It’s a Whole New Internet

Janice Fraser, the CEO of Adaptive Path, recently published an essay entitled It’s a Whole New Internet. I have to say that I agree with her – things are definitely simmering at a quicker pace than they have been in a long long time and it’s not a bunch of speculative phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes kind of crap. People are excited about the internet again – smart geeky people are finding more flexible platforms on which to build tools that almost anyone can use (or at least get information from). If my mom doesn’t know what a blog is yet (she does, kind of) she’ll know for sure once she reads this week’s issue of BusinessWeek.

Janice talks a lot about the buzz surrounding Ajax:

matthewtischlerTwo months ago, Jesse James Garrett published an essay that provided a few diagrams, a basic description, and a name for a development technique that’s been around for years. Called Ajax, this approach removes the redraw-refresh paradigm for interacting with web applications. The firestorm of excitement around the idea took us all by surprise. In mere days, the “Ajax” meme was solidified.

Ajax is a bit out of my depth in terms of geekery – I’m not all that interested in the underlying mechanics of it, but I know plenty of people who are (because I love me some geeks). What I am excited about is this: it’s something that is going to be used to develop products that make it easier for me to communicate, easier for me to run my business and easier for me to stay connected to and share information with my clients, my friends & my colleagues.

My recent experience developing the Hey, Hot Shot competition was a turning point for me and my relationship to the internet. I started doing online stuff pre-web. I was the admin of a BBS in, I don’t know, 1994? 1995? And then I went on to work with my friend Omar at a little company called New York Online for a while, before heading out to California at the height of the boom. My specialty was online community and that broadened as I moved through several different jobs to a sort of amorphous “content strategy” kind of role. (One of my last internet-related job titles was Chief Creative Officer. Whee!) After the whole thing went kerblooey in early 2001, I began a slow drift from my internet career that ended in disillusionment. I was happy to open my gallery and be focused on creating an actual physical space that people came to. There’s no doubt that my experience with web stuff has been important to me from the beginning – it’s made it easier for me communications-wise, and it’s set me apart from a lot of other galleries because my fluency with web-related tools allows me to accomplish so much without burning through a lot of resources. (OK, I’m a little burnt out, but aren’t all entrepeneurs?)

Organizing the competition has been an opportunity for me to combine what I know and have learned from running my gallery for a few years with my knowledge and (reingnited) passion for things web-related. The web allowed me to create an inexpensive and stream-lined system to process entries. Backend .php programming (done by a hot shot programmer in Italy, while we communicated over IM and via email) organized the information from those entries in a way that met my requirements and allowed me to keep stuff organized. Email, old reliable email, allowed me to communicate extensively with the panel and with the entrants. My blog, both here where you’re reading this and over on my gallery’s site gave me a place to broadcast information about the competition as it developed.

<rachelsussmanThen an interesting thing happened – the day came to announce the winners and Dana was on deadline for another project, so I had to hack together the announcement page on my own. I am really just such an amateur when it comes to coding pages, it’s not my forte. I hacked together a few existing pages from my site, and then Laura Holder made it presentable and up it went. As a temporary solution, I put the images from the winning entrants up in a photo set on Flickr. It turns out the photo set on Flickr is the nexus for the excitement and communication about the competition – the community tools they offer have allowed people to comment on the work, tagging has grouped images together, “favoriting” (Flickr users can create groups of photos from other people that they like) has given me direct feedback about which work is most popular. It’s exciting! It’s also very different – it’s different than the internet work I’ve done in the past and it’s a different way of approaching how I run my business. So, yes, it IS a whole new internet.

The last two paragraphs of Janice’s essay really resonate with me:

Invention inspires invention. Ideas are collapsing into each other, recombining, and having powerful effects. The Internet has always been a medium for democratization, and by reconnecting with our idealism we’re once again uncovering its poetry, nobility, and transformative power.
If you’re not yet amazed, inspired, and a little anxious, you might want to consider it. Then get a good night’s sleep and perhaps take a rejuvenating vacation. We’re going to look back at Spring 2005 as a milestone. Watch closely, ladies and gentlemen. Things are about to change in a very big way.

(All images in this post are from winners of the Hey, Hot Shot competition.)