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« Glass, Cars, Fiber: Is Google a Generation Ahead? | Main | The Future of Brick and Mortar »

The Collaborative Web: Github is the New Flickr 

I can't take credit for this meme, even though I've already invested in it...twice. (Once with Docracy, once with a super cool company launching in the first quarter of 2013.)

I was chatting with Thor Muller a couple of weeks ago about web trends--and he made a very insightful point as I talked about how I see more and more models around getting people to work together in different ways.

He said that Flickr taught us all about social applications--and gave birth to Web 2.0  The features in Flickr seeded the consumer web gene pool for the following 7 or 8 years--tagging, favoriting, commenting, permalinks direct to content, newsfeeds, social consumption of media, sharing and embedding.  It was all there--and you could say that we really didn't get much feature or purpose innovation after that for a long time.  In fact, one could say that the sagging stock price of Facebook and stories about lack of VC funding for consumer startups represents, in one microcosm, the story of Web 2.0:  We all connected, shared, and consumed, but no one was really doing anything of much value. 

Not only are people looking for more--they're looking to accomplish more with their lives.  There's a growing sense among many that we've never had so many tools and connections at our disposal to make an impact on the world--which inevitably makes taking pictures of your food or that dress you like seem a bit underwhelming. 

Enter the collaborative web--where people get together to actively create, build things and solve problems.  It's a web where 1+1 really does equal more than 2. 

The collaborative web arrived after the social web hit a tipping point.  The seminal application of the collaborative web--Github--was launched in April 2008.  That is the very month that Facebook became the largest social network, outpacing MySpace.  Github is a web based hosting service for software development projects that use Git, a revision control system.  As Flickr did for the social web and consumption models, Github uses an open, social design for all sorts collaborative models, like Docracy's open source contact negotiation tools, GrabCAD for mechanical engineers, or Knowable for physical DIY projects.  The idea of working together in communities to share best practices around creation has inspired companies that get people doing stuff like Makerbot and Windowfarms.  Need to find a collaborator?  Go to Collabfinder, of course--where instead of following people, you do things with them.

What's also fueling this growth in collaborative software is the slow death of the big corporation.  More and more, individuals are realizing that joining a collective as a knowledge worker--and even a manufacturer--isn't providing the same value proposition it once did. 

When the means of production were expensive and demand was hard to come by, people joined organizations to spread overhead cost among everyone and to gain a constant, centrally collected source of demand.  Instead of just knitting blankets on your own time and having to find buyers yourself, you knit in a factory faster than you could ever knit before using modern equiptment, and the blanket company would market your products, ensuring that there would be a buyer for everything you made.

Nowadays, we have marketplaces--either explicitly featuring buyers and sellers, like Etsy, or "marketplaces for attention", like Google Search or social media, that can attracted relevent buyers to individual businesses.  The overhead cost of running any kind of a business, given shared access to workspaces, machines, rapid prototyping, and SaaS software, has fallen off the table.  That makes the cost savings of joining collectives and giving up ownership in your own revenue less compelling, and therefore pushes more people to be freelancers and super small business owners.  With more constituencies to deal with, each having their own specialization, the need for social collaboration to get things done increases. 

One thing to consider is how wide the gap will grow between those who participate in these ecosystems and those who don't as compared to the social web.  People used to ask you where you are present--where you can be found--and it was all about what you consumed, curated and liked.  "Find me on..."   Those who participated became informed and followed.

Fast forward seven years where your presence on the collaborative web will be synonymous with "Where do you work?"  People will be able to find what you do, not just how you write about what you do on a blog.  Those who participate in the collaborative web will accomplish, and if you're not seen as accomplishing things, you're going to look like you're standing still.  It will put the onus on individuals to be productive participants not just consumers--and ability to execute and focus will be at a premium.

Ready to get to work?

 

 

 

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