Saturday, April 26, 2008

Web 4.0: I Won't Be Around

Albert Einstein once observed, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

Likewise, I am doing a little prognostication today when I suggest that I know not what Web 3.0 will look like, but when Web 4.0 arrives I plan to be at Fenway Park watching a baseball game.

As support, I offer the following:

1. I've Stopped Seeing Your Click-Ads. They used to be cool. Now they're just noise, like most of the other advertising in my day. Here’s an SAT question for you: “Gentle Dental commercials” are to “soft rock radio” as “click-blanks” are to “the Web.” Get it? Except, of course, those great recipes for Veggies & Spam that Google constantly pushes onto my gmail account. THOSE I still click on.

I'll even let you in on a little secret: I'd rather pay a subscription fee than have to put up with all the flotsam and jetsam of the web. Really.

2. Take Down Your White Board. It was a bad sign the day I walked into your office and found a huge whiteboard with your annual goals, your to-do list, and your ruminations about technology posted for the world to see. It got worse when I knew what you were doing all week via your social network postings. It got unbearable when you Twittered me continually about your day.

With all due respect and admiration, I liked you better when I knew less about you. And I can promise you this: You’ll like me better if you know less about me, too.

3. We’re Being Manipulated (Subtitled: The Web Meets Madison Avenue). I used to love to read the Digg "best of" lists, and check out the "most watched" YouTube videos, just to see what folks around the world were up to. Now I realize that we're being manipulated, just as we are in our other media. How else to explain that, for months, two out of every ten top Digg entries have pushed Barack’s agenda and denigrated Hillary? (Not that I have a point of view here, just an observation.) And the same awful, geeky, amateur commentators discussing Lindsay Lohan keep appearing as “most watched” on YouTube. Can that really be what we’re watching?

There has to be an invisible hand at work there--a sinister PR agency manipulating counts. I'm done with the "best of" lists. Web 4.0: I don’t trust you.

4. We’ve Entered the "Age of the Internet Dilettante." I am now reading “resumes” of 40-year-old folks who have founded five businesses. Five. I am seeing self-proclaimed "Entrepreneurs and Coaches" who have advised 40 companies. What kind of advice is that, exactly? (Don't order the Caramel Macchiato--it has way too many calories"?) If the old style company-founding was equivalent to, say, writing a book, the new style company founding must be like writing a magazine article. (And I don’t mean for The Atlantic, either.) The barriers to entry on the web are just too darn low, and that’s coming from a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist.

I propose that there be a “Frivolous Penalty” for so-called entrepreneurs who start a web-based company and burn through their investors’ capital with no hope of traction. They should not be allowed to do anything on the web (except read self-help blogs) for five years, and they have to post a million-dollar bond the next time they launch an Internet business. In the meantime, they have to do something real with their lives.

Meanwhile, their investors have to put their next million into a medical device or a biotech or a trash-collection company—something that has a chance of actually enriching our lives.

5. Blogging is the New Spewing. I’ll subscribe to your blog until you publish more than 10 articles a day, each with a crazy title simply designed to increase your ranking in the Blog Wars. Then it’s just spewing. Here’s my offer: One or two thoughtful articles a day, or even a week, and I’ll stay with you forever.

6. You’ve Finally Pushed Me Back to Time-Shifting. Getting everything in real-time was cool for while, but required way too much energy and kept me from concentrating on the important stuff. In fact, it kept me from concentrating at all. So, everything I care about—feeds and email and news and entertainment—will, from here on out, be collected and attended to when I’m good and ready. The blush is off the rose. The novelty is gone. I'm tired of being manipulated. I don't want to know your personal brand. I want my life back.

And now, I'm going to a baseball game.