Monday, March 16, 2009

Clay Shirky Has a Gotta-Read Post

Clay Shirky is a a professor at NYU's graduate program and a consultant on Internet technologies. He also has a blog and a Twitter account.

On Friday, he had a terrific blog post titled "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable." Every single person involved in the publishing industry should read this post, cut it out and tape it above his/her desk. Although Shirky is talking about newspapers, his words have a much wider impact:
That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.

And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.
Perhaps the most pithy line of Shirky's post is this:
“You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model.
Go here to read Shirky's post. It's long, but well worth it.

I'll talk about this and Mike Shatzkin's post some more tomorrow.


Sharon said...

I like his use of the word "revolution." Hearing that nothing is certain may not make us more comfortable, but it gives us a heads up that change is coming.

Jennifer Roland said...

Thanks for sharing this!