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A beggar upon horseback

October 04, 2007

Jason Calacanis has seen the future of media, and it is the past. Rather than bringing an egalitarian explosion of mass creativity, the cheap and ubiquitous Web 2.0 tools of media production and distribution will be commandeered by an elite "of gifted individuals" who will use the Web 2.0 "platform" for "the creation of high-quality content and services." Wikipedia is beginning to embrace this trend, argues Calacanis, "by locking pages down as they reach completion, and (at least in their German version) requiring edits to flow through trusted experts."

The new wave of web media - Calacanis calls it, for some reason, "Web 3.0" - "throttles the 'wisdom of the crowds' from turning into the 'madness of the mobs' we've seen all to[o] often, by balancing it with a respect of experts. [It] leaves behind the cowardly anonymous contributors and the selfish blackhat SEOs that have polluted and diminished so many communities. [It] is a return to what was great about media and technology before Web 2.0: recognizing talent and expertise, the ownership of ones words, and fairness."

It's hard not to recall Yeats's lines:

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.

Both beggars, though, labor under romantic misconceptions. For one, the web is freeing us from the shackles of the past, when our malignant media overlords stifled our creativity and force-fed us gruel. For the other, the web is returning us to a purified past, when our benign media overlords nurtured the most talented and delivered their fine works to us all. Both visions simplify the past and distort the future. The so-called new media is just old media with a different cost structure; the overlords will not be overthrown but neither will they be redeemed, and the same goes for the prosuming crowd.



a nicely literal objection to Jason's thesis, with which I also had problems - http://blogs.talis.com/nodalities/2007/10/jason_calacanis_takes_his_stab.php.


Posted by: Paul Miller [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 11:47 AM

But how fortuitous! I'm teaching a short class next week called "Death to Jargon," and Calacanis' digibabble will be a fine starting point for discussion. (I'm just sorry I no longer own any platform shoes.)

Posted by: kgs [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 01:46 PM

@kgs: hope you spend a few hours on "prosumer" as well.

Nick, surprised you didn't point out the obvious fact that JC is shilling for his human-curated search startup. If you are going to quote Yeats, why not pick the low-hanging fruit first?

Also, after your recent experience with the adsense cesspool, I'm also surprised you aren't a little more open to the idea ;)

Posted by: dubdub [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 02:21 PM

Calacanis has made a nice living off of stealing other people's ideas, living in the past and being self righteous. Everything he says and does is an advertisement for himself.

Posted by: William Smith [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 02:54 PM

Better buzzwords for what he's talking about is "local content harvesting".

Amazingly, I think I get what he's saying.

Right now, these data-mining systems are being build by people who are hobbyists. Sure, they're businesses. But they're sort of like family firms, they aren't really being run with the goal in mind of maximum exploitation of the sharecroppers by professional management.

And that's the next stage, where the professionals come in and out-compete the inefficient hoobyists, and show them how labor exploitation is really done!

Of course, he doesn't quite phrase it this way ...

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 03:05 PM


Thanks for the very confusing response to my post... I always look forward to what you have to say since it requires me to look up a bunch of references I never learned in college. You're my own personal graduate school. :-)

My intent with the post was:

a) to show the absurdity of definitions and techmeme's leaderboard by putting in the word "official." Check... that worked!

b) be highly ironic by putting official in the title when talking about the return of authority. [ that didn't exactly get picked up by many ]

c) I think balance is what i'm looking for. The return of the respect of authority in the good sense. The respect of individual excellence and achievement, while still capturing the wisdom of the crowds.

d) I still think the top 1-10% of the crowds will become professionals and be paid for that. However, Seth, I don't see their role as to exploit the free working masses. The majority of folks contributing on Wikipedia, flickr, YouTube or digg are doing so in order to play. They have revenue streams outside of their participation in those systems. However, the top ones will want to be compensated and I think that rewarding excellence is the next phase.

Watching Wikipedia, Flickr, youTube, and digg it's clear that they are the farm-league system for a new generation of creators. The question is, where does this talent flow post working for free? That's the big opportunity... converting your hobby into a living. *

* Some elitist silicon valley types who are getting rich from stock in companies which are built on the backs of free labor might disagree with this path--in fact, they will fight it (as you and I have seen... names left out to protect the guilty :-).

best j

Posted by: JasonCalacanis [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 04:40 PM

"The majority of folks ... are doing so in order to play."

So are the majority of lottery ticket buyers, casino gamblers, day-traders, etc. Of course those people have other income streams - the point of the "game" is to extract it. The problem with the above "play" formulation is it's used as a "thoughtstopper" - meaning DON'T THINK MORE, end-of-story, placed in a dispositive category that admits no further examination. Who could be against "play"? Well, people who lose lots of money in lottery/casino/speculation etc, might think they'd have been better off if they didn't play in the first place.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 07:48 PM


Glad to be of service. No charge.

By the way, I can buy the idea that you were poking fun at the "absurdity of definitions," but it's quite a stretch to say that you had the Leaderboard in mind when you wrote your post. That strikes me as after-the-fact posing.

More important, I believe that Web 2.0 (or whatever you call it) is less about "converting your hobby into a living" than converting your living into a hobby.

Seth's scenario seems like it's on the money.


Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 4, 2007 07:52 PM

I didn't know Calacanis was reading your blog, but I feel in company of good men, now; all the more you mentionned Yeats: I've heard of him, but my too continental education missed him (Billy Connelly was considered a better source of useful vocabulary, rightfully so if you speak of statistics.) and that is a serious loss I shall correct as soon as possible. With all the respect to the genius who wrote "a Genius on a horse back" (God, I'd love to steal such a line!), can I ask: what was the benefits of indirect democracy?
Corruption was neither new, nor very beneficial--but combining election with newspapers, that avoided us the Putin, Mobutu and other tyrants; we had bad men, hard on the whip--but not the worst. Can it avoid us one or two photo-erasing Stalin? It could.

Regarding Jason's personal opinion, let's say he is aging: what used to be "The future revolting against the old farts! Yey!" woke up one day with a sour back, and decided those Young Turks were a bit roarry for one's reasonable taste. Things have changed, Jason: new systems where set up, thanks to you--but nothing is a-change, except time is always flowing.

Posted by: Bertil [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2007 03:51 AM


Here is the post I did right before the "official" post. I don't lie... I'm always very blunt/upfront about what I'm doing.

I absolutely said to myself "how can I make this #1 on techmeme" when I wrote the web 3.0 definition post, and the best I could come up with was to put "official" in the headline. My thinking being that some folks would get the joke, some folks would not and that everyone would post.

I think I nailed it.


best j

Posted by: JasonCalacanis [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2007 12:09 PM

OK. I believe you.

But I bet you feel dirty.

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2007 01:26 PM

Since this theme of this of subject is marshal, I introduce a fascinating case in Wikipedia of real-life officer of the U.S. Navy on active duty. You and he are trying to work out some issues about some Star Trek articles (all of which, of course, should be moved over to Wikia). It is a challenge to resist the temptation to delve into the reality/fantasy issues immediately apparent... but I digress. You get picky and bossy with him and he eventually turns and writes:Not to go into a very toucy subject, but I would be careful telling a deployed member of the military they shouldn't edit on Wikipedia for whatever reason. You, at your convenience and on the open channel, claim that you have been put in fear of your life. The officer, in response, posts a notice to that venerable shooting gallery...er...I mean communication nexus, the the Wikipedia administrators noticeboard that its time for somebody to have a chat with you. In this internet struggle to prevail, what is your next move?

I note that the equivalent of the FBI/police for the U.S. Navy is the NCIS and I remind you that you were arguing about Star Trek. Here is how one long-term Wikipedian insider handled the situation and the resulting ArbCom case. Ooooh, temptations to highlight reality/fantasy are strong...resist...use the force, Luke.

Posted by: SallyF [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2007 06:22 AM

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