Trading Snake Oil for Wolf Tickets

This morning I am inspired by a Twitter debate I had with Amanda Chapel. We only started following each other on Twitter yesterday but she chose to engage me this morning in a conversation about Web 2.0 and her prediction of a forthcoming bust to this whole business.

I shall say off the mark that I fundamentally disagree with Amanda on many of the points she makes, particularly around the perceived “guru-ism” of the many thought leaders that are out there right now in the Internet space. She claims that it’s just a lot of snake oil. For the record, I want to say that that is categorically untrue, in my opinion. The so-called “gurus” that she speaks of are legitimately out there trying to define and explain all this Internet business right now along with everyone else, and, with all due respect, Amanda, ABSOLUTELY know what they are talking about. I also don’t particularly care for her debating style. But that’s neither here nor there.

However, she did accomplish one thing…she got me thinking.

What will happen if Amanda’s right, and all this Web 2.0 business does go bust? Well, I can tell you, there will be plenty of hurt and broke people out there. Just like last time. There always is. What does that mean to all of us who are doing the thinking, and the strategizing, who are trying to figure out business models and actually make a go of it in this space?

I think what it comes down to is flexibility. It’s all about understanding the ebb and flow of the technology industry and being able to adapt.

I was around for the last bust. In fact, I worked at one of the most busted companies, Nortel Networks, as they rose to the top and then fell hard. As an employee, when it was good, it was very very good. We got free stuff like DVD players and barbeques if we did a good job. We got free beer and wings every Friday. We had pool tables and fooz ball and air hockey and free snacks in the lunch room. But when it all fell apart, it was awful. Not just the for lack of perks. Morale tanked. People’s self esteem got destroyed along with their careers. And I got out as fast as I could.

At that time, as the bust happened around me, I realized that it was adapt or fail. I wouldn’t survive if I was just a web designer. So I started to shift over to communications, a place where, at that time I saw a lot of potential. I became a writer and a teacher, a producer of concepts and content instead of a “do-er”. And I got lots of other jobs as a result.

My point is, nobody really can predict whether all this Web 2.0 stuff is going to go bust. Anyone who says definitively that it is, is touting snake oil of their own. As individuals, we must decide how we are going to adapt if it does all fall apart. It’s something we all should be conscious of, so if it all blows up in our face, we can bounce back relatively unscathed.

(Note: “Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets is also the title of the 2001 album by Gary Jules”. )

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  • April 27, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I remember the bust too! It was good times for a while, I worked for GSI Lumonics, making optics for the fiber networks,
    We worked hard and had fun, i saw our sales grow 1200% in the first year I was there. And then the bottom dropped out, ouch. I just wounder if and when things will stabilize and get back to an even growth, or will it always be boom and bust?
    And will we be able to adapt fast enough or just get left behind?
    Any how that my two cents.

  • April 27, 2008 at 11:17 am

    A lot of the tech blogs out there have been preaching the next bubble bursting for the last year or two. Mind you no one in the Internet business can predict what the future holds, except maybe Google since they’re pretty much creating their future. Unlike brick and mortar, the Internet is an entirely different beast.

    So no, I don’t think there will be a bubble bursting. I think investors and entrepreneurs are much more intelligent this time around.

  • April 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I’ve been occasionally tuning in to the @AmandaChapel show as well. Her (his? its?) words got under my skin enough that it really made me reexamine the whole social media/Web 2.0 thing. I don’t doubt there are liars and crooks out there, although I think some of “her” targets probably are true-believers (which “she” tends to equate to the Jim Jones/People’s Temple/poisoned KoolAid frame-of-mind) and quite a lot of people are probably the kind of more caring, helpful folks that you describe. It kind of bummed me out for a couple of weeks.

    Nonetheless, the change of perspective was probably a good thing. It makes sense to me to reexamine your core beliefs periodically to make sure they still make sense.

  • April 28, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I heart Gary Jules. My all-time fave song remains Mad Mad World. His version stirs something buried so deep inside me that I didn’t know it even existed till I watched Danny Darko and heard that title song. Now I have to hear it at least once a week to keep it all in check.



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