Steve Jobs doesn’t give a shit what anybody else thinks. Neither does Google. Or Craigslist. For all the love-festing around “social,” “sharing,” and “community,” mosts of the biggest successes of recent years have been driven by a singular vision, rather than “collective intelligence.” As Nick Carr pointed out:
Jobs, in fact, couldn’t possibly be more out of touch with today’s Web 2.0 ethos, which is all about grand platforms, open systems, egalitarianism, and user-generated content. Like the iPod, the iPhone is a little fortress ruled over by King Steve. It’s as self-contained as a hammer. It’s a happening staged for an elite of one. The rest of us are free to gain admission by purchasing a ticket for $500, but we’re required to remain in our seats at all times while the show is in progress. User-generated content? Hah! You can’t even change the damn battery. In Jobs’s world, users are users, creators are creators, and never the twain shall meet.
Which is, of course, why the iPhone, like the iPod, is such an exquisite device.
Does Apple do product testing? Does Google do UI testing? Do these companies constantly improve their products based on user feedback? Of course they do. But the end result is the product of one or a hand full of minds with a vision of how things should work. I’m not talking about refusing to listen — I’m talking about at taking it all in and arriving at your own conclusion.
At the Web 2.0 Summit, John Battelle asked Jim Buckmaster, the CEO of Craigslist, why they don’t run text ads and make a boatload of money. Jim’s response:
No users have been requesting that we run text ads, so for us, that’s the end of the story. If users start calling out for text ads, we’ll listen.
But he could have easily phrased his answer: Because we DON’T WANT to put ads on the site. We’ll put up ads when we’re damn ready to, so stop asking.
There’s a lesson here for bloggers and writers. Think about all of the most successful bloggers — they don’t blog by consensus. They don’t try to please anybody — in fact, they routinely piss people off. They see the world, and they call it like they see it. They are sometimes wrong, and the best of them apologize or correct themselves when they are. But then they plow right ahead writing about how they see the world.
My most successful blog posts have been those that were born of pure conviction — for many of those posts, I look back and think, what an idiot, I was so totally wrong. But it didn’t matter. I called it as I saw it at the time — and I listened to the feedback I got, and often it changed my thinking. But I never wrote anything to please anybody.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about the Apple iPhone, declaring it a stunning innovation. I had a moment of hesitation before I posted it — what if everyone else thinks it sucks? And sure enough, today the blogosphere is filled with discussion of everything wrong with the iPhone. But I posted it anyway. I don’t create any value for my readers by trying to hold a mirror up to everyone else’s opinion.
It’s possible this post may rub some people the wrong way. And I reserve the right to completely change my mind at some point in the future.
But this is what I really think, right now.
Scott Karp blogs his convictions at Publishing 2.0.