Tuesday, November 16, 2004

What is hype and what isn't?

I get a warm fuzzy feeling from looking over del.icio.us and feeling like I'm seeing the pulse of browsers everywhere. I get a quiet joy from the ease and elegance of flickr's interface, a simple idea done well. And, as previously mentioned, I'm ridiculously happy about the idea of moving to a better blogging interface.

But there's a nagging part of me that wonders, especially after some conversations I've had lately, how much of it all is just another bandwagon. I do think there's some real value in all of these tools... but sometimes I feel a bit sheepish talking about them. Is it just the phenomenon of "it's so popular it's unpopular", which is what kept me from starting a blog in the first place? Is it a reluctance to sit on the crest of a great wave that'll inevitably crash, leaving me looking foolish in a wreck on the shore? Or is it just the simple realization that while these are all great tools, they aren't panaceas for anything that's wrong online, either in education or the rest of the net? Having a wiki doesn't mean people will use it. Having a blog doesn't mean your content is worth reading. And I still think it's only a matter of time before Furl and del.icio.us are obscured by spam, the way wikis are being overrun, the way you can't do a Google search on a popular topic without finding scores of meaningless sites all pointing in circles to inflate their scores.

The thing is, these tools are fantastic for people who are already motivated to use them. But there's still a fundamental need TO motivate the tech-phobic, the disinterested, the standoffish, particularily in education. And that has less to do with building cool tools, and more to do with basic interface design and basic content development.

I think what's great about the tools is that people are looking at building new kinds of software and new kinds of tools that they hadn't before, making collaboration more intuitive and streamlined, and giving people the power to adapt the tools themselves (such as the API for del.icio.us). That's what I can allow myself to get excited about, perhaps; not what's out there now, but what'll be out there next.


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