No kidding. If you have any interest at all in what's going on on the Internet today, or even if you don't, you owe it to yourself to read Zittrain's fascinating book, The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It.
The book focuses on the power and vulnerability of "generative" technologies, networks, systems or cultures. Generativity is the ability (degree of flexibility actually) to create and distribute new ideas, methods or processes which, themselves, can be used to create even more ideas, methods or processes. An oven is a generative technology because you can use it to prepare many different kinds of foods or other products. A toaster is less generative because it can only be used for a much more limited set of functions.
I could cite many examples of wonderful insights in the book but this list was particularly pertinent for me at the moment. These are the characteristics of what Zittrain calls "the generative pattern."
- An idea originates in a backwater.
- It is ambitious but incomplete. It is partially implemented and released anyway, embracing the ethos of the procrastination principle. [The procrastination principle says that most problems confronting a network or culture can be solved later by others; take care of today's users and let tomorrow's take care of themselves.]
- Contribution is welcome from all corners, resulting in an influx of usage.
- Success is achieved beyond any expectation, and a higher profile draws even more usage.
- Success is cut short: "There goes the neighborhood" as newer users are not conversant with the idea of experimentation and contribution, and other users are prepared to exploit the openness of the system to undesirable ends.
- There is movement toward enclosure to prevent the problems that arise from the system's very popularity. (99)
Eight weeks into the VloggerHeads experiment and I find this stuff now?!?
And, where's #7 on that list: How to maintain the balance between generativity and stability/security?
Here's Zittrain giving a talk about the book.