No offense to VCs and the people who try to get their ideas in front of them. And no offense to big corporate marketers who are somewhere creating the next great gizmo. And no offense to the bloggers and journalists who serve as the acolytes of VC-funded start-ups andconsumer electronic marketers…
But, when something is going to be big. Really big. You rarely see it demo’d.
Usually, when something is big, it’s, well, boring and obvious…and, at first, not cool.
And, rather than an innovation, it’s usually a hacked-adaptation of existing, widely available, easy-to-understand — and freely available — concepts and technologies. And almost always, there were no meetings involved in its development.
But then, someone looks at that hack and thinks about it. And then, they come up with an inspired metaphor to describe it. And then, well, that’s where the fun begins. And it’s fun because no one is in control except people who understand how metaphors work — and “experts” rarely do.
Case in point: podcasting.
About 20 weeks ago, on September 28, 2004, I heard the term “podcast” for the very first time when Doc Searls explained it on his “IT Garage” blog. He said then that the word podcast returned 24 results on Google. After reading the long, long NY Times piece yesterday on podcasting, I wondered how many results the word would return. Yesterday, it was 687,000, today it is 1,700,000. A rather wide range, but the point is, it’s a big number. (Update: Panaytonis Vryonis at g-metrics.com (see comments) showed me a really cool way to track these kind of things.)
Twenty weeks. That’s 140 days. Can you imagine how far along “podcasting” would be if it had been a corporate idea: An idea some media company or technology company developed and “brought to market”? Or even some hot shot start-up?
Here’s a long list of hot new products that were being “DEMO’d” in 2004. Some are on their way to
greatness. But as a “movement” and as for being “big, really big” are any close to podcasting?
If a big corporation marketing team had been charged with rolling out podcasting, they would still be sending out memos setting up the first meeting to discuss it. Teams of lawyers would just be entering the picture explaining why the concept would violate any number of regulatory guidelines and international laws and trade agreements. Corporate communications and marketing types would be debating “branding” issues and who could speak for the company. IT departments would be the scenes of shouting matches over interoperability and feature sets.
And the lawyers at Apple would be debating whether or not to sue someone over usage of the word “pod.”
Thank god podcasting was not a corporate idea. And not even an idea of the Silicon Valley tech intelligensia. (Although open-source alpha-geeks jumped in fast and furious.) The podcasting horse left the barn toofast for anyone to make up rules about what it should or shouldn’t be…except that there are no rules. It took off too fast for anyone to claim it (although Dave Winer and Adam Currey get my vote), brand it, define it or even explain it.
Now. Please. If you’re a podcasting pioneer. Don’t go screwing it up by thinking that what you’ve done in the past 140 days is to establish some sort of dogma and chissled-in-granite paradigm as to what is — and what is not –podcasting. Just keep doing what you’re doing and stop reading any NY Times articles explaining things you already know.
Podcasting is bigger than that.
(Flashback: On October 6, a week after I first heard the term “podcast,” I had these things to say about podcasting. On October 11, I observed there was a mad rush by some to claim they were the first podcasters by claiming that Marconi personally taught me how to podcast. (Which led to a nice, who is “Marconi” discussion. And somewhere — I can’t find it — I think I got into a friendly debate with my friend
Steve Rubel on whether or not the word “podcast” could be changed to