A recent client engagement combined with reading Nick Carr's review of Everything Is Miscellaneous have yet again made me question whether those of us who drank The Cluetrain kool-aid seven years ago are mad or simply facing the growing pains of a new world as it emerges from the old.
Sometimes it seems that the naysayers are right. There is nothing fundamently different about the web and human nature stays the same no matter what technologies we have to hand. Having read John Gray's Straw Dogs I am aware that ideas of progress are pretty relative and while that at one level technology has enabled us to save more people through medicine it has also enabled us to kill more people more efficiently. Did the printing press make the world a better place or did it just allow ideas to circulate faster and wider?
The apparent simplicity of what we are talking about also presents challenges. In a world where real work takes effort and things worth doing are hard the apparent promise of the transformative effect of "getting it" appears, and sometimes feels, naive. Helping people to "get it" appears a soft option in contrast to doing or building.
And yet, and yet ....
I am only half way through David's book but I have to say I am loving it just as much as I loved The Cluetrain and Small Pieces Loosely Joined. What has happened to me since embracing the web has felt transformational and enabled connections and relationships that would never have happened otherwise. And these are not just appealing because they enable cozy conversations between like minded people. They enable exchange of ideas at a frequency and a quality that I never experienced before. I have also seen at first hand the effect this capability can have on an organisation. Being able to get quick, quality answers to questions, get collective heads around major cultural issues, and fostering connections that spark innovation are all non-trivial things that all organisations aspire to but which are notoriously difficult without web approaches.
It is good to catch ourselves sometimes and question the things we take for granted - whatever our views. But I am glad to report that I still get excited about the ways that the web is making the world different as described so well by David and others and I feel lucky that I get to pass on that excitement to the people I work with.
Ironically, given that Nick Carr makes much of the fact that he didn't get past page 9 of David's book I gave up on his tedius, rather self-indulgent post after the first couple of paragraphs.