Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Whitewashing of Web 2.0

The Whitewashing of Web 2.0

Anil Dash of SixApart has posted a provocative observation:
Why are all the attendees of Web 2.0 white males?

The result has been considerable commentary:

I couldn't resist adding a few of my own scattered thoughts, and, hopefully, insights.

1. While a conference is worse off for representing a monoculture, some topics draw an inherently homogenous audience. If I were to attend a slightly different kind of conference, say, a science fiction fan conference, I would also expect to find an audience composed primarily of white males.

If a conference organizer can't come up with a more interesting bunch of people to invite, that just means that there may be an opportunity for an alternate sort of conference (take BlogHer, for example).

2. I agree that the whole Web 2.0 enterprise feels insular, self-referential, and excessively consumer-oriented. But wasn't that also the case with Web 1.0 during its early days? Again, a lack of diversity means opportunity for those who recognize it. Just as with Web 1.0, I would expect the technologies being developed to eventually seep into B2B and other uses.

3. When I was a design student at Stanford, our instructors warned us against the classic fallacy of assuming that we represented the target market. There's a reason there are so many designer mountain bikes and accessories--it's because many designers love mountain biking! Too many of today's new services represent things designed for the designers' own use.

Not only are these matters of race, they are matters of culture as well. I would hazard a guess that only a small percentage of residents of major metros like the Bay Area and NYC vote Republican or consider themselves born-again. Yet a majority of this country re-elected George W. Bush precisely for these reasons.

To believe that our little Valley is a good proxy for the rest of the world is highest folly.

4. Ultimately, the appeal of the Internet has been its ability to, for lack of a better word, empower the traditionally less powerful.

Think of how many businesses are now started by women, or non-white immigrants. The beauty of the combination of the Long Tail and Web 2.0 is that you can successfully serve much smaller niches with products that meet their particular needs. Sometimes, the combination of two cliches can produce something of value.

At any rate, we should all thank Anil for writing about the elephant in the room, and facilitating all of this discussion!

No comments: