Three years ago I caught a glimpse of a new social network built around music. You could follow people, chat with them, and enjoy the same music stream in real time. There were many other clever things about it, such as a very slick integration of music news. But the killer feature, one that made it unique, was that you could …
"The You-Won't-Believe-How-Ironic-This-Is Bootnote"
Answered your own question there.
"Why have engineering values gone AWOL?"
"And then, weeks before it was due to go live, two of the suppliers in the music industry got cold feet,"
Ambition and optimism have been stifled by fear and greed, If it's not the content suppliers worried that their material will be pirated, it's the marketers trying to make sure everything is locked down so that your have to see things through their "message". If it's not them, it's the tech companies and patent trolls buggering the whole thing up with patent wars and deliberate incompatibilities in shortsighted attempts to create "lock-in."
Your comment has very valid points, but I would argue that that is Mr. Orlowski's point all along: Those obstacles that you mentioned aren't new, nor are they accidental--they are the real world problems of any incumbent industry that any entrepreneuring individual or organization must face.
Why aren't they factored in? That is *indeed* what we need, someone or someones that views the complete picture and has the intrepid ability to communicate this vision in a way that causes the change.
But nobody is trying. Everybody is too busy patting themselves in the back coming up with random ideas that do not necessarily add value, nor solves any real problem. And when they're not, they're lamenting how "big business" gets in their way.
Well, I'd say that ignoring "big business" and the realities of an existing industry or social norm is not going to gain you any inroads into solving those problems.
"But nobody is trying. Everybody is too busy patting themselves in the back coming up with random ideas that do not necessarily add value, nor solves any real problem. And when they're not, they're lamenting how "big business" gets in their way."
Virgin tried. They created a value-adding product by working with the existing industry -- and that's what killed their project.
I tried. I created my University's first website in 1994. It was essentially an intranet before that term was even coined. It allowed students to research options, plan their courses with their advisors. Then the head of admissions heard that a website could be used for advertising. We sat down and discussed it, he promised to make sure any changes would keep the useful parts. The resulting site, built by his consultants, was a proprietary abortion which was useless for students, and didn't even work in most versions of Netscape (which it was ostensibly built for.) Access to the course catalog, staff directories, building maps, all the useful bits had been removed.
A lot of people are still trying. The problem is, for each one of us running around getting the necessary approvals and building actual functionality, dozens of hacks are throwing stuff out there without getting anyone's approval. So we get lost in the static. Even when one of us gets through all of the hoops and manages to get something of value out there, there's likely a pirate equivalent that's been there for several years that's crap but free, so people jump on it.
Facebook starting to fail?
When Facebook started out it was a great example of a service that nobody rivalled. There were no other sites that did what it did, as well as it did. And that was the whole point of why people flocked to it, because it had effectively solved a problem.
But looking forward that's beginning to shift. Facebook are not coming up with anything new or truly innovative. They're just starting to add more crap into it that is of diminishing interest to the user's. And it's all about people commenting on other people's stuff (how exciting, not).
It still amazes me that 2 of the most popular sites in 2011 - Twitter and Facebook - are essentially just tools for people to make the sound of their "angelic" voices heard. Neither of them have any groundbreakingly complex functionality groundbreaking or services which are of any other value other than seeing what other people are saying!
True; social sites are basically where people post their brain farts, and their "friends" tell them how great they smelled.
Style over substance
Our whole world is populated by people who don't care what anything or anyone actually does, but care about the style .... footballers (who cares if they can score a penalty if they've been to the hairdresser), iPhone (who cares if it can't make a phone call if it looks coooooool), politicians (who cares if they have a brain as long as the suit is sharp and the smile 'nice')....
the list is depressingly long, but who can blame 'investors' and businesses from picking up on this and giving the people the endless stream of pointless but highly styled drivel they crave.
Facebook only survives due to numbers. A new social network comes along and you need to ask all your so-called mates to join it to ensure it's worthwhile? Not very likely! If people have an affinity to a network already, with all their so-called mates on it they're not likely to move.
Facebook doesn't have to do anything clever for their users, the users are not going anywhere, all Zuckerberg has to do is just come up with new ways to raise ad revenue. We know he doesn't give a monkey's about the users, and the user's don't care he doesn't care about them, they're just there to hoover up the adverts and with any luck a reasonable percentage will click the links and buy the products.
Tyranny of the stock market innit?
Decent engineering doesn't get over the line because no-one is prepared to take risks with their share price, so everything is engineered for the short-term.
As for MSP, well at least someone benefited from all the work; eircom MusicHub is in large part VMMU; but of course the labels had fewer fears about dipping into a 4M market rather than a 60M one.
Good engineering and design is important.
"The test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better, it will only make it more expensive and foolish."
-- Frank Pick, lecture to the Design and Industries Assoc, 1916
The sound of one hand clapping
If it weren't for the mentions on El Reg I wouldn't have known Shoreditch existed. There are also real IT people working in the UK and we solve engineering problems in hardware and software all the time. We just don't make such a song and dance about it.
Would Brunel have been able to work in 21st century Britain or anywhere else?
If MBAs graduates existed back then he wouldn't have stood a chance.
Brunel is in part flattered by the perspective of hindsight...
Don't forget that the Thames Tunnel (Brunel pere & fils) almost killed its co-creator and was a financial disaster. If the East London Railway hadn't come along to acquire it the investors would have lost everything. The SS Great Eastern wasn't exactly a great success either.
The Victorian railway boom was in many respects similar to the .com boom - lots of investment in similar schemes of unproven value which generally lost money for the shareholders and resulted in duplicate services and low returns. If it hadn't been for this boom, the engineers would not have been given any chances, though - it's the investors that put up the money in the (ulitmately forlorn) expectation of rich pickings. And as for the Victorian equivalent of MBAs and their failings, look up George Hudson...
The difference of course is that physical infrastructure leaves a legacy whereas when a big online service disappears then nothing is left behind.
"...missing are payment platforms....."
Yup, you have to say that when the answer's "PayPal", the question must have become hopelessly garbled somewhere along the line.
Payment and credit
The answer's not paypal, it's Bitcoin. For payments at least - it doesn't lend itself to credit in any more webby way than any other currency does. But credit is what got us into this big economic fckup so maybe a web without credit isn't such a bad thing.
"The answer's not paypal, it's Bitcoin."
But they're not after revenue with this step
the facebook 'upgrade' is a pure data mining play. they way they're bringing in video and music 'sharing' - all on the server side - will surely provide gobs of usage data that they can track, chop up and sell - or they can monetize things later if they sort the data now and then acquire (at a steep discount) content/providers - after the halved netflix is floundering and hulu has gone titsup etc. etc.
Foiled! So here it is...
I was really really expecting a mention of the Recording Ass of America.
That's done it.
No it hasn't
A Freudian slip - I meant to write the Reco(r)ding Industry Ass of America. I hope no-one has been offended by this error.
It's funny how the word 'industry' does not associate naturally with the word 'recording'.
The abridged answer:
Engineering isn't valued because the bankers are paid too much.
Engineering values have not gone AWOL. In terms of music, they primarily have worked on systems such as bittorrent, napster of old, and so on. Getting the pigopolists to agree to some music distribution system is not an engineering problem, and anything they seem to be willing to agree too inevitably ends up being mediocore. This isn't an engineering fault it's a music industry fault.
Well, that music sharing system of a few years ago might have looked good on paper, and with a few test users - but, if their current Backup and Storage system is anything to go by, as soon as any reasonable number of people got onto it, it would have collapsed and died.
There's more to engineering than just producing a good system - it needs to be robust and resilient too.
There is no new money is coming into this system
The past is always simpler, cleaner, shinier and more moral and efficient than the present.
Just keep saying it. Will it be true tomorrow?
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