One of the bad things about Wellington is that it’s in reality little more than a fishing village, with all the pitfalls of a narrow community and everybody knowing everybody. But on the other hand, it’s a fishing village…
This means is that if you’re the sort of person who relies on networking and knowledge then, if you’re at all socially adept, it’s easy to engage other people on topics of mutual interest. The result is that the information sloshing around Wellington can at times be exceptionally rich. Add the information and knowledge buzzing around in this wee place to an increasing ‘smart’ internet and you’ve got a lot of stuff going on that can be tapped into for ideas and that terrible but buzzy phrase “knowledge generation”.
My enthusiasm for Wellington and New Zealand in general was dampened a little when this blog came through my RSS yesterday from Miramar Mike. While I haven’t scratched beneath the surface to check the background reading, it struck a cord. Basically, New Zealanders are seen internationally as “nice but naive”. Easy to do business with, but not ‘players’.
Personally that’s why I like the place, you can share ideas with only low-level concern about people ripping you off. But, another way to look at it is, you can share ideas because people are too lazy or casual to motivate themselves to knick your concepts. So if you’re thinking that Wellington might be the place to get a knowledge-exchange-based economy happening, then you’re fighting “laid-backness” and low business acumen.
“Choice”… as they say in the vernacular.
Whether New Zealanders actually do have low acumen is probably a moot point. The blog referred to above discusses a Trade and Enterprise Commission survey of international businesses. Like any survey you have to take it with a grain of salt. But then anyone who’s done their OE can tell you that things are ‘harder’ in other countries.
So how does this ‘less-hard-edge’ impact on the advantages of Wellington as a place to create a knowledge economy? I’m slowly coming round to the idea that it’s actually an advantage.
A book I’ve been thinking about more and more recently is Charles Stross’ Accelerando. It took a while for the ideas to digest properly, but they’re pretty big. The one that grabbed me the most is the modus operandi of the main character, who in the first novella (the book is actually a collection of short stories with a set of central characters) spends his time giving ideas away. And the story progresses from there.
It’s the idea of giving ideas away that really struck a cord for me though. It seems that the internet is crawling with content generators who are competing to share more ideas that anyone else. Everywhere you turn there’s someone who has the latest scoop, thought, idea, approach, take or helpful suggestion. Giving stuff away is pretty much normal on the interweb.
But as a business model? How they heck would that work? Giving stuff away doesn’t make you money!
I’m not so sure though. The competition in the interweb is really centred on giving away good ideas. Bad ideas are little more than noise, and the trick to the web is finding the signals. If you’re just getting static, for instance bullshit about politics and/or personal opinions, then you’re probably not reading actual content generators, you’re probably reading content interactors. Worse, you’re reading content users twittering about the stuff the generators and interactors are actually doing… [NB: Blog on users vs. interactors vs. generators to follow].
Face-to-Face interaction hugely supplements a person’s ability to clearly distinguish information signals on the web. There’s no greater time efficiency than talking an idea through with like-minded people, after all. A conversation that could be misconstrued or misinterpreted online is more likely to be understood when discussed in the real world. And it’s exactly that ability, to easily discuss ideas, that Wellington offers. Consequently you can have the best of both worlds. Online idea dissemination, and clarity of discussion and thought at the pub. For a bit that is… everything after four pints is “socialisation”.
And how is this a business model?
1. A knowledge economy is all about dependencies. Maybe you can’t actually build everything you dream up. But maybe someone else can.
2. Giving away good ideas will make people suspicious that the ones you aren’t giving away must be really, really, freaking good.