Warning: This is an uncharacteristically grumpy blog post.
I write about technology and gadgets. One truism that’s especially true of this world is “Nil novi sub sole” – there’s nothing new under the sun. Most new electronics, from flashing trinkets to data center whales, incorporate existing technologies, often in non-novel ways. Another useful metaphor is “standing on the shoulders of giants.” But this post isn’t about metaphors or even technology. It’s about people who have to shoot their mouths off.
“Macs are just expensive PCs,” some say, or “the iPad is a giant iPod Touch.” No kidding. Really? You mean Saint Jobs and Company used common components and didn’t invent every part of their new kit? That’s a total shock to me! Next you’ll tell me that the iPod Touch was just a de-phoned iPhone or that the iPhone incorporated multi-touch technology developed somewhere other than Cupertino. Or that Apple copied Xerox when they made the Mac.
Seriously, folks. I know this. I do. Everything (and I mean everything) is based on something that existed before it. There are no totally out-of-left-field ideas. Nothing new under the sun. But this doesn’t mean there is no innovation. The iPad is important not because of what it’s made of but because of what that combination of ingredients allows you to do. It’s innovative despite its components. Same for the iPhone. Same for Windows Phone 7 and Android. These things are cool, no matter what they are built of.
Yesterday I posted about a new SDRAM-based solid-state drive from STEC. I called it a scoop because, even though it wasn’t announced yet, Chris Mellor spotted it on the floor at EMC World, asked me about it, and I dug up the details. STEC has only ever made flash-based SSDs and is now making a SDRAM-based one. That’s news. I don’t care that 15 other companies thought of using DRAM for storage dating back 20 years (ahem, EMC!) They aren’t STEC and they didn’t reveal this new product on Monday.
So why, then, did I get all sorts of “we/they did that first” comments? Did they really add to the conversation? Was it sour grapes that I was talking about STEC instead of some other company? Or, even worse, was it merely advertising-as-comment, desperately pointing out one’s own products while pretending to engage in social media? This is the equivalent of a Target spokesman hanging around at Wal Mart stores and whispering to the “other shoppers” that they sell razor blades even cheaper. It’s dishonest, disingenuous, and dishonorable. Let’s just call it anti-social media.
Some weren’t like this. Some said “that’s cool” and engaged in conversation about it. Yes, they might work for a company that makes something similar, but they were smart enough not to deny that other companies products deserve attention, too. We all get our turn to shine.
So I would like to challenge everyone who reads my blog. Are you adding to the conversation? Are you discussing the merits of a product or technology? Or are you trying to disrupt that conversation and turn attention to your own offerings? I’d like to thank the former and warn the latter: People are smart, and they’ll spot a phony.