On wasting time and triggering new discoveries

Earlier this week, my attention was drawn to this article on New York Magazine by Adam Tinworth. As I was reading through it, it really resonated with me. It might be the fact that I am getting -digitally- old, but I was feeling something along the same lines last week. I got my first access to the real internet back in 1994. (I did visit BBS’s before, but though that was computer communication, it was not the same. 😉 ) Back then, I used to spend days behind my screen as it gave me a window to a whole brave new world. It connected me to people around the globe, some of whom I am still in touch with today. I spent countless hours chatting on IRC -Internet Relay Chat-, I browsed FTP sites around the globe, often ending up downloading programs, documents, images and so on from vague networks often ending on .fi being hosted by universities. And I browsed and browsed and browsed. The way you would end up in a hoge store or an expo and you want to see everything that was there. Gopher was a guide back then, or news groups, or even rudimentary search engines with categories.
As an explorer, I stepped up my game, building small sites on nothing in particular and reading and commenting on forums and blogs. Some ten years go, the whole social sphere triggered the same exploration possibilities but much more relational as I connected to many others. And I was pulled into the world of startups where we worked on the development of startups that were wild, weird and often not very viable. Until marketeers found their audience online and the experience changed. And now we are in this world that I can only compare to the heart of a tourist center in an otherwise empty city. Everybody circles the same venues and does the same things. The triggers are similar and as the revenue models favour previously proven methods, startups are becoming more and more similar.
The way I look at it is that we need to find that underground guide to the underdeveloped areas. It is getting harder to find the niches, the dimly lit spaces where viability is not measured but shrugged at for the sake of the challenge and the fun it brings. Right now, it is as if Columbus would have said: “Yes, I will go and explore the new world, but I’ll stick to the sailing routes which have proven to give us the best return on investment.” We would never have discovered anything…

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