Monday, December 21, 2009

A quick look back at the decade soon ending


Just a few thoughts as we move into the new decade.

At one point in my career, I thought I'd try my hand at writing books. When this current decade began, I was beginning to write my second tech book. This one was about version 1.0 of Microsoft's BizTalk middleware product. The book itself, for Prentice Hall PTR, tanked in the marketplace. You can blame it on the dotcom bust that was happening during that period. Or blame it on the glut of BizTalk books. Or on the generally lackluster sales of most business tech books.

But I didn't write that book, or the first (on a workflow topic, just 3 years before), to get rich. I just wanted to stretch myself, to see if I could sustain a single topic over, say, 400 pages or so. But, even more fundamentally, I just wanted to deposit particular intuitions into the public record. After finishing the BizTalk book, I realized that my psychic payoff was simply being able to publish the following three paragraphs:

“We live in the age of network software, in which shapes fresh from someone's imagination can enrich--or imperil--our lives almost overnight.

This book was written in the year 2000. It is a year that some thought would arrive with a great network cataclysm triggered by a tiny little programming shortcut. It is also a year in which viruses, worms, zombies, and other invisible network beasties regularly made the headlines and showed just how vulnerable the online economy is to sabotage from anyone with a phone line.

But modern society has shown surprising resiliency in the face of these network-borne threats. This is also a time of unprecedented prosperity and economic growth, an era of grand plans. 2000 is the tenth year of an economic expansion that has buoyed the United States and other developed nations. Almost spontaneously, the global economy has begun to re-engineer itself around the World Wide Web, a computer networking architecture that was little more than a laboratory curiosity when the long expansion began. No one knows with any certainty how far the Web will penetrate and reshape everyday life. And no one really knows how far the demands of round-the-clock e-commerce will drive the Web's technical evolution. We race headlong into this new online marketplace, not fully understanding what makes it all tick or what can bring it crashing down. But here we sit, hands on mice, watching the possibilities unfurl and surfing a wave of continuous innovation.”

Now, as the Millennium enters its Teens, the Internet remains the single most fundamental force reshaping the world economy. Even as economic and political forces swing back and forth, the Internet just deepens its penetration into every facet of life.

Funny how I don't aspire to writing books anymore. Even blogs (a word and concept few of us knew in 2000) feel too long. Somehow, we're all now distilling our choicest thoughts to mere 140-character sentences--some strange new epigram called a "tweet," the best of which scoot around the world at lightning speed.

Now, I simply aspire to observe change as it happens, and comment, using any medium available.