In the future, everyone will be vilified by fifteen people

In the future, everyone will be vilified by fifteen people: I apologize in advance for the “heavy” nature of this post. However, last night I got fed up with seeing a lot of wasted talent being poured into the mocking of people and their efforts who don’t deserve it.

Many years ago, David Weinberger provided a witty and insightful spin on Andy Warhol’s famous “15 minutes of fame” aphorism. “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen people,” said David. I’m afraid that a corollary of David’s now-famous observation is that “In the future, if you’re famous to 15 people, then there’s another 15 people who will decide it’s their duty to convince the others that you suck.”

I guess it’s a microcosm of what happens to “real” celebrities. “Fans” emerge who appreciate a, say, baseball player. A few of these fans go hardcore and develop a real or imagined bond with the player. Some even become dead-head-like devotees, and have a near religious-zeal towards the “star.” Some become lunatics.

Not quite to that level, but I’ll admit I’m a fan of a few “narrow niche” (or, perhaps, “long tail”) celebrities. On the blogosphere, I practice hero-worship of Doc Searls. I’ve met him a couple of times that he wouldn’t remember, but I’ve probably read every word on his blog for five years. Indeed, he’s why I blog. I don’t have posters of him on my wall, but I do subscribe to an RSS feed of his Flickr account and I even follow this group. Weird, huh? But I haven’t crossed the line into perceiving I have “a relationship” with Doc. Markets may be conversations, but I think the metaphor stops short of me thinking I should drop by his home unannounced at sunset and expect a beer by the pool.

Unfortunately, as “fame” becomes more miniature, it appears that the way we are quick to turn on celebrities has miniaturized as well. As much as I enjoy (and even, from time to time partake in) parody and satire when the targets are pompous and mighty, I find it sad when some folks focus their obvious humor and wit into mocking and taunting ordinary people for their efforts to create a new product or start a new venture. It reminds me a little of how I may have been amused by the website Fk’d.com when it first appeared and its focus was on the unwinding of the outrageously funded, zany concepts of the dotcom boom era. But soon, it became an exercise only the sadistic could enjoy as the focus of the site became tracking who was losing their jobs at tinier and tinier companies.

And while I believe the phrase “Web 2.0” has very little meaning, I am still impressed when I see people starting up businesses or developing new innovations. Likewise, I find it helpful when those like Michael Arrington and others provide some insight into what a new concept or idea is about.

However, I find it unfortunate — even sick — there is another group of talented people who have weblogs devoted 100% to mocking the individuals — not merely the ideas but the individuals — who are trying to develop these innovations.

Maybe it comes with the territory…just like with fans and baseball players. Maybe “the fans” can’t separate the “star” from the “person” and think anyone is fair game for mockery and public humiliation. So I guess the new rule is becoming: If you gain any measure of recognition for doing something, even if that something is perceived as “good” and it’s so obscure only a few dozen people in a narrow niche will ever know who the heck you are or what you’ve done, you still need to prepare yourself for the possibility of ridicule, gossip and spite.

Sad.

Update: I didn’t want to provide any links or mention names, but Fred Wilson is also not impressed with at least one source of my contempt.

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