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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The 'Jobs' that Blogging Serves For

NYT's John Markoff argues that blogging may well be the modern equivalent of CB radio:

The other possibility right now -- it sometimes seems we have a world full of bloggers and that blogging is the future of journalism, or at least that's what the bloggers argue, and to my mind, it's not clear yet whether blogging is anything more than CB radio. And, you know, give it five or 10 years and see if any institutions emerge out of it. It's possible that in the end there may be some small subset of people who find a livelihood out of it and that the rest of the people will find that, you know, keeping their diaries online is not the most useful thing to with their time."

But as Dan Bricklin argues, what was meant as a put-down may well turn out to have been a complement, if we see the trajectory of CB radio as leading ultimately to the mobile phone. In order to elaborate this point Bricklin takes us through an argument which is to be found in Clay Christensen's new book 'The Innovator's Solution', and which involves the disruptive consequences of 'not good enough inventions':

I found that its theories help explain many successful ventures and spectacular (and not so spectacular) failures as you apply them to companies and products you know from the near and distant past............The theories, backed with many interesting footnotes and references, should be taken to heart by people who put down simple, "not-good-enough" innovations. "Because new-market disruptions compete against nonconsumption, the incumbent leaders feel no pain and little threat until the disruption is in its final stages. In fact, when the disruptors begin pulling customers out of the low end of the original value network, it actually feels good to the leading firms, because they move up-market in their own world, for a time they are replacing low-margin revenues that disruptors steal, with higher-margin revenues from sustaining innovations...Some people have concluded on occasion that when the incumbent leader doesn't instantly get killed by a disruption, the forces of disruption somehow have ceased to operate, and that the attackers are being held at bay... These conclusions reflect a shallow understanding of the phenomenon, because disruption is a process and not an event."

Another theory: "...customers -- people and companies -- have 'jobs' that arise regularly and need to get done. When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives, they look around for a product or service that they can 'hire' to get the job done............."

Equating blogging to CB radio was meant as a put-down. Using some of the book's thinking, you could ask: "What were the 'jobs' people 'hired' CB radio to do?" It may have been to talk with their "buddies" when they had some free time, such as when driving, and for "safety" like calling for help, or organizing among each other, such as when avoiding speed traps or deciding where to eat. The "job" wasn't to become a mini-FM or AM radio personality. Personal radio technology grew up from "not-good-enough" for the mass market to "good enough" and we got to talk to our real buddies wherever they were with cell phones, a huge success by almost any measure.

There are "jobs" that blogging serves for both the blogger and blog reader. Those jobs are real, and are probably not served well enough by today's journalism system (nor today's blogging, yet). Blogging will evolve to eventually "fill" those "jobs" well (though the name we use for personal publishing may change).
(Thanks to Rajesh at Emergic for pointing me to this.)

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