1) Ideally I’d like to have a discussion about a roadmap for the next ten years in Internet entrepreneurship. Which ideas of today will still be around in ten years and which won’t? What problems will be solved that will change the nature of products we can make in the future? I think that’s a hard nut to crack, but there are some obvious things — for example the mythical podcast player we’re always talking about.
I think that the models of entrepreneurship that are ‘well understood’ are being distrusted by the barriers to entry being lowered. It is now much easier to try stuff out and experiment for a low cost. I also think that the interplay between the digital and physical world is an liminal space where opportunities emerge. Just look at the 4-hour work week.
I also think in thinking about a road map one also has to think about obsticals. There are a whole range of social, legal, governance, transparency and economic shifts that are occurring and will occur with the innovations unfolding. How are these supported or at least not inhibited by legislative and cultural hystaria that can arise around potential negative issues? If we as an industry foster broader public dialogue (a resource with a range of methodologies is the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation) ahead of the curve maybe we can help mitigate some of the knee jerk responses that we see happening.
2) I’d like people to talk about some crazy idea they have, ideas they don’t think will get funded, but products they’d like to see nonetheless. Companies don’t solve all the problems out there, some things get created with little thought of creating a company, but they end up creating opportunities for companies — things like folksonomies, syndication, digital photography and video, blogging, podcasting. Personally, I’d like to see us make archving really work, so what we create on the web may outlive us.
Crazy ideas without funding are often that lay the foundation for really rich ecologies of innovation. I just read a paper by John Hagel III and John Seale Brown called Creation Nets: Harnessing the Potential of Open Innovation. Here are some quotes:
If you read many of the champions of open innovation, they
describe these efforts in ways that shed little light on the management methods required to harness the potential of these initiatives. In fact, by using terms like “emergent” or “self-organizing”, one could easily get the impression from these champions that these efforts cannot really be managed, that they acquire a life of their own beyond the reach or influence of any individual company.
Now, of course, knowledge does not “flow” – it tends to be, in fact, very “sticky”, especially outside very narrowly defined communities of practice. Unlike information which can be more readily codified and disseminated, knowledge tends to reside in individuals and it is very context specific. For this reason, knowledge sharing typically requires trust-based relationships and a sharing of practice.
These creation nets are generally organized first by institutions and individuals on the periphery. With a few notable exceptions, larger institutions tend to be more complacent, especially at the outset, about the implications of accelerating change. They put more value on stocks of knowledge and established positions. In contrast, individuals and institutions playing on the edge see a greater need to form new relationships. They have fewer resources and they see first-hand, often earlier than others, the need to build new knowledge and create new offerings.
They point out that ‘self-organizing’ doesn’t ‘just happen’ people are behind creating the relationships and the culture of communities that actually get these done. I think the identity community is an example of one.
Another point that is raised these things that become ‘free’ are incredibly difficult to get funded. I have managed to ‘hack’ together a living over these past 3 years working passionately on user-centric identity…it will be a huge market for services but will be build on an open infrastructure. The amount of money it actually took to do what we did was actually very little for the overall industry ROI.
When you get into the ideas and see the working prototypes. It is amazing to imagine the power of these tools if they continue to develop and diffuse.
I creation net weaving might fit in the social entrepreneur category of things and could be funded by the ‘social entrepreneur’ funding world. Ashoka, Skoll, Echoing Green, Omidyar, Schwab Foundation and Google Foundation. There may be a challenge in getting funding from these types of foundations because the people these institutions tend to seem to be mid-career have to have been very successful already (before getting funding – because foundations are very risk averse). It also doesn’t exactly fit their model funding “individuals” a person who has ‘an idea‘ towards funding the work of of Net Weavers who realize potential catalytic interactions between communities or among companies. Catalyzing creation nets on the edges in the liminal spaces between things is where rich social innovation can come from. I found this paper Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving by Valdes and June in the summer of 2003 and immediately understood my core competency and skill was described as a netweaver. I spent the summer of 2003 learning and reading all I could about network theory so it could inform my practical vision for systemically connecting my community at the time. It helped me understand the kind of online architecture that would make sense to support the network beyond the face-to-face that they are good at already. Having read the Augmented Social Netework: Building Identity and Trust into the Next Generation Internet I knew that user-centric digital identity would be very helpful to realizing the vision. (Because digital identity “wasn’t there yet” to implement and I saw it was critical I got involved with the community who cared about this at the time and have worked ever since on it.)
So back to the beginning of this post what is the roadmap? How does discern it and support the interesting innovative and risky stuff? Perhaps finding or developing THE ‘road map’ but bringing together different groups/people that have potential to grow a shared vision that can be worked towards. We didn’t have a “road map” in user-centric identity but talked enough to discover many of us had a similar vision and did the hard work of building same understanding, shared understanding and shared language, so we could actually talk to one another. Eugene writes about some of this activity in the identity community here.
Finally, simply scheduling time and space where SharedLanguage is the primary goal is useful. People are good at figuring out how to communicate with each other if you give them the space to do it. If you set unrealistic expectations on the first day of a three day event, then you just stress out your participants. If you spend the first day exploring broader questions, your participants may feel flustered or frustrated, but they will find that the work goes much more smoothly in the ensuing days.
Developing SharedLanguage is an ongoing process. Doing actual work is one of the best ways to build shared context, which in turn builds SharedLanguage. The trick is to have stagger your work goals based on the SharedLanguage that already exists. The exercises you go through can become more and more focused over time, as the amount of SharedLanguage increases.
Identity is deep topic and it took quite a while for this to emerge. It seemed like we were ‘just talking’ and not getting anything ‘done.’ However this was the work that needed to happen before it was possible to innovate standards together and do the hard work of making different standards interoperate. I am really amazed at how far we have come and how visible that was at this weeks Interoperability event at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference. There is a lot more work do be done to get Identity Commons really healthy but this is an amazing milestone for the community, user-centric identity and for the web.