I recently attended a celebration from one of the collaboration technology pioneers, Ray Ozzie. Ozzie, the father of Lotus Notes, left Lotus and his startup company Iris after a hostile takeover by IBM and eventually switched to Microsoft when that company acquired its next startup, Groove. By “attended” I mean a virtual event at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. Ray’s colleagues and partners gathered in a Zoom chat with a tour of Ray’s early days, including amazing hardware like a touchscreen-based corporate chat system called Plato and those weird things called floppy disks, which had the earliest source code for DOS and other prehistoric things called operating systems.
At Microsoft, Ray soon became one of several CTOs and eventually took on the role of Chief Software Architect as he helped the midwife move the company towards the web and away from its dominant office suite. Politically, he was faced with the two power centers in Redmond: Office and Windows, the latter of which lost strategic importance when mobile technologies like iOS and Android took power after the success of Apple’s iPhone. But there is no doubt that Ray’s survey enabled Bill Gates, who was moving about Ray at the CHM, to focus with his wife on the philanthropic role in their foundation. Talk about it just in time, because Bill’s voice in the fight against the pandemic has often been a trusted beacon of hope and science in a sea of denial, misinformation, and you know the rest.
In his gracious speech, Ray Gates mentioned Lotus founder Mitch Kapor and a name less well known to many, Dave Winer. I’m not sure why Dave was being called, but I’m sure it has something to do with Winner’s work of advocating the development of blogging, RSS, and his attachment extensions that spawned podcasting. In today’s climate of media streaming, newsletters, and live a la clubhouse conversation, surviving the pandemic means using our tools to work and live deeper and richer from anywhere. Discuss it just in time.
The clubhouse is attacked in the Twitterverse. Some suggest it’s just another trigger for the social media noise or a business idea to land in a landfill after the next shiny object. Clubhouse countered with another overflow mega-session from Zuckerberg of Facebook and the CEOs of Spotify and Shopify. The messaging app Telegram has released a Voice Chat 2.0 version with tools for inviting speakers, listeners, raising hands to speak and integrated recordings. The rush continues, but for what purpose? Like NFTs a Grifter’s Paradise?
Perhaps we will experience a huge multiplayer game in which collaborative innovations are combined and redefined on the fly. A clubhouse session was held with one of the great mobile thinkers, Benedict Evans. After several years as an analyst at Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), he moved back to London and paid for his weekly free version with some of his 150,000+ subscribers. With subscription costs soaring, I’ve resigned myself to waiting for some of his firewall essays to play in the free version. But here was a session with Benedict and another former A16Z analyst who focused on NFTs and crypto, Morgan Beller.
The conversation was in a hot clip but meta about both the upside opportunities and the context of previous innovations that seemed to make gambling difficult but are paying off. This was Vintage Evans in a casual setting where he gave me a ton of signal, bounced off an analyst who I followed immediately after about ten minutes, and added them to a notification stream the next time they joined. At some point the moderator pinged I wanted to invite myself to take part, but luckily I chose the “Maybe later” option so I could desperately try to keep up with the flow again. Maybe later, when I actually know something by learning from people who live and breathe this stuff. I can’t even be sure what fungible means so far.
It wasn’t your average press conference for big tickets. It was access to people who were rooted in their interests and were ready to be judged by the astuteness of their observations. The social follow-up tools supposedly generate more effective notifications based on interruptions the listener is willing to accept. The crowd is manageable (50-100) and shows not only who is on stage, but who is listening and in what combinations. It’s a mix (I hope) of the following plus the percentage of successful clicks on targeted notifications.
This all feels like a mashup of collaboration platforms, menu items in a new operating system where ideas and tactics are transparently tested in the open air. Remember our former president who laundered the unthinkable in public to steer the conversation. The alphabet soup of NFTs and SPACs is hard to separate from MLMs and earlier eras, but at some point we will find out what is real. A good place to start is in the trenches where practitioners of these new arts pick them up on the new media channels.
from the Gillmor Gang newsletter
The Gillmor gang – Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live on Friday, March 19, 2021.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@radice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang
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