Friday, July 17, 2015

What is Real Progress?

I read the article about Reddit in the NY Times. The article opens with:

The return of a founder to a company is a well-worn story line in Silicon Valley. In Apple’s darkest hour, Steve Jobs came back, eventually turning the computer maker into the world’s most valuable corporation. In April, Mark Pincus stepped back into the chief executive role at Zynga. And Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, has twice returned to help right the social media company’s ship. Now Steve Huffman, who co-founded Reddit in 2005, may have one of the toughest returns of all. After being away for six years, Mr. Huffman reappeared last Friday as chief executive to pull off a turnaround of the online message board, which has grappled with a series of missteps and is embroiled in a battle to win back the confidence of its users.

Now I have dropped my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Never figured what to do with Twitter other than get into trouble with some stupid remark and Facebook became watching friends of friends making inane comments about their lives. I have looked at Facebook for "advertising" one's company but it is such a linear time sequenced medium that finding something is a problem. One can find Facebook adds but content is another thing.

Along comes Reddit. Never saw it until yesterday. It appears to be a never ending set of nasty comments. At least from a first view. This is what has become of Silicon Valley. Formerly a center for high tech, now the center for high touch. 

Then I walk around MIT and Kendall square and look up. Building after building with "smoke stacks" if HEPA filters. Each of these massive "factories" are "making" change, real change. It is what Pittsburgh was to steel a century or more ago. One measure is the parking fees. Five years ago it was $11.00. Now it is $42.00. No poor folks here! Senator Warren should try to get a parking spot...

But the point is simple. Jobs and Apple started by making something, computers. Google had a search engine, it was a breakthrough akin to a word processor. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Linked In et al facilitate something, but do they in any way create value? How would one measure value? In Cambridge I look at CRISPR Cas9 and see tremendous value. As in the Graduate the new thing was "plastics". in this generation it is CRISPR. It is not Twitter or even Reddit.