comes back.
Anyway, back to the Times.
I think it was Alan Kay who said the Macintosh was the first computer worth criticizing. I think that's what the New York Times should understand, that as long as people are telling you what to do, it means they care. When they stop, that's when you need to start worrying!
I also wanted to thank the Times for being the ones who made RSS 2.0 the roaring bonfire of content that it has been for the last half-decade or so. And to the tech people at other pubs who followed the Times' lead, without trying to improve it. Because of all this compatibility it was possible for a market of tools to develop around RSS. That should serve as an example, a template, for future publishing standards.
Which brings us around to the idea that put the Times in the center of today's discussion. They now have an API that looks very much like a social network API, like Twitter or FriendFeed. At first it's a shock, why do we need another, and why is it coming from NY instead of Mountain View, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, San Francisco or Redmond? Well if their paradigms can be toppled why not ours? Indeed. But... Is that really what is needed from the Times? And what chance does it have to succeed? I thought of other successful once-new publishing paradigms -- Aldus, Quark, HTML, blogs, RSS, podcasting. Is the Times like those? No -- it's more like AOL or Compuserve, if it's even that open (I don't think it is).
Here's the key point, the open-ness that counts is not that anyone can develop apps on top of it, though that's nice, it's if anyone can get on the other side -- can I publish behind the API? On all the platforms I listed in the previous paragraph the answer is yes, I can get on the other side, even AOL and Compuserve, but to be really open it has to be open on all sides, in all ways. RSS was so open that it was possible for it to be usurped by Feedburner and they almost completely sucked it in behind their wall, before people started to get wise that maybe that wasn't the best thing for everyone.
Even Twitter, the raging rocket of growth that it is, is not as open as we'd like it to be, not even close. But I can create any number of accounts on Twitter, and build my own little universe there and publish with all the tools available to Ev, Biz and Jack. If the Times wants to play in that game, and I'd like them to -- it needs to be possible for me to compete with my heroes Frank Rich and Paul Krugman, and make the ones I don't like so much (names withheld) look like the asshats they are.
In other words, you want to have some fun, throw some fat on the fire -- let your writers, editors and pundits compete with the wild wooly world of the Internet on completely equal terms. Then you'll have a chance of tapping into the growth on this side of the mike.
With much love and more hugs, Dave