April 3, 2006

Tim O'Reilly visits AOL

Timely, given recent posts on this blog about the Web:

Tim O'Reilly (of O'Reilly Media and Web 2.0 fame) was here last week to speak at the AOLT (AOL Technologies, for the uniniated) All Hands. Jon Miller, AOL CEO, "interviewed" him about Web 2.0, and technology trends in our industry - which was, I thought, a reasonably engaging way to NOT lecture to a bunch of technology people (*cough*skeptics*cough*) while still lecturing them.

AOL is a company that trends toward inward focus, so I think Tim's perspectives were generally quite illuminating and well receieved - I hope he comes back, and that we (AOL) continue to build a relationship with him. Though not quite proscriptive, he certainly set a tone about the role that big companies play in the Web 2.0 world (in his view), and AOL's opportunities to retain (regain? :)) relevance.

I'm always a little skeptical myself when it comes to pundits (talkers, not do-ers) talking to do-ers, but Tim certainly does not fall into that category. He's got some
street cred, and it showed.

Still, the Web 2.0 pitch felt a tad
dot-com-y (to me) in that the commerce aspects seem to follow the "get eyeballs/sell ads or get bought" model. I have a hard time believing the Internet is just another media outlet (one to many, many to many, or otherwise). There's more there than just re-selling your eyeballs to advertisers, but Tim's time was short and the forum was a TECHNOLOGY All Hands, so the ommission was probably appropriate.

Tim made a very compelling case that the Web is every bit as disruptive as people anticipated, and the next generation, who (practically speaking), never knew life without the Web, is upon us already.

Naturally, the usually suspects of Web 2.0 were mentioned: Google Maps,, and Flickr - Tim mentioned that at one point Flickr was pushing builds out every 30 minutes live (to which the crowd applauded). I have to admit - I'd have been more impressed if they were pushing FEATURES out every 30 minutes :P

It may be unkind, but builds every 30 minutes sounds SLOPPY to me, not impressive. I remember pushing out builds of the AIBO 2.0 Launch website live (for Sony, obviosuly) back in 2000 (pre-AOL days) - it wasn't because we were that GOOD. Tim did make a specific and spot on point about the value of operational excellence in the new Internet world.

He also quoted author William Gibson: "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet".

Please pardon my language, but that's just f***ing brilliant. How is it that I don't already use that one all the time?


Anonymous said...

Good summary of the O'Reilly discussion at the all-hands! I also loved the Gibson quote and also his phrase "Following the Alpha Geeks" :)

And I think he did mean pushing new features every 30 mins with his Flickr reference ("fail fast .. scale fast"). Otherwise, as you said, just running make or ant or whatever every so often could be pointless.

BTW, I gave the all-hands a 7.5/10 here

Sree Kotay said...

I don't know - Flickr's great, its not THAT feature-rich; hard to imagine the signal-to-noise ratio was that good.

For the most part, I think Internet time continues to be a big myth. There are LOTS of COMPANIES and PRODUCTS, but I don't think the timeline for a specific line of products is specifically faster than a direct competitors.

I do, however, think that the opportunity of Web 2.0 specifically means that you can get far more cross-leverage, and that is a real increase in product/feature velocity to end users: quality AND quantity - developers get to focus on what makes their product, not what makes it the same.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the coverage...I didn't even know O'Reilly was going to be there...then again I don't get to sit in on any of them so maybe I'll check out the webcast now that you said something.

Nice statement also about the future and it being distributed...

Flickr isn't that feature rich you have to admit...however the two things it lets you do that we don't to your pictures and post a "widget" to your site letting you show off your pictures. Once AOL/AIM Pictures lets you do that...I think we'll be back on track with that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Sree, builds every 30 minutes seems to speak more to the "Code like Hell / Fix Like Hell" development model. The other downside that this brings is that the Flickr UI seems to morph quite a bit. At one point, a search field was on their home page - and later I had to go digging for it. Granted, a UI needs to evolve - but it can be done in a manner that's much smoother than how Flickr has been doing it. IMHO, the best adjective for their UI is "scattershot"