The Gold Rush

Bob Dylan once made a record called Self Portrait, full of some of the most bizarre recordings of his career. Among these clunkers - mostly clunkers - was one called Days of 49. It had a tight groove, sort of post John Wesley Harding meets Nashville Skyline, and it concerned the Gold Rush of (for the post-boomers) 1849.

I can't remember the words, or need to look them up on Google. But I can feel the rush of excitement, the same one that woke me up this early Sunday to proclaim why this is history repeating itself: Businesses are moving faster than the services we're inventing.

You can call me what you want, Zimmy even, but the reason Salesforce is going to rock our world on Monday when they announce whatever Google linkup they can is because the users are ahead of the algorithms. The collective disruption of the iPhone, Twitter, Silverlight, and even this MacBook AIR with its USB 3G card I'm using mandate a speed of adoption that will dwarf the transitions of the past.

In a gold rush the cost of anything surges to meet the demand. Some call these events bubbles, but the real price of a hamburger in SIlicon Valley today is how much you can get done while eating it. Take Twitter, the steam engine of this revolution. It's an iron horse of infinite speed, streamlined to take text and tiny urls and push them onto the bus through the Gtalk pipeline.

Value is created not by the mechanism of sending but the algorithm of receiving, a hybrid filtering based on maintaining discovery through Tracking your own identity while following and notifying the stream of a subset of your core peers gated by the volume of the flow relative to the realtime stream.

The product is like panning for gold: separating the nuggets from what we called fool's gold then and the bloggerati now. But the winners could afford the 50-buck burgers and the houses overlooking the Pacific, and eventually new money became old. In recent weeks, the anger at this new wealth creation has been focused on the most visible of these prospectors, with Times articles about bloggers slumping over in their chairs, cartoonists committing Twittercide, and TechCrunch running the table.

I'll skip the logic of why this isn't happening and focus instead on why we're fools if we ignore this. First, the business processes we think we will have a hard time implementing with these loosely coupled on demand services are not the ones we will be working with when we get there. Swirl the pan and let the sand stream out, then look at what's left.

Did you expect the volume of iPhone clicks that bubbled up as a result of a real mobile browser experience? No, you were arguing about the Blackberry's superior keyboard and battery life. Did you correctly predict the three most popular applications on the device after 6 months of use? Twitter, NewsGang, and Gmail in my case. If I had to throw one away, it would probably be email.

Let's strip some more silt away. Gmail on every device other than the iPhone is my storage medium, the collector of email, IM, and through the Gtalk/Twitter gateway, Twitter. Search becomes my memory, directory, calendar, reminder. But NewsGang is my window into the collective intelligence of our swarm, in this case those who share RSS aggregation and their behavior (gestures) in a feedback loop.

Now watch email and even IM get stripped out, through the same piping and filtering process I described with Twitter track, follow, and notification. Twitter absorbs much of the value of both streams, by bootstrapping always-on (iPhone/AIR/3G) to deliver realtime interactive interrupts on the fly. Email is oh so an hour ago for an increasing number of events and transactions, and we only have to look at what the telegraph did to Pony Express to know where that goes.

Zimmy I may be, but stupid I'm not. We're talking about modeling business processes that use email and even RSS on a Twittergram that won;t be sent either way. Pick up that nugget and roll it around in your hand. In the Days of Old. In the Days of 49.