Ecosystem, or Curated Manure?

Okay, I’ve officially had it with this year’s buzzwords.  You know which ones.



At first ecosystem was kind of cute.  It sounded so green and organized.  Who could argue against anything prefixed with eco? 

Then the pundits-that-be decided ecosystems alone don’t cut it.  After all, a cesspool is an ecosystem.  Just not one you would normally want to play in.  So we need our ecosystems to be, we’re told, curated.  That’s kind of like “managed” only cooler.  Dallas manages.  San Francisco curates.  Got a cesspool?  There’s surely someone in Silicon Valley who could curate it into an artichoke farm.  In Dallas we would manage to backfill it.

Apparently Apple sets the standard for curated ecosystems.  Within their ivy-walled garden thrives a microcosm so well-managed that the inmates don’t mind the asylum.  Some critique the development of this weedless wonderland, and even point out how it will ultimately work against the interests of the inhabitants, but for now the produce buyers don’t care.  They’re basking in the touchscreen glow of curated apps.

I was supposed to talk about open tech ecosystems at AppUp Elements 2011 recently.  I say “supposed to” because my thunder was stolen by tales of a bus loaded with sweaty coders making a fun run from San Francisco to Bellevue, Washington.  I felt like a disenfranchised anthropologist showing blurry Bigfoot slides at TED Talk.  There’s no competing for eyeballs when the choice is between programmed reality and the apparent myth of successful openness.

But I’m really tired of ecosystem because, as I had intended to share in my presentation, I don’t think it’s really so much about the garden or the plants.  I think it’s more about elements like earth, air, water and fire.  The stuff of services.  Deep down, do people actually care about brands?  Don’t they care much more about the experience?  So if my Philips television (with Samsung guts) could cheerily and seamlessly share with my Nokia phone doesn’t that make product branding irrelevant?  Give me Bluetooth, wifi and NFC combined with open data standards like XML and you have the service elements of my ecosystem.  Just add seeds.

As long as a customer-antagonistic war is being waged over content supply and demand, I have to sadly admit we’re likely to see more media gerrymandering that supports the walled gardens.  I want a completely open media market where I can pick what I want a la carte.  What I get is a bunch of bundles served up by various competitors signing mutually-exclusive deals for content libraries that contain some of what I want and a lot of what I can’t imagine anyone desiring.  And a subscription television bill that’s higher than my combined water, sewer and garbage service.

Take that, ecosystem!

Fast Company word wizard Farhad Manjoo foresees a 2012 tech ecosystem battle between the current four apocalyptic horsemen: Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon.  “Curate” won’t come close to describing the likely bloodshed.

We’re gonna need some new buzzwords.


6 responses to “Ecosystem, or Curated Manure?

  1. Curated Ecosystem = AOL from the 90s….

  2. The second to last (real) paragraph is something I’ve felt for years now and tried to talk about.

    I’m sick and tired of the old cable model that forces me to first pay for basic service, than the extended basic service, digital basic and digital starter and all I fracking want is SYFY!

    That model is how “successful” companies make a profit – by “duping” consumers into thinking they need to pay for more than they actually want, thereby subsidizing the “cost” (actual or inflated) among all its subscribers. They still find a reason, or four, to raise the cost of service even though technically it should become cheaper over time as long as subscriptions are increasing or NOT decreasing.

    It’s the type of model I wish the US government would use, as wrong as it is, at least then they’d be making money me thinks.

  3. Pingback: Open Standards: How you can support them « Searching for the divine code

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