Monday, March 10, 2008

The Everything Old Is New Again Meme

I've been struck lately by the dismissive comments in technology reviews along the lines of "of course this is really just a new skin on a really old idea". They are particularly striking, because the reviews are essentially overall positive about the technology they just dismissed as a rehash! If they really were just recycled implementations of old worn ideas, then why are we so excited now - why waste the bits talking about them?

I'm left thinking that there just isn't enough respect for a quality implementation that takes into account the real needs of the current market. To some, it is all about the idea. I'm the last to diss a great idea, but let's face it - folks who think the idea is everything tend to overlook various little bits of reality that don't mesh well with their idea (we call those implementation details) and in general just commoditize the implementation. Ideas like this make great conversations but crappy products.

The truth is these next generation technologies are usually quality implementation with some of the substantial "implementaion details" overcome. To trivialize those details is a mistake - the difficulty of a quality implementation is often overlooked by folks who think the main idea is everything. Often they require some real innovative thinking on their own. Anybody who has taken a tour of duty in one (or two or three) startups will tell you that neither idea nor execution are to be taken for granted - this is hard stuff when you're blazing new trails.

A couple common examples:
Thinking about just these two examples, it isn't hard to see why they are breaking through now instead of the earlier incarnations made reference to. While market conditions and external factors have changed, it isn't simply that their train has arrived and they were dusted off for the occasion - real work has made them better.