Friday, November 6, 2009

"The Internet is Broken"

I had the pleasure of attending TEDxMidAtlantic yesterday. For those of you not familiar with this effort, TED (Technology,Entertainment, Design) is a " small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading". TEDxMidAtlantic is an independently organized TED event featuring speakers and performers from a wide range of fields. It was a terrific event and I would highly recommend you attend. One particular speaker, Mark Walsh, really caught my attention.
In his discussion, he declares that the Internet is broken relative to the original intent of the early Internet developers. He feels that the Internet is "filled with junk" and "promotes [a] false sense of conviviality but generates isolationism". He goes on to outline his proposal for fixing it.
I certainly understand his concern. With the overwhelming growth of Internet usage over the last 25 years, there were bound to be abuses. However, I would contend that the Internet can promote real connectivity between people, especially in the B2C arena. If managed properly, true transparency is possible. We are in the service business. In order to service our customers, we have to connect with them. This medium allows us to connect like no other. He may consider the Internet broken, but I think we are just starting to figure out how we can really use it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Kevin, I was an active participant on numerous bulletin boards and services back in 1980's, include CompuServe and yes, even GEnie. People had accounts on each board, and that did create a certain expectation of being responsible and accountable for what you shared within the community. It did not create this mythical trust that Mr. Walsh spoke of, and it did not prevent "trolling" of the boards. It may not have been as prevalent, but it wasn't perfect.

    Often, I think people have a distorted view of the past, especially when it's romanticized. "You can never go home," is as true in the computer world as much as in the real world. We can't return to a period where everyone trusted everyone online because it never existed, and because the world doesn't operate that way. I would propose that instead of pining for the past, we look to mold the present and future, that we take those qualities we deem desirable, whether they be imaginary or not, and incorporate them into new technologies.

    I think we are already experiencing this through social sites like twitter. Your reputation for veracity, your personality, and your ability to share interesting relevant information are what allow you to better participate in the community. People won't follow ignorant trolls (well, some people may, if that's what they are looking for). The incentive is there, and it's all tied to your unique, identifiable, personal presence.

    There's no need to close down the Internet and start over. The Internet is always growing and changing, and we can all help make it into a better place.

  2. Dave- Thanks for your thoughtful response. You've said what I feel far more eloquently than me. Your comment about twitter is spot on. It really does seperate the real voices from the astroturf groups.