Are you over-concerned with “shiny”?

Ethan Zuckerman (and I) think you probably are.

Some of my geek friends seem concerned that I’ve lost my sense of shiny. Talking with friends at South by Southwest, they were concerned that Global Voices wasn’t very appealing to the social software geek. You can’t vote, you can’t edit our articles, you can only read or leave a comment. Not very shiny. “Maybe you should add a digg-like mechanism to let people rank articles? Or add a spinning globe that shows where posts appear around the world in real time and deliver those updates via Twitter?” It felt like an intervention: “Ethan, your lack of shininess has become a problem for you and your friends. We care about you, and we want to make sure that you understand that you seem to be missing the shiny.”

The journalists – the primary audience for Global Voices – doesn’t seem to be complaining about the lack of shiny. And I’ll happily admit that the pretty maps are, at least in part, shiny and designed to meet your shiny needs. But I think there’s something very deep to JC’s diagnosis – there’s a good chance that underneath the shiny is something that isn’t very interesting. (Not always, but often.) And that some of what’s deeply, truly, long-term transformative isn’t shiny at all.

Free as in “Free Kittens”

What a fantastic meme.  Michelle quotes Deborah quoting some unknown-but-sage librarian, talking about the “free”-ness of open source software:

“…all of these technologies are ‘free’ as in ‘free kittens,’ not free as in ‘free beer.'”

The point being that open-source software takes care and feeding, and the occasional trip to the vet.

links for 2007-04-24