Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Democracy Lite

Seven, eight years ago, the idea of website scraping was as cool as it got but it was the beginning of things like Netvibes and an array of mashup tools. The technology that made it all possible also caused a shift it how we think about an relate to web applications.

Increasingly, it is not good enough to be handed the mass produced stuff with indifferent to aggravating user experience. We want to tweak and personalize it - preferably have our own portal that gives us our daily media diet balanced the way we like it best.

Apparently, this is kind of user-generated innovation is merely "democracy-lite" according to NYT columnist G. Pascal Zachary. The hoi polloi for all its web and tech savviness still does not get a piece of the action where it really counts. He writes:

For all the hoopla over the power and promise of user-generated content, consumer-directed design and other hallmarks of our new golden era of democratized innovation, one of the iconic products of our times — the iPod — can’t be customized (no, I’m not counting putting on different-colored protective jackets). There is an unbroken line between Henry Ford (with his Model T) and Steve Jobs. The new iPhone similarly reflects the elite, corporate innovator’s drive to find one size that fits many.

While his argument is entirely valid, maybe it is in the consumer's best interests to have a some degree of organization and control over design innovation so democracy does not degenerate into wholescale anarchy.

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