Scripting News for 6/16/2007

I did it anyway 

Fred Wilson says that kids are net natives, and that people over 30 don’t invent new paradigms. To say that ticks me off is an understatement.

I’ve been a net native since before I was 20. Yes, I read newspapers growing up, but I also blogged before it was called blogging, and created a lot of the technology that the kids are developing now. Yet I’ve had arrogant idiotic asshole kids tell me I don’t understand the net. Yeah sure.

At this point in my career I’m ready to do the really big ideas, and it sucks that attitudes like the one exemplified by Wilson are in my way. Stop thinking about who can’t do what, and start paying attention to who actually does it.

I listened to an interview on public radio with one of the founders of YouTube, a young guy. The things he says were new 20 years ago. He’s a good marketer, and no doubt has attracted the people he needs to build a wonderful system. But he doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes a bit of experience can help, not hinder, progress.

In every other creative field people are active into their sixties, seventies or eighties. For some reason in tech we assume people are washed up at 30? Based on what? Marc Andreessen’s experience. Hmm.

BTW, when I was a kid, the VCs had reasons why I couldn’t do it then. I did it anyway.

Rex Hammock, who’s my age, weighs in.

One more thing, since this thread is about Facebook, why is their network so tone-deaf to the lives of adults? Maybe it’s because the kiddies don’t have a clue about business relationships, adult sexual relationships, or family relationships more specific than “In my family?” How long does it take to add some checkboxes to a dialog? These are the new heroes? It seems we’ve set the bar too low.

Clay Shirky agrees with his friend Fred Wilson that people over 30 don’t invent new stuff.

Shirky also said a few years back that IBM would rule in web services. He was wrong then, he’s wrong now.

Steven Hodson: “To Fred — kiss my ass.”

32 responses to this post.

  1. re: “net native” — Dave, just accept it: when in comes to digital stuff, you are in your 20s. By the way, Berkman hosts a wiki called “Digital Natives” where several links point to projects related to the topic of discovering the differences in “natives” and “immigrants.” Also, Mimi Oko (Joi’s sister) has a grant from the Macarthur Foundation to study this topic. I’ve given up on trying to explain why there are some old farts like you and me who are, despite the decade in which we were born, very much digital natives.


  2. Yeah, and if they’re so smart, why haven’t they invented social cameras, hypercamp or checkbox news. These are what come after blogging, podcasting, unconferences and RSS. People always ask me what’s next, but they never seem to get it until it’s already happened. And that includes the supposed “net natives.”
    There’s no age limit on arrogance and stupidity. When we were kids there were lots of idiots. Still true today.


  3. What does “new” have to do about building a business anyway? Timing is more important than novelty.

    The advantage that youth has in that regard is that they are willing to try an idea that is new to them because they don’t know the history of its failures. Most of the time, they’ll fail too, but at some point, one of them will hit it just right ( due as much to circumstances beyond their control as to their own innovation ) and it will take off.

    I think too that growing up with tech can also dull creativity in some ways. For a lot of people who have grown up on the net, things are the way things are, they don’t understand what it took to build things, they accept things that we know can be improved.


  4. I had only one phrase running through my head as I read todays scripting news and the associated links. “noobs!”

    I also find this comment by Fred Wilson rather humorous : “When you read magazines on the train home from work” I wonder what he proposes as an alternative? I do read on my sidekick…but I’m really not happy with how the pictures look. I think people do those things because it’s a good use of personal time. Not because they are old…

    oh wait, maybe those are the same thing!


  5. I’ve sure seen ageism at work in tech circles. You suppose part of it might be that VCs are no different from employers when it comes to preferring bright eager puppie dogs to cats who have their own opinions about things? At almost 53, I feel like my idea synapses are firing better than ever. I don’t buy the opinion that tech innovation is a function of age either — it must be something else masquerading as innovation that makes some people want to believe it is.


  6. Ah, yes, age-related can/cannot filters.

    First determined they were crap when I was
    reading Hardy Boys books at age 7, despite
    the back-cover blurb that stated they were
    suitable for boys 9-14.

    One thing that time DOES bring is the
    deep knowledge that folks who enjoy
    saying ‘cannot’ are actually heart/compass
    verifiers. Thank them, ignore them,
    and travel onwards.

    — stan


  7. facebook sucks, and social networks are for old people.


  8. Didn’t one of the major news services just call Dave Winer “the Blogfather” in print – this past week?


  9. Lemon — if that’s an attempt at humor it isn’t funny.


  10. I watched a movie last night called Idiocracy and it reminds me of what might happen if Fred gets his way and only 20-somethings get funded. I find most of the stuff 20-somethings are attracted to in the social apps world as banal and mindless. There’s a reason Paris Hilton is one of the top Google queries. There’s some good stuff out there (see Battle at Kruger on YouTube, for example), but you sure have to navigate through a lot of cruft to find it.

    Sadly, though, Fred will probably be proven right in many respects. The Internet is already going the way of TV in the sense that most of the content is unbearably stupid. And that’s where the money is going to be made, just like in TV. And who better to benefit from this prescription than young folks, who think I care about such Twittered fluff as, ” Just got done skating. Jumped in the pool and now laying out … Rusty is spending the night in Marietta. Meanwhile I’ll be… blogging, I guess. And going to Target … nice day at home with my bro. talking about things, snacking on farmers market goods, and now eating salsa that is WAY too hot. but so good.”

    Me, I’ll continue to read Scripting News and hang out at the Well and search for people smarter than me so I can continue to learn, even as I become an old fart.

    And I’ll let the eggrollstans of the world, via Twitter, make such brilliant pronouncements as, “I am thinking that I should start with the South East Asian countries first in myquest for World Domination.”


  11. As far as I’m concerned, the tech industry is one of the most conservative and unimaginative I’ve come inot contact with, as are a lot of its wrokers.

    Not political conservatism, but the “Is This Really Necessary” kind of conservatism. These are the people who asked why we needed Mosaic when we already had Gopher. Then they asked why we needed Netscape when we had Mosaic.

    Social software like FaceBook and MySpace haven’t introduced any new ideas. They’re leveraging existing capabilities to meet the same need that was met by old fashioned bulletin boards 25 years ago.

    I’m older than Dave. The first time I sat down at a computer keyboard that was networked with other computers in other cities was in the very early 1970’s. I haven’t run out of ideas, either.


  12. Posted by Diego on June 16, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    “Yet I’ve had arrogant idiotic asshole kids tell me I don’t understand the net. Yeah sure.”

    There’s a large pool of said idiotic asshole kids at places like Digg. This is the attitude of the 12 year old Digg crowd. Ignore them and they’ll simply end up spewing such ignorance on one another.


  13. Dave – I *hope* you know this, but your index.htm(l) page appears to have vanished, thus exposing the index of files on your web root.

    hope all’s well.



  14. *correction* – it appears that index.opml isn’t rendering.


  15. Re: the age thing – what a load of complete b*llocks.

    the very thought that now I’m 37 means I don’t invert stuff is totally preposterous. I’ve been web savvy since 1993/4

    And in fact my experience pre-web with multimedia still plays and fuels the ideas I have *every day*

    if you ask me – *kids* don’t truly understand a lot of the internet itself – sure they get connecting to eachother and telling eachother where they are and what they do, but I reckon there’s ALOT to be said be being around as the web has evolved – being part of it – as you have.

    I think Fred’s post is pure linkbait.

    I don’t think MOST VC’s *get* the web at all. All alot of them want to do is own *our* ideas and intellectual property. (sure, with the hope of making us all some money)

    How about a VC Firm with only under 40/30’s then? How would that do?

    Let’s flip this idea back on them!


  16. *inVENT* – not ‘invert’ – obviously


  17. Posted by Jim Posner on June 16, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    All inventors stand on the shoulders giants, even the one’s with blinders on.


  18. Age is irrelevant to anything except for I suppose statutory rape, which i think goes to far as well.


  19. Posted by Marc on June 16, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I think Fred Wilson is so far off on some of his age related posts. I think he’s just too OLD, fat and happy to understand how innovation really works. It’s about how hungry you are, not how old you are.


  20. I’m one of those young people he speaks of, in my twenties, but in my experience, some of the best ideas I’ve heard at work have come from people twice my age. What does age have to do with having good ideas? Does experience count for nothing in the tech field? As Jim Posner said, inventors stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. New paradigms, as Mr. Wilson puts it, are not created ex nihilo and I don’t see how, according to him, I am in a better position to create them simply because of my age than say, Dave is, with all of his experience and a proven track record of invention.


  21. Posted by Vlad on June 16, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    I’m in that 20’s age bracket and i have to say, I’m not very impressed with those around me. Fred describes their lifestyle as “[growing] up in AOL chatrooms, IMing with their friends for hours after dinner, and [going] to school with a Facebook login.” The part he neglects to mention is that for many, thats all they do. They have no ambition or drive. and many have no idea what the web really is or what its capable of. To them, the web is chatrooms, facebook, and IMing. Thats it. To me, thats a pretty bleak future for the web.

    The man obviously only believes in one type of genius, the kind that peaks young and then stagnates. How can he forget in the kind which surges as time and experience impress upon them. By his logic, Einstein should have been sitting in a retirement home being spoonfed when he came up with some of his most brilliant theories.


  22. Thank you, Dave!

    I’ve always had a lot of respect for Fred Wilson and am a regular reader of his blog, but with this age-ism post, he’s either sadly mistaken or going shamelessly for the link-bait!

    The idea that those over-30 “can’t invent anything new” in the era of Web 2.0 is preposterous. I’ve had the pleasure of working with very web-savvy, cutting-edge, open-ended thinkers who are far past their 40s; at the same time, I’ve certainly had my fill of arrogant 20-year-olds who, while they may certainly “live in their chat rooms”, don’t have the ambition, drive or dedication to match. And vice versa, of course – there are certainly wise 20-year-olds and hopelessly out-of-date 45-year-olds. While rebellion and radical thinking are usually more common among the young, sweeping generalizations are always dangerous [including this one! :-)].

    I have to share a recent epsiode of youthful public arrogance, that I witnessed first-hand: at Startup School 2007 at Stanford, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, shared these words of wisdom (with a straight face) with the audience of several hundred people:
    “Hire only young people – under 30! Young people have no life, no responsibilities, so they can put their whole life into your company. And anyway, young people are just smarter!”

    [Disclosure: Yes, I’m over-40, so I’m clearly biased. But even if I wasn’t older, I would still think that Fred’s post and Mark’s statement (Facebook’s success notwithstanding) are pure apple-sauce!]


  23. i guess i’m not funny.

    i really do think facebook sucks though; i joined, and went, where’s the hype? the interface is boring, and for an option to link with friends, it had, “hooked-up with” …and I’m thinking, “yeah, this is childish”.


  24. Dave,

    Did you know that in Math it is assumed that your best work gets done when you are young? It seems to be mostly true, but there are exceptions. The most important honor in Mathematics (The Fields Medal) is given only to people under 40… So, there is a history of downplaying the contribution of us grey beards…


  25. Posted by yoda2unow on June 17, 2007 at 8:12 am

    ummmmm…..this couldn’t farther from reality. I’m between 50 and 60 and been on the net since there were BBS boards. Maybe Fred just doesn’t have any friends older than 25?


  26. Oh the luxury of being young and arrogant enough to say foolish things. I am 71some and still learning what to say and not!

    But I’m with you Dave W


  27. We all know that tall people are better entrepreneurs and tech innovators than short people. Who cares about age?


  28. I agree with the ageists on a few points.

    Younger people throw more spaghetti at the wall than older people. While the proportion of “what sticks” doesn’t correlate with age, the sheer volume of spaghetti thrown means more opportunities show up.

    Less true now than a decade or two ago, people in their 20s are better able to tolerate 100 hour work weeks. I like the argument that experience means working smarter, but brute force can have value.

    Generalizations with the usual caveats.

    Oh, and I think of myself as an Internet native. My first computing was around 1969 (RAND computers via terminal at a friend’s home at age 9), first programming 1972 (City of Santa Monica’s UNIVAC), and Internet in 1979 (DARPAnet via a special projects office of the U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command).

    I am such a geezer, I remember when computer displays weren’t LCDs.


  29. I’ll second Phil Wolff’s comment. I regularly look at things in a manner different from my age-peers, but am told that it’s because I “think like a 25 year-old.” Sometimes, that feels like an insult, but generally, I try to consider it a compliment.

    One of the things that comes with age is a sense of mortality. With that, we have a tendency to focus on things that have a better chance of success, because we don’t want to “waste our time on something that couldn’t possibly work.” As a result, we sometimes forget to be innovative, and mistake the destination (instead of the journey) as the whole point.

    I’m currently involved in planting a church, aimed at people in their 20’s. One of the things we have to consider is the comfort level that people in this age range have with embedded technology (and the unfortunate blind trust they tend to put in it). Another is the comfort they have with the loss of personal privacy that sometimes goes along with loosely established connections from social networking.

    My biggest problem in planning for this church isn’t figuring out how to interconnect the target audience (they will figure out how to connect themselves); it’s how to connect the 30 & 40-somethings that are going along for this ride. If a teenager is in a car-wreck, half their classmates know about it within 2 hours (via text messaging and Facebook posts). The adults involved usually find out what’s going on long after the kids (though the information the kids exchange is sometimes wildly exaggerated or misrepresented).

    My phone buzzes a half-dozen times a day with various text messages. The same thing happens with my sons. When I tell my peers this, they think I’m a weirdo. When a teen or 20-something hears this, they look at me quizzically, and then go “cool.”

    Here’s a test. Your son or daughter is going to make plans to attend a 4th of July party with a bunch of close friends. To schedule this event, will they:

    A) use Facebook (a group, private messages, or wall-to-wall comments)
    B) send a mass email
    C) send text messages
    D) call each other’s cells, daisy-chaining 3-way calls if necessary

    – Tim


  30. Posted by lowgenius on June 19, 2007 at 7:42 am

    I’m no major innovator. I haven’t invented anything particularly great (although I like to think I’ve had a hand in teaching a few old dogs a few new tricks) or even necessarily original or unique. To a penguin-feeding CompSci who can code an operating system – in binary – I’m unquestionably a dilettante

    And my first programming experience was when I was about 9 years old, on a TRS-80. While moving in and out of full-time interest in computers over the years, I’ve watched pixels shrink from the size of the hologram on your Visa card to the size of a head of a pin. I’ve seen color introduced, and graphics that weren’t ASCII-based. From TRS-DOS and BASIC and EDTASM to Aldus Pagemaker, Word Perfect, and Lotus 1-2-3 to Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and CSS3, I’ve had my fingers in one kind of digital pie or the other literally as long as I can remember. Even before the Trash-80’s, there was Pong and arcade gaming.

    And I’m a noob. Greener than an X-box logo.

    Today, I’m the IT director of a small manufacturing business and am adept with probably four dozen apps for everything from relational data management to multimedia production. I’m frankly an expert in none of the, nor in systems administration, but I get the job done, and on average I find myself forced to innovate in order to meet a unique situation probably once a week.

    I’m a one-man PR firm, and I’ve got close to a third of a century’s experience using digital technology to promote everything from garage bands to Chambers of Commerce to back that up.

    Oh, and in my spare time I play drums in a metal band that will rip your face off if you get too close to the speakers. And we record, mix, and post-produce our music and videos on…guess what?

    I’m 36.

    Anyone who chooses to believe that anyone automatically ‘lacks energy’ or is ‘out of touch’ or ‘not a native’ or ‘not innovative’ solely because they’re over a certain age is a blithering idiot and has no business deciding what to have for lunch, let alone where to drop a few mil in VC. What a load of self-aggrandizing claptrap. Used to hear the same thing in the music business, too, but *those* idiots at least had the excuse of being on lots of drugs.

    The irony is, a majority of the ‘youngsters’ who believe this nonsense are making careers out of patching potholes in roads that were built – and are still being built – by men and women in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond.

    Furthermore, having learned the lessons of ill-considered and impetuous decision-making by trial and error, those of us over 30 are far LESS likely than the average rising mallrat to go drop your 7 million adventurous dollars on some overhyped new technology or service that falls flat on it’s keister, leaving us all broke. (Anyone need William Shatner for a commercial?)

    Most of the younger folks I’ve worked with over the years have been great. Just as I was introduced to the world of computing by a couple of Bob & Doug/Monty Python-spouting proto-propellerheads, so I have tried to pass on my knowledge to those who follow me. Most them appreciate the knowledge and learn from it, and often turn it on it’s ear in ways that I haven’t thought of. This is not a unique advantage of youth, but it’s more prevalent in young minds that are still flexible (cf. Heinlein’s Cat Who Walked Through Walls – if they don’t know it’s impossible, they don’t bother noticing. They just go. Good for them.)

    And there are exceptions, of course, to any example one cares to present.

    The fact remains that I can parse no intelligent reason for judging someone’s potential value as an IT employee any more than I could for judging them based on their height, skin color, religion, or gender.

    The bottom line: this kind of prejudice is no more meaningful or useful than any other, and a clever CEO or business owner could find far less conclusive tests of intelligence for their officers, managers, and employees than by examining their thoughts on this subject.

    ‘Those who forget history have no past…and no future.’ – Heinlein


  31. I’m 52, and an Electrical Engineer/Software Engineer.

    9 years ago I starting mentoring a 15 year old friend of the family who showed a spark and interest in computing beyond gaming. So, I taught him about computing machines. Turns out that this guy was a Wonderkind in mathematics and is now in the first year of preparing his doctoral thesis in applied math. The other day, as we were visiting, the discussion got around to academia, as it usually does, and I asked him about his peer groups (Mathameticians, Computer Scientists). He made a interesting observation: For the most part, the math folks weren’t very interested in computer knowledge sufficient to write software, and the computer folks weren’t very interested in applied/theoretical math. It seems to me, that these 2 disciplines are made for marriage. This is the path that he is pursuing. I’d like to think that our work over the last few years has had an impact on that decision.

    Now, to the point.

    America has a cultural tradition stretching back all of 231 years. WOW, what a long time! (NOT). I put forth into evidence the following:

    The societal cultures of China, South Korea and Japan are ancient (i.e. thousands of years compared to our 231). In all of these cultures there exists a respect and reverence for the older generations. This allows them to move forward with the advantage of high utilization of their combined experience synergistically tied to the energy and exuberance of their youth. Interestingly, Japan and Korea have the highest technology saturation per capita of any countries on the planet. China would probably be right there with them if not for the deleterious affects of overpopulation and a Communist central government.

    On the other hand, we have the “throw-away” culture which prevails in the United States. Our older generations, in general, are to be cast aside to make room for the “Bigger, Brighter and Better”. I perceive this cultural attitude to detrimental.

    The young and arrogant will now say: “You’re 52 and that’s why you say these things. What else would we expect?”. I will rebut by saying: “Only a person my age can cognate the available evidence and conclude thus!”

    For a VC, it is probably better to be worrying about sheltering the profits of a successful venture than to be wondering whether or not to carry-back or carry-forward massive capital losses.

    It is my opinion and suggestion that American ventures be balanced in their personnel configurations to include the experience of age in combination with the inventiveness and energy of youth. In doing so, these ventures will ameliorate many of the risks involved in start-ups.


  32. Posted by ruthie on June 26, 2007 at 11:48 am

    I got my first PC at the ripe old age of 37. I had no one around to properly guide me on what to purchase, so I got one of those “Dummies” books on PCs and did my best. (Chose an overpriced, used PC, but it worked, alright?)

    The first thing I did, within maybe a month of getting online, was learn how to make web pages. I started creating content for the web, learned how to scan my photos—taught myself just about everything. I had a few (long distance) friends who would email me or talk to me on the phone with advice, but mostly, it was self-taught.

    I don’t rake in the huge bucks, but ten years later, I’m making a modest income from various online projects, and have learned quite a few new things. (I’m always learning something new. It’s an addiction.) One of my favorite activities is writing tutorials, teaching others the things I’ve learned. In a small (very small!) way, maybe I’m an innovator for trying to teach people new skills by presenting information in a more accessible way.

    Everything I’ve learned has either been from a book, or something I read online. I have no formal training, but many people consider me the “techie.” (I’m not. There are huge gaping holes to my knowledge, but I can say with confidence that I’m way ahead of the curve compared to your average 20, 30+ year old computer user.)

    I never understood this ageism thing when it comes to technology. When I started out, I never knew that my age was supposedly going to make me resistent to learning all this new stuff. I just did it. I wanted to learn it, so I did what I needed to to get there. What was so complicated about that? Either you have the drive to learn it, or you don’t.

    Recently I was conversing with an on-line friend about some people’s resistence to learning something new. (She and I had been trying to encourage others to try new techniques and methods in a certain technology, but they stubbornly stuck with their old ways.) We can up with a theory about the difference between the ages—young people are lazy, older people (over 35, let’s say) are afraid. By that I mean, the younger people refused to learn new things because they were complacent. Older people tended to be more timid and afraid that they’d “break” something.

    Either way, the result is the same. THEY DON’T GET STUFF DONE. The reasons for their inaction won’t be the same, but that’s the only difference.

    Sorry if this seems unrelated to the topic at hand. One more thing (which I guess is more on-topic). While some of my online friends may guess my age, I don’t usually reveal it. All most people know is that I’m this “techie” person who writes tutorials that help them learn new things about certain technologies. Would their respect for the work I do all of a sudden be diminished after they learned I was over 40? Would that suddenly negate all that I’ve done?


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