I take perverse pleasure in the times I've been spectacularly wrong. Not just mistakes -- I'm human. I make those every day. But sometimes I make spectacular predictions that turn out to be boldly, obviously, and completely wrong. Three examples come to mind:
RSS. I loved RSS as soon as it hit the market. RSS offered a way to subscribe to a website the way you subscribe to email. It was a great way to follow a dozen, two dozen, or hundreds of blogs and news sites every day.
Around 2005, I wrote a paper for this company talking about how we could take advantage of RSS. I predicted that RSS would become as important a channel for distributing Internet content as email and the web. All RSS needed was some precipitating event, like support in Outlook or Google. That kind of thing would open RSS to the mass market, I said.
Outlook got RSS support, and Google Reader launched in 2005. I thought Google Reader would for sure drive RSS to mainstream acceptance. Hahaha! Didn't happen. I loved RSS, and still do, but it remains very much a niche technology.
RSS received another blow as Google announced yesterday that it's shutting down Reader, setting off a storm of protest from loyal fans, who are acting like Google is going to cut off one of their legs.
And the situation has spawned the inevitable Downfall parody. This video is funny, and it also provides pretty good analysis of the situation:
I don't agree with everything fake-Hitler says. He smears Google+, which I love. I find Google+ to be humming with discussions and interesting people to watch.
But fake-Hitler is mostly right: Google Reader and other RSS readers are like having your private slice of the web; Flipboard, Zite, and social platforms aren't quite the same.
But RSS never caught on with most people because it is too complicated, and too difficult to explain. Also, most people don't have the need to pull in massive amounts of web content, like other journalists and I do.
That last point should be sadly familiar to anyone who's ever worked for a big company. Some companies are blind to developments that come up from the grassroots of employees and small, internal projects. Upper management is always focused on the competition and their own pet projects. It goes like this:
Upper managament: "We need to focus the company on pink, fuzzy bunnies."
You: "Good news! I just happen to have been growing pink, fuzzy bunnies under my desk. Here they are!"
Bunnies twitch their noses.
Upper management: "I'm sorry, but we'll have to fire you so that we can free up resources to find the pink fuzzy bunnies which I am not seeing we already have."
And blogger Marco Arment says the Google Reader shutdown is actually "excellent news" for RSS lovers. The availability of a pretty-good RSS reader for free from Google made it impossible for competitors to survive. Death of Google Reader will clear the way for innovation, he says.
I mentioned at the top of this article that I've been spectacularly wrong three times. RSS was one example. What were the other two?
Second Life. I was one of the people who thought virtual worlds would go mainstream. In retrospect, virtual worlds like Second Life suffered the same problems as RSS: Too complicated for most people, too focused on a niche market of enthusiasts. In the case of Second Life, that niche market was people who wanted to play with identity. That's a fine market -- you'll never, ever hear me diss the Second Life community, and if I'm sometimes bitter about it, it's coming from frustrated love.
The Segway. Remember that? I was one of the people who was incredibly excited about the Segway prior to its release in 2001. We thought it would replace cars for short-distance travel, and transform cities and society. Didn't happen. But the Segway (like RSS and virtual worlds), has a small, but devoted user base, among suburban cops and tourists.
Loves His Segway
Not a bad movie.
I try to remember hype about the Segway when I read the current round of hype about self-driving cars.
What failed technologies have you been enthusiastic for?
I'm thinking as much of information as opinions. It occurred to me recently that I wasn't seeing much news from outside the States and Europe. This was because of the selections I'd made in setting up my various feeds, and they needed to be adjusted.
It's possible to completely overlook whole subject areas, if you're not careful.
Yes, read a newspaper! Limit your exposure to information, perspectives, and opinions that someone else has selected for you!
Sorry, you've pressed one of my buttons here. The notion that personalization makes people more narrow-minded in their choice of what to read is a myth. The reality is that people have access to opinions across the political spectrum -- far more so than in the pre-Internet days -- and studies show that the stronger people's opinions are, the more likely they are to seek out contrary opinions.
I do most of my feed-reading on my Nexus 7 tablet, so I need a good RSS client there.
Both Feedly and Newsblur clients are unacceptable. I like to start with the newest update and just tap the next button to read the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. Both Feedly and Newsblur make it hard to do that.
I haven't found anything else that looks like a likely replacement.
For now I'm sticking with Google Reader and reading it with the Press client on the Nexus 7, and occasionally NetNewsWire on the Mac. I'll revisit the decision as the Readerpocalypse gets closer.
People talk about the death of Google Reader unleashing innovation in the RSS market. But I like my RSS readers simple.
Without any doubt, diversification is necessary. Entering into 5-6 projects that will attract users and build company's reputation is truly an effective step towards diversifying product market risk but entering into over 40-50 projects is a diversification strategy which might not turn out to be fruitful. Anyways, I am merely discussing a strategy based on my opinion which may be wrong. Google's financial analysts may prove it wrong on the basis of results based on factual numbers.
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