Friday, August 25, 2006

Is Everything Old really New(s) again?

It's interesting to watch the continual fight for recognition that occurs on the web. I'm reading complaints about Dave Winer's recent pushing of the 'River of News' concept. People are upset that many out there are acting as if this is a brand new thing. And meanwhile, Dave's got his defenders and explainers.

I tend to agree with those that say it's far from a brand new idea. Dave meanwhile tries to quell the unrest by saying that by just settling down and working together, they will all benefit. Heh. I'm not sure Dave would be so quick to reciprocate if it were someone more influential than him claiming ownership of the idea. And from what I've read, Dave has neither confirmed nor denied that it's a retooling of an existing concept. Would it be that hard to say "yeah, it's an existing idea, but I'm making it even better by doing x, y and z.". Wouldn't you gain a lot of goodwill, nevermind move the cause further forward, by doing that?

I thought attribution and shared recognition were just the 'right thing to do'(tm). Watching ideas percolate without either of those things isn't nearly as interesting. As I recently posted in a comment to Scoble's blog, many innovators and entrepreneurs I've met are headstrong, overconfident and sometimes boorish. But honestly, these might be prerequisites to success in those pursuits. However, in my view it doesn't set the stage for good relations and certainly doesn't make garnering respect from others any easier.

Perhaps even more interesting is the claim that 'River of News', whether a truly novel concept or not, is possibly not the cat's pajamas. I have to say that it's good food for thought. I'm not so sure I want to see every single story that flows by. Do important top stories flow down the list with nothing to set them apart from secondary items? If so, this is NOT what I want. I normally want the headlines first. I don't want them to sink down until I tell them to.

I had a similar problem with Dave's original concept of a River of News for RSS aggregation  (also known as the sushi-bar concept if I'm not mistaken). While it sounds very nice, I still don't see the value in it for me. It doesn't feel natural to me (however it may to others of course). Then again I don't have any problems marking 200 unread Digg or BoingBoing posts as 'read' in one fell swoop. I don't feel obligated to read every unread post. My Bloglines aggregator may look like email, but that doesn't mean I treat it like email.

Bonus question: How will one go about avoiding the inevitable floating ad dingys bobbing by in the River of News?

Incidentally, there is another very similar, but entirely unrelated discussion occurring on the web recently regarding Apple's new implementation of virtual desktops (something Linux/Unix has had for years). Ahh, but that's another post for another time... ;)