Distributing the future

Happy New Year!

When a one year ends and another begins, pundits feel compelled to opine about the next big thing. I almost always find these predictions tedious and off base. Worse even than this is the speculative fiction that imagines what it will be to wake up ten years in the future, floating cars, police state and all. In an effort to be sensational, these stories and predictions extrapolate in silly directions.

I much prefer articles that talk about small but interesting things that are happening right now. This is often the best we can do when it comes to predicting the near future. As William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here. It’s just not very well distributed.” Tim O’Reilly (Mr. Web 2.0) is such a fan of this quote that he has made it something of a personal mantra.

I’ve taken to reading Michael Arrington’s blog TechCrunch lately, and I liked his approach to the year-end summation. He wrote a piece called Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without. I love to hear articulate early adopters describe the products that change the way they work. Arrington’s list isn’t that surprising, but it did, for example, convince me to go back and try NetVibes again. My personal list of web services that I wouldn’t want to give up includes Bloglines, the todo list manager tasktoy, and the excellent LibraryThing.

Jon Udell goes one step farther than Arrington. He noticed that the stuff he got excited about in 2004 often made a big splash in 2005, so he compiled a list of promising technology from 2005 that might just hit the big time in 2006. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but this is the best way I know to make an intelligent guess. Find what’s working right now and distribute it liberally. Something just might stick.