My quote of the year for 2010

In our weekly newsletter, I publish a quote of the week by some smart person whose eyes are fixed on tomorrow. Today, I’m looking back at those 52 quotes and offering a quote of the year.

So many outstanding things were said by smart people last year that it’s really hard to pick out one that stands above the rest. Seth Godin is a quote machine. Umair Haque delivers the goods every time he opens his mouth. Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis are likewise great thinkers with a wonderful way with words. So I had to establish some criteria in order to filter everything, and I think the most important filter is the prescience of the statement. How insightful from a predictive perspective is the thinking behind the quote? It also has to apply to the news business, for that’s our business, and the statement must provide something that stands out as truly useful.

Dave WinerAnd so my quote of the year for 2010 goes to prophet, innovator and new media inventor Dave Winer. On May 18, 2010, in a post about Skype, Winer made this remarkable prediction:

Sooner or later there will be a unifying layer that handles all real-time traffic through an open API that doesn’t rely on central servers any more than the Internet itself does. It’s coming, you can feel it.

The important thing here isn’t that I feel it or that you feel it. It’s that Dave Winer feels it, and if history is our guide, his “feelings” are more valuable than others, because he has the ability to actually bring it about. Dave Winer is the innovator of RSS, aggregation, Podcasting, OPML, many other technical apps, and he was a major player in the development of blogging itself.

Dave had many other gems throughout the year, but this one stands out to me. Dave Winer has a voracious appetite for news and has been at the forefront of developing applications and tools that we all use today in spreading news circa the 21st Century. We need to pay special attention to this statement, because it’s the ultimate unbundler of even the loosest definition of “content” and the source from which it originated.

Think about it for a minute, and you’ll begin to understand why I think this was the most important statement made during the year. One layer for everything and controlled by no one. The ensuing applications would be remarkable from a news consumer perspective, and here’s the challenge for traditional media: do we have the chops to be the innovators here? Can we see far enough downstream to diligently work today on both distribution and aggregation of such?

What Dave is doing is giving us a simple, advanced look at, say, Twitter or even Facebook without the central servers. No downtime. Always real time. In a post this week about the future of Twitter, Winer amplified his prediction.

What rises to replace it (Twitter) will either be an open system built around RSS, or something indistinguishable from RSS. I would stake my reputation as a technologist on this one. I’ve been through so many of these loops, I never hedge my bets, and the bet has never been wrong. It always takes longer than you think it should, but eventually the open formats and protocols replace the systems built on corporate training wheels.

Twitter as training wheels? I believe it.

“Winning” in such an environment would be based on who does it best. For at least the past two decades, smart minds have been thinking and writing about the Semantic Web and the Live Web. We’re a ways away from that, but we’re moving in that direction. It will ultimately require what Dave’s talking about, and if we truly want a seat at tomorrow’s media table, we’ll pay attention.

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