Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Criswell & Scoble Predict

Here's my take on the recent unpleasantness instigated when Robert Scoble offered sweeping (and very unlikely) predictions of the future of search.

Back-story for those who don't follow these things. (For those who do, then skip to "for those who do.") Actually, for most of those who don't follow these things, this is your stop.

Last weekend, Robert Scoble posted videos to his Kyte channel with some brave predictions about the future of search. A ton of bricks fell on him. He cataloged some of the heaviest bricks on his blog. The refuteniks rated Scoble's original video somewhere to the south of the immortal Criswell opening of Plan Nine from Outer Space.

Many bits were slaughtered, splayed, and sprayed through the ether in the mayhem that ensued. Robert fought tirelessly and railed against his enemies (Nixon nostalgia?) until Dave Winer reminded him that he actually knew better. Dave can get Robert to listen (sometimes). Things changed. But while Robert responded to Dave's post, IMHO, he never quite embraced the essence of it.

For those who do follow these things, pick it up here:

I think there were (at least) six layers to this perfect storm.

1) Robert's predictions about the future of four companies—unlikely scenarios based on misperceptions and shaky assumptions;
2) Implied endorsements and embrace of Mahalo, Techmeme, and Facebook--and the entrepreneurs and/or developers behind them.
3) Robert's presentation and medium—unsearchable, unskimmable, requiring a higher investment on the audience than text; (and being harder to revise and improve before posting.)
4) Robert's persona in the videos as all-knowing oracle—belied by the preposterousness of the story and incompleteness of his knowledge; He didn't present it as a hypothesis to be tested and vetted, but as a done deal. (Did anyone hear the famous Scoble laugh in the Skype videos? I confess, I bailed long before the end, so I don't know for sure.)
5) Robert's standing and status in the blogosphere—which will always draw challengers.
6) The size of the bet that Robert made by the magnitude of his claims—he was going for broke and claiming first chair in the visionary section.

Some of the prominent participants in the melee were clearly gunning for Robert based on 4,5,6. (And you know who you are.)

It became impossible to track the conversation back to layer 1 where the collaborative dynamics of "we'll fact check your ass" apply. Anything less than agreement became an attack.

It's clear, however, that Dave's relationship with Robert gave him a unique standing to break his cycle of defensiveness.

Mickeleh's Take: If it were possible for everyone to focus on the top layer and talk about the story and why it might or might not be plausible, the conversation would have had a different tone.