I’ve been doing some thinking. [It’s OK, Malc, I am still taking the tablets :-) ]
I was thinking about Nick Lemann’s piece on Amateur Hour in the New York Times, Mitch Ratcliffe’s response and Jay Rosen’s response, as also Steven Johnson’s related piece and Doc’s follow-up comments. [Thanks for the links and pointers, Doc.]
And I was also thinking about something Dylan Tweney said/asked a little while ago: Who’s wagging the long tail? In his piece Dylan also refers to John Cassidy’s review of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail. Here’s a quote from Dylan’s post:
The â€œlong tailâ€ implies that the Internet is ushering in an age when micro-niches will dominate, at the expense of mass-culture monoliths. Sure, the Net makes it easier for us all to find the bizarre fetishes and tiny cliques that we are longing for. But one thing has always bugged me about this theory: How do you make a business out of that, unless youâ€™re a big aggregator?
I read that, and somewhere in my head a bulb fused. Or maybe it lit up. Pretty much every serious argument we’re having, every conversation we need to continue, is about some form of Big versus some form of Small. Blefuscu versus Lilliput. And we use concepts like expertise and authenticity and reliability and affordability and freedom and choice to try and win the arguments. And the concepts we use land up polarising the debates. Which made me think….
…..It’s all about trust.
The Cluetrain markets-are-conversations-are-relationships is about trust.
Hugh’s microbrands are about trust.
Tara’s It’s-Not-An-Us-Versus-Them is about trust.
The journalist-versus-blogger debates are all about trust.
Trust used to be something that bound small groups together. Over time we tried to scale trust. It didn’t scale. And what happened instead was Big Everything. In an Assembly-Line meets Broadcast world.
Big Everything broke trust. Big Media lied. Big Content Producer reduced our choices. Big Pipe and Big Device reduced it further. Big Firm wrongsized away. And Big Government did what it liked.
Now, with the web and with communities and with social software and with the inheritance of Moore and Metcalfe, we’ve had a chance to rebuild trust.
And we’re rebuilding trust. Slowly. Putting the shattered pieces together. Disaggregation, to be followed by reaggregation over time. The new groupings are different, because the trust relationships are working across geographies and timezones and belief systems and cultures and ages and genders.
Yes, some forms of new Big will emerge. But only those forms who can grow while retaining their newly acquired trust.
Trust that personal freedom and choice is being preserved, trust that mistakes when made are honest mistakes, trust that such mistakes get corrected soon after they occur, trust that commonly held values are adhered to. Trust.
Trust that elections are fair and decisions to go to war or peace are just; trust that public appointments are objectively made and business models are transparent. Trust that laws are for all. Trust.
If you (re)build it they will come.
Think about Google. They are probably the first company I can think of who grew up on a New Trust basis. And then think about the times they have faced significant pressure from the public at large. Every time, it has been a situation where someone says “I thought you guys said Do No Evil? What gives?”
It’s all about trust. (And no, I don’t mean confidence, I mean trust).
A coda. This is a very provisional post. Taking a leaf out of Dan Gillmor’s book, my readers know more than I do. The people I read know more than I do as well. The blogosphere gives me a chance to learn more about these things I don’t know about. And posts like these are where I put something forward to see if it makes sense.