The future starts today

In my first post I talked about the influences that persuaded me to start this blog.

The biggest hurdle was to stop thinking about creating a blog and actually begin writing one.

On reflection there was another guiding thought that also strongly influenced me – the idea that it’s not too late to get started. 

Part of my reticence to start a blog was my perception that I’d missed the boat.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs about advertising, media and communication, most of which have now been going for years. 

Many of these are written by intimidatingly bright, very senior, highly influential industry figures offering their treatise on every communication model, every new campaign, every possible way of reaching and influencing people.

Has it all been said?  Is there anything new to say?  Will I just end up looking silly in comparison with the supersmart advertising bloggerati?

The answers, I think, are No, Yes, and Quite Possibly.  But I’m going to do it anyway.

Because I’m now convinced we’re still at the beginning of the internet revolution, not at the end of it.  And in my own small way I want to be part of that, not just a bystander.

Two recent articles I read made me think differently about the internet; the opportunities it affords us and its influence on our lives.

The first is The Internet’s Original Sin by Ethan Zuckerman.

Now a director at MIT Media Lab, Zuckerman was one of the original pioneers of online advertising. 

In this article he explains how, and why, advertising became the primary funding model for the web, and specifically why ever-increasing amounts of audience targeting are the only way online businesses are these days able to secure funding and generate revenue.

The Internet’s Original Sin is a fascinating read for a number of reasons – not least Zuckerman’s mea culpa for being the guy responsible for creating the pop up ad format!

The main thrust of his argument is that the ad-funded web is ‘bad, broken, and corrosive’. Which is pretty impactful in itself given who’s saying it, where he came from, and the questions it raises.

But the bit that struck me most when reading the article was this:

“The web is celebrating a 25th anniversary, but that celebrates the invention of the HTTP protocol by Tim Berners Lee. In practical terms, the web as we know it is less than 20 years old. Many of the services we rely on, like Twitter, are less than 10 years old.”

It’s incredible to think just how much the internet has completely transformed virtually every aspect of our lives in the space of just 20 years.

In a single generation it has gone from nothing to being absolutely central to our society.  Zuckerman’s argument is that the scale, influence and sheer ubiquity of the internet mean we no longer question how the internet works. It just is. 

We assume its structure is fixed and unchangeable.  But really we’re still at the beginning.  There is every opportunity to change and improve things.

This liberating and uplifting view is shared by another internet veteran, Kevin Kelly – one of the co-founders of Wired

A couple of weeks ago Kelly wrote a great piece for Medium entitled You Are Not Late, in which he argues that “nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning.”

Fast-forwarding to 2044 he imagines looking back on the present day from a position 30 years in the future, reflecting wistfully on how easy it would have been to be an internet entrepreneur in 2014 when there were “more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside”.

He asserts that all we’ve done so far is “created a marvellous starting point, a solid platform to build truly great things. However the coolest stuff has not been invented yet”.

It’s easy to imagine that we live in the most technologically advanced age.  That nothing new could possibly be invented to improve upon it.

But every generation in history has thought that.  And so far they’ve all been wrong.

The Coming Century

I don’t know about you, but I’m not banking on us being the first group to buck the trend.

In creating this blog I’m not seeking to change the world or revolutionise the internet.  I’m just looking for an outlet for my opinions, which hopefully some other people will find interesting.

Ultimately what I write may not be any good, and people may not want to read it. But I know one thing for certain.

I am not late.

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4 thoughts on “The future starts today

  1. I still remember the evening (c. 2001) that we all argued about ‘who owns the internet’ – conclusion was that no-one does, everyone does and Mr.N. is sole proprietor, all at the same time. So I’m pleased that you have finally got around to developing your own space on it 🙂 As you say, this is different to 140 characters on Twitter – writing posts and articles is about what you see and what you think, it’s more personal, it’s more involved and it’s a labour of love compared to throwaway soundbites and continual posting of links on social networks. You can do whatever you want. It may be posting your thoughts on the new Radio Times, it may be posting your thoughts on what will happen the last minutes of an Algeria match or the latest tourist information for Cleethorpes. It could even be something profound – the key thing is to keep going, keep writing and keep telling people that you are doing it. You’ll find you walk around with your eyes and ears slightly more open, you’ll learn new stuff and most of all, unexpected things can happen. Since I started my blog (yours looks much nicer by the way) I have made new contacts, exchanged ideas with people all over the place and have even ended up in a South American newspaper – all simply as a result of something I have posted! But most of all it’s helped me understand more about how things work and learning by doing has helped me be better at my job. Anyway, I’m pleased your here, I’ll link to you and will try and come back whenever I can… and, yes, as Kylie famously once sang “It’s never too late…”

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  2. Thanks mate, really appreciate all of that. When I get a second I’m going to post some links to other interesting bits of the internet, so I’ll make sure you’re in pride of place on that list.
    (PS: I own the internet!).

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  3. JK – see if you can steal some of his Elf Yourself money this Christmas

    Good luck with the venture. One opinion that I have to the above is that although technology will change and improve there will still be a legacy effect for some people. For example I’ve invested a lot of time and precious memories documenting my children growing up on Facebook – I’d still like that to all be there when they are old enough to appreciate it. So I will probably cling to Facebook like some cling to CD collections, unless technology makes it easy for me to keep and collate those memories elsewhere

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    • I think you’re right JR, there may well be a legacy effect for those technology providers with whom we invest most time, effort and emotion. Those with whom we have only a functional relationship will be much more easily replaced when something newer and shinier comes along.

      Personally I’m very nervous about storing all my cherished memories with Facebook, for fear that I may not be able to access them in years to come.

      I’ve still got physical photos my grandparents took before I was born, but I can’t read my university essays because they’re all saved on floppy disk.

      I realise that wanting things physically in my hands rather than saved in the cloud marks me out as the oldest of old gits, but the idea of entrusting the things I really care about to the ether doesn’t sit well with me I’m afraid.

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