Sunday, June 14, 2009

August 29, 2006 (1): The Next Economic Bubble?

Rafe Needleman came up with a great title for his Web 2.0 blog yesterday: "Are there any Web 2.0 businesses in the real world?" After reading his argument, which involved a critical reading of the values of the Cluetrain Manifesto, I decided to follow up with my own TalkBack entry. I called it "Bubble 2.0," because I am always on the lookout for the inflation of the next economic bubble. As I put it, I wanted to argue that "the primary source of gas" for the current inflation is Web 2.0. Here is an edited version of my reasoning:

We should have learned from the last bubble that sobering concepts such as "the real world" just do not signify during bubble inflation, probably because the very act of inflation in grounded in an arrogant utopianism. ("Don't worry about the real world--or the 'old economy' or whatever--because after the changes you won't recognize it any more!") Consider Needleman's account of the Cluetrain Manifesto and its "shiny new values competing with reasonable but conservative older values:"

  • Simplicity over Completeness
  • Long tail over Mass Audience
  • Share over Protect
  • Advertise over Subscribe
  • Syndication over Stickiness
  • Early Availability over Correctness
  • Select by Crowd over Editor
  • Honest voice over Corporate Speak
  • Participation over Publishing
  • Community over Product

There is (at least) one entry missing from this list. It's absence discloses the dirty secret of the whole story. The entry I have in mind is:

  • Confidence over credibility
Bubbles are inflated by claims that, when viewed in retrospect have little, if any, credibility; but enthusiasm over the inflation dismisses any reasoned attempts to warrant those claims. Rather than reading The Cluetrain Manifesto, folks should be reading Mark Taylor's Confidence Games and its attempt to argue that our daily life, particularly as shaped by advanced technology, now plays out as one confidence game after another.

This not to say that we should hurl our wooden shoes into the works of the new engines of these confidence games. However, the Internet can help us to be more critical readers, rather than just more "clued-in" ones. If we read those ten enumerated value shifts more critically, we shall probably be less enthusiastic about embracing them. Some of us might even think our way through to dialectical syntheses that might play out in the real world!

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