That this could be the era of the small team is of interest to all would-be movers and shakers. This was Jason Fried's core theme at Reboot, and he and David have since returned to it. (I hadn't realised David's "role" in developing Ruby on Rails and his talk was one of the highlights of Reboot. Incidentally, what surprised me again and again about this conference was how such different talks — from software development through to sociology and ethnography, from online journalism through to psychological studies and how they inform GUIs — could all be high points.)
… small teams that embrace their constraints don’t need to fear the big guys nearly as much as they think. They’re playing a different game that produces different software and can simply do and move like no 800 lb gorilla ever can. The “long tail” is a buzzword. What’s real are the millions of side-businesses out there. Independent freelancers, people who work for their employer during the day and then run their own side business at night, passionate hobbyists that generate some income (and even those that don’t). Signal vs Noise, David, 25 July
The most innovative software designed over the next 10 years will 1. be web-based, 2. will come from small teams, 3. will come from self-funded companies, and 4. will be for the “side-business” or 1-10 person business market. Signal vs Noise, Jason, 24 July
(Compare Kevin Kelly: 'The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion.')
Robert Scoble's Reboot talk on blogging came to life for me when he turned to the issues facing business/institutions and blogging employees. (Doc links to reports of his and Robert's presentations.) It may still be true that no-one has yet lost his job because of blogging, but companies/institutions have much to learn about blogging, let alone blogging employees. See Robert's post, Are you afraid to blog? Corporate Fear:
"OK, what are the reasons I should let my employees blog?" Here's my observations:
- People don't trust corporations
- People don't like talking to corporations.
- That old "markets are conversations" thing.
- Which is more believeable?
- Blogs build customer evangelists.
- Blogs build market momentum and get adoption.
And there's this:
… at the core of blogging is anti-corporate sentiment. We aren't sure how to explain that to other corporations. Imagine going into a corporate ballroom and saying "hey, to be able to get on the ClueTrain you've gotta get anti-corporate." That discussion just doesn't go over well inside most corporate ballrooms. Heck, even in the tech industry, which is known for innovative ways of looking at the world, we have lots of companies who don't get blogging.
What caused this discussion? Jesse Taylor's rant where he says "Public weblogs have very low accountability, and they return no information or insight back to the author about their audience." I TOTALLY disagree with Jesse about that point. I get so much information back from my audience I can't respond to all of it. But, this information is decentralized and diffuse. My bosses can't see all of it. Which, I think, is the whole point Jesse is trying to make. Corporations aren't blogging cause they can't easily quantify it. Can't control it. Can't stop it.
So, he says smart companies don't do it. That's cool. I hope our competition doesn't get it for a long time.
And as for 'Bloggers need not apply', Robert has had his say here.
So, commerce and the web was, unsurprisingly, one of the running themes of Reboot and ranged, on the one hand, from Robert on corporate bloggers to Hugh Macleod on Thomas Mahon's tailoring business and the way blogging has boosted that (and see now his initiative with Stormhoek wine — 'as a marketing blogger, I'm starting to believe that all marketing should be serious marketing disruption'), to Ulla on craft-blogging and Jason Fried on small start-ups. (37 Signals consists of just five people, separated by 8 hours, and yet has over 200,000 users. Jason promotes a Less Software approach and told some home truths about functional specs — 'We want to be in front of the customer experience for as close to 100% of the time as possible'. This photo by Michael Heilemann shows a characteristic slide from Jason's talk and a pdf file of his SxSW 2005 talk, 'How to Make Big Things Happen with Small Teams', is available here. Robert later blogged how taken he had been with Jason's talk.)
Ulla, whose draft crafter's manifesto I admired when she first posted it back in March, talked about the Long Tail of Fashion: 'In Europe and Japan, the trend against mass-produced fashion is growing. An increasing number of people prefer to buy their apparel from a designer someone has recommended, or one that they personally know. This presentation is about craftblogging - producing hand-made fashion items and publishing them on weblogs. Examples of how people produce, tag and share self-made fashion items on-line provide an opportunity to understand the potential of the Long Tail of Fashion' (Hobby Princess). Loic Le Meur commented later: 'the long tail of fashion will create a totally new market'. See, also, David Weinberger. Ulla has gone on to post her wish-list for social-software developers.
There's a recent Wharton Managing Technology interview with Ross Mayfield and Janice Fraser, 'Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business?', here. Janice Fraser: 'Some new technologies are coming out now that make different kinds of interactivity possible with online applications. But what is really new is what people are doing with existing technology. … When you combine applications like blogs, Wikis and RSS feeds and put a front end on them, that's a different vision for the Internet and knowledge-sharing and management.'