The Web 2.0 vocabulary is jammed with meaningless c words such as community, collaborate, commonality, creativity. Collectively, these c words add up to a single c word: cant.
The most corrosive c word is collaborate. It is dripping with selflessness; the word oozes the quintessential piety of Silicon Valley’s digital correctness movement.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a networking Silicon Valley dinner where I met a young lady called Mary Hodder who is launching a Web 2.0 venture called Dabble. Hodder, to quote her blog, is “an information architect and interaction designer for several web service companies with social media sites." Sounds very Ministry of Truthish, eh? Especially the "information architect" bit.
It gets worse, I’m afraid. What happens when you “mashup” (to use a particularly fashionable Silicon Valley term that Hodder repeated, ad nauseum) information architect and interaction designer and social media together? You arrive at that corrosive c word: collaboration.
From what I can understand, Dabble offers software that “empowers” intellectual collaboration. Dabble says it has built software that allows us to "share, manage and explore your information over the web." Hodder is in the remix business. Her new online software play is one big mashup.
But what’s so great about collaboration? I don’t want to share my information with anyone. It’s mine. I don’t want explore the information of strangers. I don’t want people to remix my writing or my photos. And I don’t want to share The Great Seduction. It’s mine, mine, mine. I’m the Great Seducer around here.
Hodder told me, not without pride, that she was a colleague of John Battelle, the supreme collaborator, the ultimate Quisling, of the Web 2.0 movement. She talked up Battelle’s book about Google – The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture. Hodder told me it was a good book because Battelle wrote it in collaboration with the users of his blog. It was a democratic effort, she said. And that’s why, Hodder concluded, it is a must-read book.
Wrong, Mary. Battelle’s book is unreadable precisely because nobody wrote it. It is SO bland -- like one of those mashed potato style American cars concocted by a kitchen full of Detroit apparatchiki. It has no author, or rather too many authors and thus is a mustn’t-read. The Search is instantly forgettable because it contains no individual spirit, no one intellectual voice.
A collaborative book, one written collectively by the remixers and the mashup artists of Silicon Valley, is, I am afraid, for dabblers. So by all means play with Hodder's new Dabble service or enroll at this week’s Mashup camp in Mountain View (say hi to Mary, if you see her there). But if you want to create something of real value with real words, don’t collaborate. Instead, author your work alone.