There’s a lot of anger in the air these days. It’s the nature of blogging, I suppose – dash some vitriol off and you’re guaranteed to start a conversation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; better to generate emotion of any kind than none at all. But it can also be damaging to the very essence of entrepreneurship. If ideas are met with too much resistance, will the tap eventually dry up? Will innovators become too afraid to put themselves out there, lest they anger the blog gods? The answer depends on who you are.
I talked with two companies recently that have been on the receiving end of some anger. Wikia Search rolled out its alpha to a chorus of “What the hell is this?” Company execs responded, “It is what is,” able to do so because of a supportive community and a general agreement that the search sector needs innovation. At the other end of the spectrum lies Story2Oh, an intriguing little project started by screenwriter Jill Golick, who wanted to dip her toe into Web 2.0 and got smacked down harshly in return. I’ll cover specifics on both companies in future posts but wanted to comment on the larger issue here. Golick is the very definition of an “outsider,” working in a field far removed from Silicon Valley (penning dramas for Canadian television). She was intrigued by the possibilities of the social graph, taking an experimental attitude of “let’s go play in the new frontier.” Only two weeks in the making, Story2Oh was awarded the label of “stupidest idea ever” by a popular blog, leaving Golick to wonder what she was thinking in the first place.
The merits of the Story2Oh idea are still to be determined. I’m not posting about it because I necessarily think it’s going to succeed. What gets my goat is the implication that she doesn’t have the right to try. Wikia Search is also the definition of a work in progress but because they’re Valley insiders (and admittedly have a huge success in their pocket), the anger was somewhat tempered with a “let’s wait and see what happens.” I’d bet a pile of cash that if Jimmy Wales had come up with the idea of social storytelling, the response would have been quite different.
As tech insiders, we should think of ourselves as hosts; guides to a world that welcomes innovation no matter whence it comes. Let’s take the “community” that is so important to Web 2.0 and share it with everyone on the Web, not just the ones who show up at cocktail launch parties. Otherwise, we may critique ourselves right into oblivion.