Friday, October 1

Fast Company's take on dedicated amateurs

They're gonna take over the world.

The gist of the article is that self-organized networks of dedicated amateurs have the capacity to create and/or shape scientific disciplines (astronomy), service sectors (lending in Bangladesh), and entertainment communities (the Machinima crowd). No duh! When you give a society the tools to transmit and manipulate arbitrary information almost instantaneously, they'll use them to do things they're passionate about. And to find other people who are passionate about the same things.

There are a couple of corollaries of this observation that I want to pursue. The first is that it's becoming obvious to the mainstream media that these people are doing things worth looking at. The second is that the most successful business models are going to be the ones that let the real hard work be done by passionate Pro-Ams.

On the first corollary: I mention below the problem with service disintermediation is that it exposes the content-production oligopoly more transparently to the consumer. One of the solutions to that problem is the pro-am movement. I don't watch TV anymore, because I get my big-budget entertainment from well-made games. But what I'm really looking forward to are the mods for those games -- the ones that are going to improve the game in ways the creators hadn't thought of. There's a relatively large garage industry for games too, and some real gems coming out of it. The Scene makes astoundingly beautiful 5-minute entertainment, if I don't have time to play a round of Dawn of War. So the big-content oligopoly might break -- or at least widen -- before the tide of pro-am work. Insert indieband vs. RIAA rant here, too.

On the second corollary: Busines models. The company I work for has been reinventing itself, lately, trying to devise a set of business models that don't revolve around people doing things they're not doing anymore (like spending on IT so they can say they've spent on IT). It really does seem to me like writing the next killer app isn't as important as enabling the next killer community. What does that mean? I have no idea. There's a reason I'm not a CEO.

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