Sunday, August 17, 2003

Can your mother use RSS? While I agree with Jim Howard's underlying sentiment (KISS) I think he's thinking about it the wrong way. The fact is, I don't know if my mother can use RSS, but I do know about Postscript. Well she uses PostScript all the time (and HTML, and SMTP and etc.) but she has not clue that such a thing exists nor should she care. (For that matter, I never knew what the heck a Macpherson-strut was although my car maker kept reminding me of it.) No I don't think that whether Necho, RSS 2.0 or what-not is easy to use for the end user matters a wit. If we do our jobs right they will never ever see or talk about any of those.

Thinking about other technologies that have grown up over the years might give us an insight into a better way to think about the evolution that is happening before our very eyes.

In the evangelical phase, we are trying to win over the developers. They already have way to thick a stack of manuals on their desk (APIs, protocols, languages, etc.) and have to be seduced with something that's so simple and gives them major new possibilities. They have to be able to understand it easily and get results quickly.

Once we start reaching a tipping point of use, where the developers are sold, and the user community out there (consumers as well as businesses) start demanding more and more(scalability, interoperability, internationalization, etc. etc.) At that point, it may be the case that the original standards and formats have to be extended and elaborated to keep up.

Eventually, libraries spring up, APIs get defined at higher and higher levels of abstraction. If we are lucky we get to the Standardization, when the APIs converge and the need to understand the nuts and bolts of the protocol becomes the domain of specialists, and no-one talks about it any more.

I would argue that we in the process of leaving the evangelical phase and entering the tipping point phase.

I think that it is inevitable that as we move through the tipping point towards standardization, that the protocols and formats will become more complex (I mean Postscript is pretty complex, as are all the industrial strength stanard formats and protocols.)

But by the time we are through hopefully only a few specialists will be working directly with this stuff and the rest of us, Mom, you and I will all be sitting many levels of abstractions above.

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