Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Race to Zero: The Real Niche for the Realtime Web

A recent Hacker News discussion centered around whether realtime is detrimental or at least unnecessary. Many of the commenters were quite disparaging of the realtime web, claiming that slow web is the way to go. They go on to make an arguable claim that HFT is an example of where "realtime" leads to more trouble than its worth. The arguments against the realtime web aren't all that new. The same arguments have been recycled from the contention that the Internet itself with its constant barrage of communication through emails, IMs, and Google queries have negatively affected our lives and compromised our concentration. In fact, at least two celebrity authors have come down on opposite sides of a related issue: Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) argues that elements of technology such as email detract from life and really ought to be outsourced if possible whereas Doug Merrill in Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right argues that tech becomes an extended brain enhancing our abilities and increasing our capacity. Another more nuance take in Is Google Making Us Stupid? comes from Nicholas Carr, a Pulitzer-winning writer.

The fact of the matter in regards to the realtime web is this: It has its purpose. Where it has a niche it has or will wildly succeed. I think the main problem here is that the leading lights of realtime web, the social media giants, have largely remained passive providers of platforms for self-expression in realtime. This inevitably has resulted in a segment of the realtime web being a reflection of general social media sensibility and perhaps a little teenage angst. This, however, isn't where realtime succeeds. Realtime has provided a channel between businesses, customers, and the general population. There are many stories of frustrated customers who cannot find satisfaction except by tweeting at which point a business may very well respond immediately and in force. Even that isn't the real killer app. The killer app of realtime is where timeliness is of the essence. Consider job postings. Eric Auld found in his Craigslist job ad experiment (where he posted an entry-level administrative opening in New York) that such posts pretty much get saturated with inquiries within hours of the submission. So, does it matter when you see and apply to a job post? This is where the rubber meets the road. Another example is special deals and promotions. During a hot summer day, would you rather hear about a great deal on ice cream now or hours afterwards? How about a business opportunity? For competitive business solicitations from the federal government, the clock for putting together a team, proposal, and a strategy starts immediately when the solicitation becomes public (and sometimes even before that). If a nearby yard sale will end in half an hour, do you want to hear about it now or hours after the fact? Timeliness matters for many things. It may be uncomfortable and overwhelming at times, but useless, it is not.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.