Computers have always been thought of as universal processors, that is machines that when programmed become a 'particular' type of machine, but available to be programmed in infinite different ways. The particular machines are the ones software manufacturers imagined 'the rest of us' needed... But Tom Portante takes another view of what might be possible thanks to 'wikis'. these comments were taken from Seed Wiki.
Little boxes all the same...
A few days ago Microsoft made news by announcing it would start delivering services to businesses and consumers directly via the web. By this announcement, Microsoft issued a clear response to parallel offerings (or, at least plans) by Yahoo and Google.
Murmurs of 'paradigm shift' and intimations that 'THIS time, it really, really is different' filled the industry journals and the edge-y techno blogs.
There's room for a contrarian view.
Maybe, just maybe, there's less to the story than meets the eye.
For as long as there have been computers that fit onto a desktop, there has been a steady stream of boxed solutions. The shrink-wrapping gave us Visicalc and Lotus 123, Electric Word and WordStar, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Each offered us a wealth of means to business ends. Each gave us option-laden applications to help us process words, crunch numbers and annotate charts. Our responsibility, as informed -- and time challenged -- workers, has always been to select the clump of features closest to what we really need to get our jobs done.
You see a parallel story here. Some very smart people try to guess all the possible needs that customers have and they fill a store with goodies. Our role is to wade through the multiple aisles of, say, a suburban Home Depot superstore, in search of a 60 watt light bulb.
It doesn't matter whether Yahoo or Google or Microsoft offer web-based solutions. They're still boxes full of stuff. Boxes we need to reach into and pull out something we hope is close enough to something we really need.
There can be another way.
We can offer people the tools to build what they need. We can offer groups -- or individuals -- an ability to fabricate idiosyncratic solutions. Need a workgroup calendar that e-mails changes to everyone in your team? Need a tool to scan RSS feeds for articles mentioning your company's competitiors, tabulate, graph and send that information to six people in your office? Need a way to help coordinate a car pool for the dozen people in your immediate neighbourhood who brave the Bay Bridge traffic each morning?
Boxes -- boxes in stores or boxes accessible via your browser -- will probably NEVER have exactly what you need to get done.
The solution isn't to sell better boxes. The solution is to offer a machine that will create the tools we need.
And the new story? Wikis are just such web-machines.
--Tom Portante 11/4/05