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15 April 2007

Positive feedback loop?

A draft book introduction can now be downloaded here. (Many thanks to Naresh Ramchandani for the PDF cover idea, John Dutton for the photo, and Dan Norris for the design and layout).

The internet is allowing a new level of public conversation and media participation. By sharing the book’s thesis and my thoughts-in-progress well ahead of publication I hope to start some debate about the issues and get feedback to influence and improve my ideas.

In the 21st century, accelerating change is a constant and nowhere is this more apparent than online. In the book I plan to explore how key net developments – from file-sharing and user generated content to open source software and other forms of mass collaboration – form a wider trend in society, culture and the economy at large.

I’m interested in explaining a shift in the centre of gravity from the monolithic, the hierarchical and the centralised, towards the miniature, the networked and the distributed.

Some small print for business readers: this isn’t a ‘how to’ book. There are no “Top 10 Tips for Small-Big Success” or 7 Small Ways of Winning Big” and so on – partly because it’s just not that kind of book, but also because it is too soon to write these rules anyway. The coming together of information networks, individual autonomy and new ways to collaborate introduces a monumental range of possibilities and we’ve barely scratched the surface. The proverbial Fat Lady isn’t even warming up her vocal chords, she’s too busy updating her MySpace profile and recording a weekly podcast for her fans.

We don’t know what the outcome of this transfer of power between Big and Small will be, but we can observe the Small starting to exert a tremendous amount of influence on the Big and change things we’ve taken for granted for the last two hundred years. This book is about describing this shift, exploring the world that is being created, and then speculating on what it means and how it might apply in the future.

I’d welcome any and all notes and criticisms, either in comments on specific posts, mailing me directly with your thoughts, or both!


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What a cool start. I like that you are living your claims and exposing your thoughts and plans to the wider net community before your book is published.

From the introduction, it seems that we will be taken through a Fantastic Voyage of sorts to see the myriad pieces that constitute life and trends in the Net Age. It's a rare opportunity to gain some wisdom about the changes we all feel happening around us but can't quite define.

Today, while we are drowning in information but starving for meaning, you idea is indeed just-in-time.


What's interesting (to me) about this shift in the centre of gravity from the monolithic, the hierarchical and the centralised, towards the miniature, the networked and the distributed is that even though i believe it to be true, it is the very technologies that have allowed this shift to happen that have also given a company like Google the financial heft to buy a company like Doubleclick, and created a very big company that simply knows how to do small very well. So my question is this: Hasn't the ability to 'do' small simply spawned Monolith 2.0?

Ozoda Muminova

Very engaging read! I like examples from history dating back to pre-Internet, pre-wiki era. In a way it shows that the Internet was not a pre-cursor of change, but an accelarator. Indeed small was always able to exert power over big (e.g. friend's recommendation vs. a huge TV advertising campaign) and small individual components combined were able to create a huge impact (e.g. Russian revolution - when a large group of "small people", ordinary peasants and workers were able to overthrough Nicholas II). However, the power of technology is to be able to "give voice" to small and bring many smalls together in a faster, more efficient way.

Looking forward to the rest of the book!

Andy Hobsbawm

Big companies that "know how to do small very well" is part of the small-big point I'm making. That's the future for large organisations: the ones that do 'small' well will dominate. There are many interesting contradictions of course. For example, Google's business model may be based on the aggregation of many 'small', distributed pieces (keywords, links, ads, video, etc), but its operations are still centralised and huge (giant server farms, bandwidth).

flirting tips

I can't say as I agree about it being too soon to write such rules. That's how you get a bestseller. Someone decides on the rules and writes the book, and then everyone buys it and follows them. ;)

Andy Hobsbawm

;-) good point - actually I think Kevin Kelly's New Rules still holds up pretty well. http://www.kk.org/newrules/contents.php

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