Links of April 4th, 2005

Three links of interest that I came across today.

  • Thomas Friedman wrote a long article about outsourcing for the New York Times magazine, making the point that with new technology, the world is flattening out such that anything can be done anywhere. While I believe outsourcing may be good, and while I am amazed, as always, by the technological leaps necessary to enable it that Friedman describes, I disagree with his basic premise that the world has flattened out. And that’s why I wrote up my last post this evening, so I could refer to it here.

    I agree that it is now technically possible to do these things. But what my previous post indicates, and what I want to develop, is that having the enabling technology will just reveal the really hard task, which is to communicate via that technology. We have only barely started to develop the virtual cues necessary to use such systems, let alone develop the deep connections necessary for effective communication. When developing code, the hard part is often not the code itself, it’s figuring out what the code should do. Outsourcing the actual coding to India is easy…if you know what you want it to do. Figuring out what the code should do is very difficult to outsource, because that’s where the deep shared context is necessary. Even communicating what you want the code to do will be difficult, as anybody that’s spent days trying to write up a decent specification will testify. Just because something is possible doesn’t make it easy. Technology does not trump all. Hrm. I’m not explaining this very well, but I’m going to put it up anyway, and maybe take a stab at sorting it out tomorrow. (And, yes, I know that his main point is that China and India will now be able to do everything themselves rather than American firms outsourcing, but I think that they may have a hard time figuring out what to code anyway without being embedded in their customers’ society).

  • Another good Paul Graham essay where he describes some of the company ideas he got for his seed funding firm. This is the bit I like:

    But by far the most common was some vague combination of a blog, a calendar, a dating site, and Friendster. Maybe there is some new killer app to be discovered here, but it seems perverse to go poking around in this fog when there are valuable, unsolved problems lying about in the open for anyone to see.

    Since this is exactly where my ideas for social software currently lie, I’m glad I didn’t bother applying. I think we’re going to develop better understanding of what we want in this space over the next few years as more people move more of their communication online, and we start to understand what virtual cues we need, but right now, I agree with him – it’s awfully fuzzy.

  • This I Believe essay contest from NPR. Thanks to DocBug for the link. I’m going to have to spend some time trying to get a decent summary of what I believe down to 500 interesting and personal words. Brevity is not my strength – my typical blog post is more in the realm of 1000 words. But I want to try, because (a) I think it’d be a good exercise for me, and (b) it’d be way cool on the off chance I do well enough that I get to read my essay on air.