Attempts to create open source alternatives to Facebook failed. the reasons are similar to why Linux never really made it as a mainstream desktop OS: user interface, ease of use, lack of applications geared towards end users. Open source cannot compete will the technology giants, who can pour millions into developing partnerships and building their walled garden ecosystems.
But Linux is far from a failure. It is THE standard for server-side uses. Lesson here is one I repeat endlessly to clients. There’s no such thing as the ultimate product that can fulfill all possible use cases. Let Apple and Microsoft have their desktop OSes, let Google and Apple dominate the mobile space, let Facebook and Twitter dominate social networks. Social networks are great for banter, bragging, arguing, meeting new people & sharing otter videos. But we need to take back control of how we gather news and information. Yes, by resurrecting RSS and Atom possibly, by creating a Goodreads for news and blog aggregators.
It would be great to work on a social news and blog aggregator, integrated with facebook, so one can create lists and share them with FB friends, and have a twitter-like real-time feed of articles friends have read/shared/liked, or lists of interesting sources friends have created. I’ve found none so far that are free that do just that, but many tools and libraries exist, it’s just a case of patching them together.
I do praise Apple for its history of kicking Microsoft in the gut. It’s one of the few companies that has managed to do this (albeit never directly) and get away with it, the results being better technology for end users and ultimately that is all that is important. Yet this latest trend of taking design shortcuts by essentially outsourcing interconnectivity to external peripherals is, interesting. Immediately other forms of outsourcing come to mind.
Outsourcing is largely done to offload risks, cost and externalities onto a third party. This is a core global business logic with disastrous effects on the planet and on people. Outsourcing makes it possible for Apple to claim ethical business practices while Foxconn workers commit suicide and the horrors of coltan mining in Congo happen, elsewhere.
image from wikipedia
Apple is not really innovating here, they are merely outsourcing the physical hassles of digital to analogue conversion (DAC). The audio jack hasn’t changed in a century because sound is created by way of physical vibrations in speakers and its design is good enough. Apple would have innovated had they delivered a new approach to transmitting the digital information in an audio file, by inventing a connector reduced in size with equal or better analogue audio fidelity characteristics, or by inventing new ways of using digital audio information to make speakers vibrate just the right way to create higher quality sound. Instead they just externalised/outsourced the problem.
This is outsourcing with a thin veneer of innovation marketing as cover. I write this on a 2015 Macbook with only one USB-C port. I need another device (at my cost of course) to connect anything to it. Apple and Microsoft. Trump and Hillary.
A global client is surprised that the most advanced, working technical implementation of a certain system is to be found in their Brazilian subsidiary. This is something I find again and again consulting for global organisations, not just Brazil of course, but any of the many, much ignored places that happen to also contain the most of the world’s population.
Europeans and Westerners are still waking up to the fact that they aren’t at the cutting edge of innovation, or even geopolitically relevant (except when they use overpriced military gizmos to kill innocents with “smart” warfare. F35s and multi-million dollar remote controlled airplanes: dazzling innovation). Go home Europe, you old drunk.
That ‘chaos’ that Germans find abroad on holidays in the global south – which to them, confirms their domestic superiority – is in fact an error-tolerant order they are incapable of comprehending.
Order within systems must not be confused with aesthetic value judgements. There is a horror inherent in the Germanic aesthetic sense of order and cleanliness which no amount of disinfectant and obsessive-compulsively designed public spaces can extirpate.
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