Perspective and Vantage Point

Perspective and Vantage Point

I read a post this morning concerning OpenSocial and how Facebook was becoming like Microsoft, because they were “closed” and “not compatible” with the “emerging standard” of OpenSocial (as opposed to the “de facto” standard of Facebook).

First of all, if there is a dearth of OpenSocial apps (and there are) and if everyone is paying lip service but putting very few real dollars behind it, how in the hell is OpenSocial an “emerging standard?” If anything, it is a “hoped for” emerging standard for everyone kicking themselves for not being first mover in the market. By the time the OpenSocial folks get their act together, everyone will realize that it is NOT write once, run everywhere, but instead write fifty separate times to SAY you run everywhere – and of course the novelty of widgets long worn off and we’re off to the next thing.

The other thing that got my juices going was reading another blogger parroting the canard that Microsoft is not compatible with itself (probably wrote that on an Apple system, which makes the irony even more laughable). I bet Raymond Chen of MS would have something to say about how compatible MS has been over the years.

In fact, it can be argued that to its detriment MS has clung tenaciously to keeping its systems entirely backward compatible and has forced it to not recognize the right time to jettison old technologies and embrace the new world order (web, mobile, online TV, gaming – at least initially).

I can give a real world personal example of how well MS has kept consistent and compatible with itself. I wrote an MS-DOS C language (version 1 or 2 of the compiler – so long ago I forget) program that did electrical contractor estimating in 1987. It was used to estimate the “new” (at the time) Nashville airport terminal project for the prime contractor.

I wrote my own screen and form handling (replete with direct video memory writes) using the old Btrieve B-tree data handler (not database – schemas were for wusses back then). Pretty cool stuff for the time and fast as well.

Fast forward to 2006. I get a call from the contractor. HE WAS STILL USING THE ORIGINAL PROGRAM. He wanted me to add a few new features. I would have been glad to do so… except after almost 20 years I couldn’t find the original source. Long story short, the project was re-written as an MS Access application by a friend common to me and the customer.

Folks, that is an application that ran for nearly 20 years (!!!) without modification across multiple generations of MS operating systems. And almost spanned a generation of human life.

Look, Microsoft can be said to many things. Many bad things. Most of them true.

But please – if you say that they (Microsoft) are not consistent with themselves, that they break with each generation, you gotta do more than parrot the basement losers who have never held a paying job in their life. Because the fact of the matter is that most companies do a damn good job at remaining as backward compatible as they can to remain as profitable as they can for as long as they can.

I challenge anyone to show me an Apple application that has run continuously on whatever hardware is current at the time with no code changes from 1987 in a working production environment.

I really would like to see it, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe. These are the same guys, remember, that come out with a new iPod the minute you buy one; a new iMac with an OS that is not compatible with the old hardware. The makers of the Newton.

Disclaimer: I have owned both PCs and all generations of the iMac, have two iPhones, and a handful of iPods spanning all generations.

We tend to make ridiculous generalizations because we lack perspective or our vantage point is too close to the ground to see above the horizon (forward and backward pointing).

I’m not saying one’s point of view is only valid after years of experience (though there is much to be said about that assertion), nor am I saying that wisdom comes only with age (it doesn’t).

I am saying that before we make pronouncements about what is standard, what is reality, we should at least try to do a sanity check beyond the view of a couple of years, beyond the span of our echo chamber that is the social media / social graph / web two oh hype machine, beyond our personal knowledge.

Without context, continuity, and perspective all we are doing is generating is comedy. And it’s not even that funny.

Getting it Right, Versus Getting it Now

Getting it Right, Versus Getting it Now

We often convince ourselves that immediacy is the most important thing. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

For example, the immediacy of the news that Sarah Lacy’s interview from yesterday with Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW had gone horribly off the tracks was fascinating to those of us watching from afar on Twitter, in real time, and was surely disconcerting for Ms. Lacy, who failed to grok first how badly she had stumbled, and then immediately afterwards, failed to grok that she had failed at all. Twitter was almost as much the story as was the interviewer missing the mark.

In part, the immediacy of any moment can betray us, because we are given no time for careful consideration of “what the hell just happened to us. ” I’m sure that after a little time of review, and some reflection, Ms. Lacy will come to the realization that she had conducted an interview in a style neither conducive to the audience nor to the person being interviewed. Her immediate reaction was “screw you guys, I’m Sarah Lacy.” I bet a year or so from now, looking back, that future Sarah Lacy will hold many regrets over the response in the immediacy of the moment of the Sarah Lacy Version 2008.

This “nuance of the now” is lost on the web, where even a monumentally bad interview is being (thankfully for Ms. Lacy) overshadowed by the still breaking news of Elliott Spitzer and his personal problems coming to light.

I was just as guilty as anyone this afternoon of tweeting about the rumors flying fast and furious, once the story hit the NYT online web site. Within the span of ten minutes, I had followed three different rumors that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. When Spitzer did come to the mike, it was anti-climatic and added nothing to what we knew (or what we thought we knew).

In short – we will know more accurately what the true story is later with Spitzer than we do today, because the story will have time to be vetted for accuracy and time will be given for careful and considered reflection of the facts. The same will be true with the whole Zuckerberg interview fiasco.

Both stories may be entirely forgotten twelve months downstream. Or each may have deeper meaning than we can foresee in the moment. That’s the point – without some separation we have no perspective.

Just because we can “know” something – now – does not mean that we have the whole story now, or that we have time in the immediate moment to grasp the significance of what we are watching in the now, ever increasingly in real time.

Watching the Spitzer story unfold today I was reminded of the day 26 years ago when Ronald Reagan was shot. Wildly inaccurate information was flying about; about James Brady dying (he didn’t) and Al Haig being in charge (he wasn’t). That is the closest I can come to describing the flow of what was happening today in the news, though the seriousness of a politician getting caught in sexual misconduct comes in no way close to the seriousness of an assassination attempt.

We have the ability to communicate “in the now” to a broader audience with an immediacy only imagined a short while ago – but it does not give us greater insight or understanding. That still requires time, careful consideration, and judgment.

They still don’t have a Web 2.0 service for common sense. But I hear they’re working on it.