Triangulating For Insight

I am a huge fan of triangulating. I don’t think anyone or anything can give you the insight you need to truly understand things. Whether it’s visiting comscore, compete, alexa, hitwise, and quantcast to get a more complete picture of a web service’s usage, or reading a conservative oped page and a liberal oped page to get a broader view of a political issue, or reading a wide array of tech blogs to make sense of the microsoft/yahoo breakup, triangulating is the best way I know to break the logjam in my mind and get to insight.

I’ve been subconsciously triangulating three posts for the past couple weeks;

1) Jeff Nolan’s rant on incrementalism and the new thing:

As I survey the landscape of consumer and business focused software and
service providers I am struck by how much incrementalism there is at
the moment.

2) Tim O’Reilly’s keynote at Web 2.0:

At the end he recites a poem called The Man Watching by Rainer Maria Rilke which contains this line

When we win it’s with small things

3) Dave Winer’s post on a decentralized Twitter in which he states:

I always work in bootstrapping mode, addressing the first big issue,
solving the problem, then advancing to the next one. It’s why so many
of the ideas I’ve worked on have become popular modes of communication.
Big-bang approaches always fail. I’ve spent decades arguing with people
who want to reinvent the world in one stroke. They always try anyway
and always fail.
Bootstrapping is the only way that works.

Jeff is right, the web/tech world is full of incrementalism right now and that’s why I am so bullish on  the sector and our portfolio which is stock full of incrementalism.

Tim makes a passionate argument for "tackling big hard problems" in his keynote. But Dave is correct in his assertion that the best way to do that is one step at a time.

Think about the way Linux was built and continues to be built. One step at a time. Each one looks trivial. Taken together it’s awesome. Same with wikipedia. Or a social net like Facebook. Or the web itself.

We’re rapdily reaching the adulthood of the web in a sense. The business architecture of the net now mirrors it’s technical architecture. Massively distributed nodes that collectively create immense value, but if any one fails, nobody notices. Of course, it’s not entirely true. If Google went down, or even S3, we’d be unhappy campers. But DNA of the web was set a long time ago and there’s no fighting it. It’s a sustainable network built on the principles of massive redundancy and no central choke point.

And because of that, at least on the web, if you want to tackle hard problems you are going to need to do it collectively and in bite sizes. We are not in an incremental phase. We are in an incremental system.