You’re a blog

Gapingvoid tweeted this earlier this morning.

Coming from Hugh, that’s saying something. Even if he has “retired” to Alpine.

So I went and took a look at the story: The Techcrunch Web Tablet project. Which seems to look like this:

Now neither Michael Arrington nor Hugh Macleod needs any link love from me. So why am I writing this?

Because I think it’s the right way to go. We have to keep experimenting with affordable low-power simple-spec sensible-form-factor open portable computing devices, we have to find the ten thousand ways that do not work in order to find the one that does.

A project like this, when centred around a participative architecture and community, reduces the cost of failure, reduces the cost of the ten thousand ways that do not work.

Ubiquitous and affordable and usable connectivity is an imperative for everyone, even more so for the five-sixths of the world that have none of it as yet. On the basis of “a dollar of trade is worth a hundred times a dollar of aid” principle, we should not underestimate the value of providing such power to people, power that will translate itself into affordable food, clothing and shelter, power that will translate itself into health, education and welfare.

Human beings are incredibly creative, incredibly adaptive and are cram-full of potential. Initiatives like this may well help release that potential.

In order to release that potential, we have to change how we think. We have to think of these tablets as mobile phones with the right form factor and functionality, not as computers with the right price and operating systems. For some strange reason, most people are comfortable with the idea that someone in darkest Africa or rural India or China needs a phone; yet the same people look puzzled when you suggest they could do with compute power and connectivity. Whatever. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….

The headline, by the way, is taken from one of the four hundred odd comments that have been made on the post so far. The commenter was “a bit sceptical” about the chances of TCIT “actually pulling this off” and listed a series of issues, like “no opensource hardware project has really taken off” and “crowdsourcing doesn’t work that well”. And then he ended with “You’re a blog”.

With a little bit of luck and a following wind, we will see a decent open multisided platform approach here, as a result of which we will see what we have failed to see so far: a global opensource project, hardware and software, with local extensions and frills made by a dispersed long-tail community around a common and reusable core. Language and script support based on people everywhere rather than profitable conurbations; applications that have the ability to make that little difference to people’s lives; no sign of lock-in anywhere.

Let’s find that one way that works.

7 thoughts on “You’re a blog”

  1. I’m really hoping for what you say to happen. And for a large part I think you are correct. But my cynicism tells me the following: “Everything changes yet stays familiarly the same.” I think this period of time where for the first time there is an opportunity for total realtime interconnectedness offers a unique opportunity. An opportunity that we should use. But don’t expect paradise to arrive, because it won’t.

  2. JP, hats off to you for saying it so well. We need and heed the cynics. But here’s hoping this project takes off; seems the time is right, with convergence of device and connectivity; there could be a multitude of solutions with the same philosophy!

  3. I wish them all the luck, but I remember Dave Winer saying he wanted to build a podcast player with I think Peter Rojas. Nothing ever came of that.

  4. gee, maybe its about time that tech people started doing things with their blogs instead of just talking about their last fail whale sighting- and aiming the collective social energy at projects. i applaud this idea.

  5. I saw this earlier tonight and the first thing I thought of was my classroom (of course). Seeing that we do almost everything online, having a low cost device available like this could really change things. While I have Asus eee pcs in my classroom (which I dearly love) this may be even one better.

  6. The OLPC project should be proof enough that the open source spirit is a viable path to go down (yes, yes, OLPC does have it flaws, but it should be a good enough reference).

    On a side note, TCIT should pursue it. They may fail the first couple of time, but I have a feeling that there is a tremendous demand for a Free, ubiquitous platform for communicating. It should take off after a couple of iterations at most! Can’t wait!

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