Creativity and what to Focus On

The latest posts from Merlin Man of 43Folders have resonated with me. Creativity is not something that comes magically, but must be worked on day after day, week after week. The lack of posts recently on the site point toward a waning in my effort. I’m not sure how to rectify this. Part of this is the need to do rather than merely comment. For now, however, comment.

At work, amongst my day-to-day duties, I paint a picture of the cloud as the future, which is rewarding. Now the phenomenon has a name, most have heard of it, which was not the case a year ago. Like Web 2.0, “cloud” is a vague term, but a name provides a way to set a frame of reference. It does sometimes feel, however, like one’s voice gets lost in the cacophony present inside any large company.

Here, on dx13, I often think of writing and championing the cloud as the future, but the net is already full to bursting of people doing that; I don’t feel like being another part of that echo-chamber. As important, the regular readers of the site are either well aware of the changes both happening and to come, or they don’t find them particularly interesting. As I wrote posts, I feel the enthusiasm draining as it becomes clear I’m repeating the voice of many others. So it doesn’t feel like I’d add anything there; I delete drafts ruthlessly.

A root cause is a wondering where I fit in to this, where is the niche to which I can profitably direct my efforts? I can see one obvious possibility, though quite how I pursue it I’m unsure right now.

I avidly advocate and follow standards like OpenID and OAuth, as I fundamentally believe open standards allow the brightest ideas to shine the brightest. Small services, loosely joined is a mantra I repeat both early and often. If the future is to hold the possibility for anyone with an fantastic idea to build a fantastic service, the ability to stand on the shoulders of giants is a must. And as the shoulders of giants are stood on, the giants stand to benefit as much and the ones they support. Value trickles down the system.

This is one reason I love Twitter and only grudgingly use Facebook. Twitter embraces the network and its standards whilst Facebook sticks its head in the sand and refuses, as much as it can, to play ball with anyone else. To this end, Facebook stands alone, whilst Twitter have built up a network of companies and services which are partly dependent on Twitter. Twitter allows you to re-use its data, and in doing so you build both the value of your own service and that of Twitter.

Facebook applications, on the other hand, are very restricted in what they can do with Facebook’s data and are required to cut a deal with Facebook before being allowed to use what data they can. Facebook has a clear unilateral strategy, as it brazenly ignores community standards in creating its closed empire.

In the end, however, the open Internet has always triumphed over this mindset, as with Compuserve and AOL in the early years of its popularisation. As the open innovation crowd say, the vast majority of the best ideas are outside your business. Embrace them, don’t fight them. Facebook, though a poster child of Web 2.0, seems an old-school secrecy-based company at heart. Perhaps their VCs make it that way, or perhaps Mark Zuckerberg really does believe he knows best (and, being honest, he’s got many things right so far).

I need to do some more thinking.