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09:11 am, 7 Apr 06

orthogonal advancement

[part of an email I was writing, but then snipped out and pasted here. background context: how things that were meaningful in the US are totally meaningless from the perspective of Japan]

This has long been my fear with Linux. I think it's relatively easy to get to feature parity with what people use, but it rapidly is simply not mattering: people instead use IE-specific features and Microsoft-specific video codecs and Adobe's totally-broken-on-Linux Flash. This is also my fear with Google (where by Google I mean "web search"): rather than failing in terms of finding pages (we're still very good at this and I don't anticipate it falling off), it'll just become irrelevant because the world will move on to some other direction (see e.g. Flash above). You already see this with sites like craigslist, Flickr, or Wikipedia (where people will often just use Google as an index into wikipedia, instead of asking Google to find the information and having wikipedia come up when relevant). And, now that I write this out, this is exactly what happened with LJ: much of the userbase moved on to MySpace.

And y'know really that's ultimately ok with me. I have no illusions that the things I create are going to be useful for the world at large, so I shouldn't really be deriving value from that. Before I came to Japan I read a book on how to do business in Japan, y'know, in which situations bowing is appropriate, and I realized that I never want to do that.

There are two main lessons from that:
1. This is why I am an engineer. There's (obviously) some businessperson at The Company who gets a kick out of making international deals, and they're the ones doing the planning anyway. Me, I write small programs in Haskell in the way people used to whittle sticks. I'd rather get drunk and have an interesting conversation anyway.
2. Don't get a hyperinflated sense of self-importance just because something is popular, for popularity is fickle and the workings of the world are beyond your comprehension.