Things I’ve read that helped me ‘get-it’

Over the years, it’s been fascinating to watch the light turn on for certain people regarding what’s taking place in the marketplace of “content” (excuse me, Doc). For example, today, Paul Krugman writes an “a-ha” piece after using an Amazon Kindle for a couple of months.


“Indeed, if e-books become the norm, the publishing industry as we know it may wither away. Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. Well, if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, I guess it’s good enough for me.

Whenever I read something like that, I have to take a deep breath and admit to myself that not everyone has spent the past 20 years obsessed with this topic. Whenever I read something like that, I wish I had a place to point people to a few seminal writings that have provided similar a-ha-moments to really geeky folks (like me) — but a long time ago.

If you have some more writings that provided an a-ha moment to you, please add them to the comments.

Here are a few of my go-to ones:

1. The Esther Dyson essay, “Intellectual Value,” written in the July, 1995, issue of Wired magazine. (Krugman quotes Dyson in his piece today, but does not link to it.) Go ahead, commit it to memory. It’s like the Gettysburg Address.

2. The book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, grew from this now “read-only landmark website.” (Here’s a place to read the book for free.) It pretty much foresees everything that marketing is becoming. It’s like when Luther nailed his 95 theses to that door in Wittenburg.

3. While not a specific article, I find myself referring often to the concept Paul Saffo coined “macro-myopia.” It relates to forecasting the impact of new technology and means, roughly, “in the short term we overestimate, in the long term we underestimate” the impact of new technology. This is an idea I’ve written about several times over the years (on the Cluetrain listserv in 2000, here in 2002 and in 2004 when Paul explained his role in adding to a concept developed by Roy Amara, Ev Rogers and others. The importance of the concept today is this: When those of us who are obsessed with technology see something that we know is going to change everything, we delude ourselves into thinking the change will be overnight. Technology adoption has a very predictable cycle and even those technologies that look like instant hits are likely catching a wave that was two-decades in the building.

Two bonus long reads for those who find comfort in realizing all these new ideas have been around a long, long time.:

4. The 1945 article, “As We May Think,” by Vannevar Bush (synopsis).

5. The Machine Stops, a 1909 science fiction novella (12,000 words) by E.M. Forster.