Saturday, November 7, 2009

Isolated Collaboration

I periodically checkout the Mozilla Add-ons site to see what's new. I just grabbed Reframe-it given that a decentralized client, non-publishing platform specific, commenting model only makes sense. Sadly, no-one's using it; the sites I visited didn't have others commenting on content. This reminded me of the me.dium (now oneriot) sidebar I worked on years ago. Again, another solid decentralized collaborative client (centralized server) product idea, that consumers wouldn't consume. Again, sad.

As consumers why do we continue to do it the wrong way? Relying on publishers to install walled garden user feedback/comment models (IntenseDebate, disquss, etc) is a disaster. When does commenting/discussion break out into its own client/server/protocol (obviously reuse something on that front) so I don't have to rely on the Publisher to have done something w/ their site to support feedback loops. I wonder if Google Wave will gain enough momentum to cause real change here.

The industry is heavily weighted toward open protocols/standards that allow services to cross-communicate (oauth, openid, come to mind). While a good thing, I think we've swung too far to the server-side in this regard. Look at it this way, sans browsers (clients), we've got nothing, yet we're trying to build something (collaboration) based on servers/publishing platforms that have walls between them. That seems horribly broken to me. The model is ripe to have clients (mind you, potentially server-side operated clients... not strictly client-side-software... though in this case I suspect client-side is opportune) act as collaborative agents in order to get a sense of community across the network (not just within various walled gardens) at large.

I don't buy that customers don't want this; lots of people comment on blogs. It falls squarely into the "we don't know what's in our own best interest" bucket. It's going to take a consortium of the major publishing players (from news sites, media companies, blog services) to buy-in to a standard (ha!), or the client (browser) is going to have to force the UI/UX onto us; optional plugins/addons won't cut it.

The network is desperate for a revolution on several fronts. I'm hopeful there's enough steam in the collective invention engine to make some stuff happen. While I've enjoyed living through the advent of the Internet, I don't want it to have been the only major societal shift in my lifetime.

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