Bubble 2.0 Vaccine – Power to the People

People rarely speak negatively about Web 2.0, because as a whole, it represents innovation, communication, freedom, and progress; and of course, who doesn’t love that? The one real counter-statement to all the Web 2.0 hype is Bubble 2.0, something that people can’t resist talking about in the wake of the massive 1.0 collapse. In some ways, however, a lot of the talk surrounding Bubble 2.0 is simply missing the point.

A History Lesson

Web 1.0 was driven purely by business motives. There was a retarded amount of money to be made, and those who got there first cashed in with an ease and a consistency that were unprecedented. Although I was not in business at the time (I was in school in the mid to late 90s), I can imagine that I would have jumped on the bandwagon as well.

Web 1.0 was the California Gold Rush all over again. People stepped over one another to grab their slice of the pie, and every investor and VC with an ounce of sense looked to this new horizon to capitalize on the seemingly endless stream of money that was coming out of it. Then, of course, the transparency of the growth was exposed, and the bubble burst. Suddenly, we were left with a bunch of whiny asses who lost ridiculous amounts of money and pride, and due to the intangible nature of the web, they were left with nothing to show for it. Man, the web can be a harsh SOB.

Innovators don’t cause bubbles; sharks do

While hindsight is 20/20, I also think that a prediction for Bubble 1.0 probably could have been logically deduced from the facts surrounding the initial growth of the web and the motives that drove it to that point. There are certain rules that are always true, and Web 1.0 not only bent but also broke a lot of them.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. What girl was prettier than Web 1.0? She was so hot, so sweet, and such a great lay, and some guys like Mark Cuban even got out with their asses intact. But then, her ass started to drop, and she got bitchy. Oh, she got you. She got a LOT of you.
  • Money is not really an appropriate motivator for innovation. My experiences have taught me that when you’re motivated (and scheduled) by money, you produce things at a rate that compromises intelligent, pinpoint execution. Let’s get one thing straight here – there is never a substitute for quality.
  • If you’re all about the profit, something’s gotta give. Your business might stay intact, and your cash flow might grow…but something’s gonna crumble. Your marriage? Your relationships with family and friends? Your own personal satisfaction and happiness? How much are you willing to “pay” for all that profit and all that hubris of yours?

If you’d asked me two years ago, I would have told you that profit was the justification for business. Period. Ask me now, and I have to give you a different answer. Business for business’ sake is not only a backwards philosophy, it’s just plain stupid! Business is the natural fallout from the production of something that is valuable to many.

It’s the easiest stepwise process you’ve ever seen:

  1. Create something great. Innovate. Learn. Build.
  2. Set up a business to support it

Yet in many ways, VC and investor activity belie the purity of this whole process. Certainly, this isn’t the case across the board, as there are plenty of savvy VCs out there who seek to foster the innovative processes that really produce great results. In a Bubble-esque sense, though, people tend to throw money at things in a knee-jerk sort of way, and they do so because they’re looking to cash in on the next huge paycheck. The opportunities for this sort of thing are popping up every day in Web 2.0 manifestations, so there seems to be no end in sight for the aggressive capitalists out there.

We live and operate under a potentially volatile system that is kept intact thanks to a few simple truths:

  • Everybody loves a multimillion dollar payday. It’s one of those things that’s really hard to ignore.
  • Because the ever-present “dangling carrot” holds such power over those of us who are looking for carrots (and who isn’t), those with all the carrots can pretty much dictate the directions that the rest of us are going to take.
  • There will always be people out there who want more money, no matter how much money they have. Personally, I don’t think it’s greed. I think it’s pride. At some point, it’s no longer about the payoff – it’s about the ego trip.

Web 1.0 was all about the haves taking the have nots for a whirlwind tour, and now look where it ended. Web 2.0 is, indeed, heading in a similar direction, but we have the opportunity to alter our destination a bit.

Power to the People

Now more than ever, people are empowered on the internet. In many cases, single voices echo loudly through the “blogosphere,” and thanks to all the cross-talk, illegitimate activities and ulterior motives get exposed with incredible quickness. The chatter and interconnectivity of Web 2.0 have made it a cultural (we’re talking world culture here) anomaly. In my opinion, it’s becoming the ultimate system of checks and balances – the most fair and judicious forum conceivable.

The purity and brutal honesty of this forum appear to be slowly weeding out not only illegitimate ideas but also those businesses who exhibit improper motivation. Companies on the ‘net who come out looking for that easy profit are quickly meeting up with T-rex and the dodo. Slowly but surely, it really is becoming more about the content and the deliverables than anything else, and I find the purity of this idea to be warmly comforting. If you’re good, you should win. This is one reason why people are so passionate about their sports teams, because on the field of play, your strengths and weaknesses are exposed for all to see. At the end of the day (referees aside), the better team wins. If your team loses, it definitely stinks, but at least you can accept it because there was nothing hidden from you.

This is why Bubble 2.0 doesn’t look so bad to me. Sure, some people will throw too much money around in dumb locations while chasing more carrots, and they’ll get their asses properly handed to them. The bottom line, however, is that the people have been empowered, and this empowerment has begun to foster a very pure, very real community of innovators and contributors. The collective voice of encouragement and criticism that now inhabits the web is the perfect vaccine for Bubble 2.0, and it’s the primary reason why I think you need to stop worrying so damn much.

Unless, of course, you’re out there looking to feed your ego with carrots.

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