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Technological Genius Is Timeliness, Not Inspiration

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the better-to-be-lucky-than-good dept.

Facebook 255

Hugh Pickens writes "Ezra Klein has an interesting essay in the Washington Post about 'simultaneous invention,' where technology advances to the point that the next step is obvious to multiple people at once, and so they all push forward with the same or similar inventions. While the natural capabilities of human beings don't change much from year to year, their environments do, and so does the technology and store of knowledge they can access. 'The idea of the lone genius who has the eureka moment where they suddenly get a great idea that changes the world is not just the exception,' says Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, 'but almost nonexistent.' Consider Adam Goldberg's CU Community, created in 2003 at Columbia University, a social network that launched first and had cooler features than Facebook, with options for pictures and integrated blogging software. Klein writes, 'Zuckerberg's dominance can be attributed partly to the clean interface of his site, partly to the cachet of the Harvard name and partly to luck. But the difference between Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Goldberg was very small, while the difference between what Mark Zuckerberg could do and what the smartest college kid in 1999 could do was huge. It was the commons supporting them both that really mattered.'"

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255 comments

i'm a butt-slut (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864482)

and i suck dick for cash.

Discuss.

Obvious corollary (4, Insightful)

grantek (979387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864494)

This is one of the reasons software patents are stupid, why patent trolls exist, and why the patent system in general needs cutting down.

Re:Obvious corollary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864546)

I need a "+0, not sure if serious." >_>

Re:Obvious corollary (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864738)

Patent trolls exist because we went from owning implementations to owning ideas. What if Thomas Edison went through 10,000 different materials for filaments just to find the right one and then ran against some patent troll who said "Give me $$$, I own the idea of a filament!!!" Most ideas aren't very useful when run up against initial reality, it's the work done to overcome those obstacles that is useful.

The patent office tries to act almost like a branch of zoology, except instead of classifying and categorizing animals, they do it with ideas. And they just aren't very good at it and the government never will be with centralized planning of this sort. IMO, the more advanced society gets, the more obvious the 18th/19th century character of the patent office becomes and that it's not sustainable. It may be like keeping the booster rockets attached to the shuttle of society, long after it cease helping us get off the ground.

It could work. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864774)

But the patent office would have to require a WORKING prototype of whatever you're trying to patent.

The biggest problem is that the patent office will now accept patent applications for items that do not exist. This allows companies to block other inventors by having a patent filed prior to the inventor inventing the invention.

Re:It could work. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865294)

It used to, and it still should.

I can understand that somethings need protection while investors pool funds to actually build a thing, so perhaps the working model should be deferred for a short time BUT until you produce one, you can't go to court and if you don't produce one by the deadline, the patent officially never existed. In the case of software, that deadline should be QUITE short since there is little capital investment needed to at least demo the concept.

Re:Obvious corollary (4, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865060)

This is one of the reasons software patents are stupid, why patent trolls exist, and why the patent system in general needs cutting down.

Your point is valid but I think it transcends software patents. Some patents, inventions or discoveries are simply a product of timing as the article suggests, and they aren't limited to software patents, or even patents.

A classic example would be the two of the biggest game changers in thinking, and both were co-discovered. Of all the times in history for these ideas to come about, they came about simultaneously from multiple sources:

Calculus: Leibniz and Newton
Evolution: Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace

Also...
Using laser pointers to amuse cats: Patent 5443036 and anyone who has ever seen a cat and laser pointer

Re:Obvious corollary (2, Informative)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865352)

Dear god that is an actual patent...

Re:Obvious corollary (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865124)

No, actually. Patents aren't supposed to reward inspiration, they're supposed to reward work. They're to help with the 99% perspiration [wikiquote.org] that the invention process involves. Even if the particular invention is "obvious", that doesn't mean there isn't a shitload of work to do, and that somebody won't have to put in the hours (with no financial support) in order to develop the idea into any usable form.

Oh, and I am particularly disgusted that you didn't use your first post privileges to make a lame joke about timeliness over inspiration! That was a quality opportunity missed! ;-)

Re:Obvious corollary (3, Insightful)

grantek (979387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865246)

I'd say that's what copyright is for. If you spend thousands of coder-hours implementing 1-click purchasing on Amazon, that doesn't mean it's inherently patentable, because anyone that looks at it from the outside can throw the coder-hours themselves at it without needing any special research. They shouldn't be allowed to just come along and steal the codebase, and that's where copyright protects you.

Re:Obvious corollary (1)

BuhDuh (1102769) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865196)

IMO, patents are nothing to do with the topic. It is an established theory that when it's "Steam Engine Time", it will surely be invented!

Re:Obvious corollary (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865276)

You yourself stated why patents have everything to do with this subject. If steam engines are destined to happen when it's Steam Engine Time, then no amount of monopoly protection can further incentivize people to "invent" something whose time has come anyway. It will happen regardless of patents, and could be "invented" by any number of people, so why should one person have a monopoly on it?

At best patents do nothing, and at worst they retard technological progress.

Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (4, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864506)

The network effect has more to do with being in the right place at the right time than on the technical merits of the application. A much better solution that occurred 1 year earlier or 1 year later would have failed in the market. Facebook was "good enough" and that is all that was needed.

But let's not confuse this with innovation.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865018)

Too true. If innovation was all that really mattered the Amiga would've won the desktop battle back in the early 90's. As it is, I think the teen crowd intimidated teh older set from using MySpace. Then along comes MySpace for adults, with the built in ability to find out what happened to 75% of you High School class and a 'net institution is born. Now, how long it survives after people realize that 75% of their High School friend's lives are incredibly boring remains to be seen.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865030)

You know how in Asimov's Foundation one person planned what would happen over future generations? How he solved mathematically the equations of society? It was great science fiction.

There are people who actually believe that is possible. People like Niklas Luhmann [wikipedia.org] are trying to figure out how to arrange such a society. BF Skinner was also a man who thought along those lines.

Now, to these people, technological advances are inevitable; based on sheer probability and mathematics, the wheel was 'destined' to be invented when it did, and so was Facebook. The actual geniuses themselves don't matter, since they would be replaced by another if they weren't around. It is in fact necessary for this to be so, at least to a certain degree, or their entire theory fall apart (how can you otherwise predict the arrival of a genius, a singular event?) The article is basing itself on this line of thought.

The problem I see with it is that genius actually does matter. If we all sit down and wait for new inventions because 'surely someone will do it' then no one will do it. A single person can change the course of a nation, and it is impossible to predict individual people (if a single person didn't matter, why would the Chinese government care so much about Liu XiaoBao?)

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865144)

Now, to these people, technological advances are inevitable; based on sheer probability and mathematics, the wheel was 'destined' to be invented when it did, and so was Facebook. The actual geniuses themselves don't matter, since they would be replaced by another if they weren't around. It is in fact necessary for this to be so, at least to a certain degree, or their entire theory fall apart (how can you otherwise predict the arrival of a genius, a singular event?) The article is basing itself on this line of thought.

Most great advances in civilization are inevitable. In modern times its hard to find humans that aren't connected and therefore unable to be influenced by the advances of others. However, if you look at ancient times there was plenty of inevitable duplication.

Spoken language was independently invented by most societies.
Written language (which is much more difficult) was independently invented 4 times.
The concept of ZERO was invented twice.

Civilization is already mapped, refer to the Kardashev scale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale [wikipedia.org]

How fast we get there or if at all (before blowing ourselves up) is uncertain, but it is somewhat mapped. Science fiction writers will always be able to dream up something long before the scientists work out the details or have the technology to do so.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (5, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865200)

The problem I see with it is that genius actually does matter. If we all sit down and wait for new inventions because 'surely someone will do it' then no one will do it. A single person can change the course of a nation, and it is impossible to predict individual people

I think you may misunderstand. The argument is that actual genius doesn't really exist. The argument is that the specific individual who comes up with the "invention" is irrelevant. The argument is that there is no stunning ray of sheer brainpower that makes such an "invention" possible - it is, instead, inevitable.

Imagine, if you will, a train barreling down the tracks towards a helpless puppy. When the train is 1,000 miles away from the puppy, nobody really knows what is going to happen. You can't see the big picture. The folks looking at the puppy don't see the train, and the folks looking at the train can't see the puppy. If somebody were to shout out "oh no, the puppy's gonna get squished!" at that moment in time, it would be genius. But as the train gets closer and closer to the puppy, it becomes more and more obvious. And eventually it is almost impossible not to realize that the puppy is going to be run over.

This is the argument. As technology rolls forward, it eventually becomes almost impossible not to invent something new.

You get enough computers chattering away with each-other... Enough people on the web... Enough folks trying to share photos and connect with other people... Cheap enough server infrastructure.. Ample enough bandwidth... Powerful enough databases... And eventually somebody is bound to say "Hey, why don't we throw together some kind of web page where people can keep in touch with each-other and share photos and stuff?"

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (-1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865258)

It's the argument of someone who isn't a genius to claim that genius does not exist, or is really nothing special. Anyone can throw a football, or bang on a drum. Doing it with the practice and timing to actually entertain, or to reliably reach a wide receiver, or to achieve what Zuckerberg with the interface that people _accepted_ takes some noticeable skill.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (2, Insightful)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865314)

The beauty of free markets and capitalism (regardless of their flaws) is that profit drives invention. The profit motive will bring out the geniuses to do their thing. Enough geniuses working on the same problem is bound to show results.

In a centrally planned economy, the who is very important. All the central planners know is that they have some vague goal of a type of technology, and it's up to them to make sure the correct person is in place to do create it.

So I would in fact imagine that in communist China, and individual can be very important, while the opposite is true in a capitalist system. That seems to go contrary to conventional wisdom where in freer countries there is more value on the individual while communist nations focus on the whole, but as I ramble on here, that seems to make sense.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865470)

I'm more inclined to argue that those who have power, or the perception of power over sweeping social vectors (gradual media perception shifting, economic contract leveraging systems.... ) would be where the real problem lies with the 'innovation multi-spawning' that is inevitable.

We all know technology, well most, by its very nature, is inert. Neither good nor bad, except when people apply it to accomplish their goals. My problem isn't technology, or where technology will evolve to. It's how we, as civilized cultures still corruptable by power, money, and perception, will placate any upcoming technology to further a path of social digress rather social progress.

It is implied that, as we become more technology evolved, society and class systems improve with that technology. Unfortunately, it is left up those who have no say in its implementation or development, to make sure the latter part of that sentiment is achieved.

Re:Facebook has nothing to do with innovation (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865088)

I always assumed Facebook was the result of the douchebag hive mind.

So in other words (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864508)

So in other words it's not timeliness so much as execution and a bit of luck?

If it were timeliness, all of the kids would be using socializing through MySpace on their early style Windows Slates/Tablets/Whatever-they-were-called on an AOL internet connection.

Seems as though the first mover isn't always the winner in terms of market share and/or mindshare.

Re:So in other words (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864702)

"Seems as though the first mover isn't always the winner in terms of market share and/or mindshare."

Seems to me the first mover though is the Johnny Appleseed though, the one that gets the first generation of the idea accepted by at least some in the population, where it gets copied and modified. Until an analysis is done as to how important those previous incarnations are, don't write off the earlier ones as failures just because Facebook is a success.

And there seems to be plenty of early inventors or those who got in real early in the game that seem to get rewarded--Amazon, ebay, Intel, and IBM come to mind.

If those earlier lesser successes don't happen, Facebook may not be as accepted. I personally think that if the MySpace phase hadn't occurred, and sites like Friendster hadn't gone up, people wouldn't have learned about and consolidated to Facebook, making it what it is today.

Then again, I don't get the whole Facebook thing anyways. I think it's stupid and crap, but maybe it's in line with how the narcissism of the population these days. And in comparison to the other mainstream industries out there (pharmaceutical, industrial, finance, defense, energy), Facebook is almost chump change. iow, maybe the perception of Facebook's "success" is only relative to the believer's choosing to ignore a fair comparison to everything else out there, even on internet terms (isn't Google bigger? even Google's "subsidiary" like YouTube?).

Re:So in other words (2, Informative)

shimage (954282) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864718)

Timing is wrapped up in the luck. An idea before its time is still a failure.

Re:So in other words (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864840)

I once heard the saying that, "Luck is simply being prepared to act when the time to act presents itself."

Re:So in other words (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864792)

Yes, there thesis seems to come from looking at an excessively narrow reference class for their inferences. The real question is not "Why does the same invention happen in several places at once?", but: "Why doesn't the same invention happen almost *everywhere* that the pre-requisites are met?" That is, why only these few people and not 90% of those who were almost there, if it's really "obvious given the related technologies"?

For an extreme example, the technology for trains has been around since Roman times (they used horse-powered transport on rails and could make steam engines [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:So in other words (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865396)

In the Roman case, the pre-requisites were NOT met. They could make a sort of jet powered curiosity that I suppose could be called a steam engine, but it wasn't at all powerful enough to do significant work. Attempts to scale it to be powerful enough would have hit a wall hard since the technology to make a sufficiently strong boiler (not to mention bearings) just wasn't there.

When that technology did finally come along, so too did the steam engine, but it bore no resemblance to the Roman invention.

As for the rest of it, you don't see so much evidence of that because once someone makes it work, the work of the others is eclipsed and doesn't see the light of day for decades if ever. That's why it is just now that we see discussions on who "really" invented what 100 years ago.

Common Theme in History... (1, Redundant)

Cloudgatherer (216427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864530)

Anyone else read the description and instantly remember that Calculus was invented by Newton/Leibniz around the same time? Replace "technology" with "math" or "any scientific discipline" and it pretty much can hold true in a fair handful of instances throughout history.

Re:Common Theme in History... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864600)

Anyone else read the description and instantly remember that Calculus was invented by Newton/Leibniz around the same time? Replace "technology" with "math" or "any scientific discipline" and it pretty much can hold true in a fair handful of instances throughout history.

Right... much in the same way that the United States entered World War II within two years after every other country had already been fighting. Quite coincidental, that.

Re:Common Theme in History... (1)

codespace (139839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864666)

I'm not sure I follow. Wait, no, I'm positive that I don't see the corollary you're trying to make.

What does timeliness of inventions of items/processes/ideas have to do with America getting bombed by the Japanese during WW2?

Re:Common Theme in History... (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864854)

Of course, that really only counts if you ignore Archimedes.

Re:Common Theme in History... (0, Troll)

terminallyCapricious (1838672) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865164)

If By "invented by Newton/Leibniz around the same time" yOu mEaN "invented by Newton and subsequently stolen by Leibniz", yOu aRe RiGhT.

!news (5, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864532)

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." (Victor Hugo)

The internet just mad that stronger.

Re:!news (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865184)

>> mad that stronger

Strong Mad as the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I'd watch that for a dollar.

Psychohistory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864538)

Predicting inventions alone won't save you from the Mule!

And yet... (5, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864556)

It was the commons supporting them both that really mattered.

And yet our society and our legal systems enshrine individual innovations and creations as sacred property, while suffering the very existence of a commons or a public domain barely with tolerance, denouncing it as communism.

Re:And yet... (2, Insightful)

Espressor (1476671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864756)

This actually is the author's point:

We're also helping creators and their heirs hold legal monopolies on innovations for much longer, extending individual copyrights to the life of the author plus 70 years, for instance. Would we lose so many great ideas if the monopoly lasted only until 15 years after the inventor's death?

[...]

You need intellectual-property rules that ensure space for new ideas and uses. You need a tax code that encourages research and development spending. You need, in other words, to furnish people with an environment in which innovation can take place.

Re:And yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864778)

No different than we treat real property... those who made out in the land rushes and grabbed property are landed class, while those who were too late must grovel at their knees. In some cases, the first-mover that appears today is also really the first-thief who pushed off someone weaker who was there before (both for land and intellectual property).

Re:And yet... (0)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864972)

You're kind of (not completely, but kind of) treating the commons/public domain thing as a strawman, but isn't rejecting or at least severely downplaying individual innovation and creations a central part of communism?

Re:And yet... (1)

KillAllNazis (1904010) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865154)

Perhaps but according to this essay it's also completely appropriate. And it makes sense if you consider all information serial. The car could never have been invented without the wheel.

Sounds like a reason to abolish patents (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864566)

A useful invention will happen when its time comes. The patent system will not make it happen faster. The only thing patents do is prevent further inventions. This seems to be especially true for software 'inventions'.

There was an electronics writer, Don Landcaster, who spent many column inches demonstrating that patents were absolute poison to the small inventor ( www.tinaja.com/glib/casagpat.pdf ). Patents work for companies that can pay big bucks for lawyers to keep down the small inventor.

The classic case of an inventor being screwed was Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio. RCA stole his invention and kept him in court until the day he died. He would have been much better off if he didn't think his invention was protected by a patent.

standing upon the shoulders of giants... (1)

slew (2918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864572)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_of_Chartres [wikipedia.org]

"We are like dwarfs standing [or sitting] upon the shoulders of giants, and so able to see more and see farther than the ancients."

Gee, I think that sounds strangely familiar ;^)

Re:standing upon the shoulders of giants... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864596)

I am a dwarf, you insensitive clod!

Re:standing upon the shoulders of giants... (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864946)

Well, if you'd get down from there he might stop harping on about it...

Re:standing upon the shoulders of giants... (3, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865056)

I am a clod, you insensitive dwarf!

Re:standing upon the shoulders of giants... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865452)

Oh yeah? Well, I'm a dwarf giant and because my two curses are exactly in balance, nobody believes me.

Re:standing upon the shoulders of giants... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865064)

You're a dwarf? Well I'm a troll you stupid fucking cocksucker. http://goat.cx/ [goat.cx]

Genius (4, Insightful)

RaymondKurzweil (1506023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864578)

If Facebook is now an example of "genius", what word shall we now use to describe actual genius?

And yes, I'm aware that Zuckerberg gets more ass than I ever will, and probably has more than 100 lifetimes of my wealth. My dick doesn't work that well anyway. Question still stands, IMHO.

Re:Genius (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864654)

Zuckerberg will only be a genius if he sells it before it tanks, which is inevitable. ICQ, MySpace, and other social networking services all had their time and all of the original owners cashed out. The Interweb denizens are fickle people, lest we all forget.

Re:Genius (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864950)

I would guess he has managed to cash out enough to be comfortable for quite a while.

Re:Genius (3, Interesting)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864990)

Actually, all of those examples you cite may have tanked because their inventors sold them. Think about it. Once the creative drive and the instinct to do what's cool leaves the product, and is replaced by a lot of investment money that wants to monetize the cool in order to realize ROI, what do you think happens?

I predict that Facebook will do well as long as Zuckerberg retains control over it. Once he is no longer in charge of things, it will falter.

Re:Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864662)

Be reasonable. He probably has over 1000 lifetimes of your wealth.

Re:Genius (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864930)

And yes, I'm aware that Zuckerberg gets more ass than I ever will,

I was listening to a review of the movie on PBS. One of the commentators pointed out that, contrary to the story line, Zuckerberg was (and still is?) involved with one woman during the birth and creation of Facebook.

There's something to the idea that once the problem of 'getting ass' has been resolved, creative people have much more time resources with which to develop new technology*.

*Hence my idea of providing free hookers to engineering ad technology students. This will correct the USA's tech slide in no time.

Re:Genius (2, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865118)

If Facebook is now an example of "genius", what word shall we now use to describe actual genius?

And yes, I'm aware that Zuckerberg gets more ass than I ever will, and probably has more than 100 lifetimes of my wealth. My dick doesn't work that well anyway. Question still stands, IMHO.

And your question is valid. It wasn't "genius". It was sheer luck. Nothing more. There were others before Facebook, but his became the "popular" hangout. That's it. No "genius" or even "magic" there. No way am I going to compare someone who hit an Internet "lottery" to some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.

Besides, someone sitting around acting out a bullshit fake persona for 763 "friends" they hardly knew or know is about as far from being "social" as one can get...Guess I'm one of those old-fashioned humans that still prefers actually sitting down and talking (gasp!)

Re:Genius (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865228)

RaymondKurzweil posted: ..and probably has more than 100 lifetimes of my wealth.

But I thought that you weren't going to die?

Re:Genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865300)

Like it or not, Facebook has changed the lives of HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. Something that cannot be said of say, the typical Singularity-worshipping pseudo-science promoting moron.

Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, Orkut... (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864622)

Anyone else remember these social networking sites? I was using them at least a year before Facebook existed, or was at least available to the general public. When Facebook rolled around my thought was "So what? Another social networking site." I only joined when the network effect kicked in and it was obvious the others were falling by the wayside.

Re:Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, Orkut... (0, Redundant)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864708)

Friendster? Neva tried, neva will. MySpace - yeah made 1 account. Failed the 5 minute-rule. Orkut? Is it like LinkedIn? Booooowing.

Facebook had find friends, invite friends and BRING UR REAL PICTURE. Somehow, they got people to do it.. If they paid staff / people to do it first, then it was genious.

The others I neva could stand. Now I cant stand Facebook. It generates too much spam and noise to be funny anymore.

Re:Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, Orkut... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864768)

neva? ur? What is this, Youtube?

Re:Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, Orkut... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864994)

But "there" is so much better?

Neva! ;-) (bye karma)

Tech Genius != Financial Success (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864626)

Neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs could program a fucking VCR.

Re:Tech Genius != Financial Success (1)

JDmetro (1745882) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864672)

They can't program a program either their skill is in finding someone who can and telling them to "get it done" then having the resources to write their paycheck.

Re:Tech Genius != Financial Success (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864878)

Neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs could program a fucking VCR.

But Ballmer can throw one quite a distance.

This is known as "big man's disease" where the belief that physical size, the ability to bellow and pound on a desk has some economic value in the management of a modern business. Back when I worked for a power company, there was some value to this. The foreman on a line crew had proven himself in a largely physical profession and was therefore accorded some level of respect.

They can't program a program either their skill is in finding someone who can and telling them to "get it done" then having the resources to write their paycheck.

Which raises the question of why the generic talents like managing an office, raising capital, keeping the stationary cabinet full, etc. commands higher wages than the people who actually build the systems.

Re:Tech Genius != Financial Success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865134)

Neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs could program a fucking VCR.

But Ballmer can throw one quite a distance.

This is known as "big man's disease" where the belief that physical size, the ability to bellow and pound on a desk has some economic value in the management of a modern business. Back when I worked for a power company, there was some value to this. The foreman on a line crew had proven himself in a largely physical profession and was therefore accorded some level of respect.

They can't program a program either their skill is in finding someone who can and telling them to "get it done" then having the resources to write their paycheck.

Which raises the question of why the generic talents like managing an office, raising capital, keeping the stationary cabinet full, etc. commands higher wages than the people who actually build the systems.

ever tried building a system without an office, stationary(or the digital equivalent), or capital? Exactly.

Re:Tech Genius != Financial Success (1)

Mandrel (765308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865188)

Which raises the question of why the generic talents like managing an office, raising capital, keeping the stationary cabinet full, etc. commands higher wages than the people who actually build the systems.

If the actual work is commoditized, most of the reward will go to those who risk time and money — either theirs or other people's. The winners are the bold and wealthy or the bold and convincing.

The winner writes the history... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865330)

Funny yes, but not completely true...

There is no doubt that Bill was a very good programmer, and could be again if was doing it everyday...
For the rest, cant see it...

In business today, there are two types of people:
Those with ambition exceeds their ability.
And those with an understand the nature of responsibility, and are technically competent...

x ...But I can't work out why MZ is mentioned, in this discussion, not only did he NOT invent the concept, there where hundreds of social networking sites, at the time, he himself even worked on one of them before reworking the concept/code as FB...

Perhaps the title should be:
Those who are cut throat enough to get to the top, inevitably re-write history, and all want to be see as geniuses....

Patents (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864642)

If several have the same idea at roughly the same time by their own means, it makes the patent system to look even more unfair.

Re:Patents (1)

Steeltoe (98226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864710)

We do... It is...

Next up (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864694)

0-click ordering

Re:Next up (1)

Allnighte (1794642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864720)

I was trying to think of a good example of why 0-click ordering is a bad idea, and I think I just sent a bunch of UPS and DHL boxes to your house.
Sorry about that.

Re:Next up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864730)

Hey, if you make something that does not make mistakes on what to order and doesnt make a complete joke out of my personal integrity, I would be on your side for a patent. Holy run-on sentence Batman. But Im way too tired to care.

Re:Next up (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864850)

We already have that. The order usually ends up with the wrong shipping address and you just get stuck with the bill.

T

Re:Next up (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864952)

0-click ordering

Its called Government.

Official Slashdot daily Wisdom: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864700)

Whats the difference between jelly and jam?
You cant jelly your dick up a dead girls ass.

Re:Official Slashdot daily Wisdom: (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864790)

Don't forget the "Just saying" after a remark like this.

Social networking? Really? (3, Insightful)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864716)

That's your best example?

Calculus, dude. It's the calculus. The Newton-Leibniz rivalry is the go-to example of simultaneous invention. What you've got instead is a shaggy dog story set up to let you imply that Zuckerberg is in some way a genius.

Re:Social networking? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864874)

No it is no. Newton was 20 years ahead.

Re:Social networking? Really? (5, Funny)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865058)

Damn it Newton, stop posting as AC and get an account already. We all know it's you.

Re:Social networking? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864982)

Non-Euclidian geometry is a good one too.

Re:Social networking? Really? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865068)

Of course it's not his best example; this is the work of a young writer (he's only 26) hoping to say something that gets attention. His goal isn't to make a point, it's to get attention. He only mentions Zuckerberg at all because the guy is getting a lot of attention lately, and he wants to tap into it. He doesn't care so much about his point, or Zuckerberg.

Gosh I can't believe how cynical I've become.

Re:Social networking? Really? (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865108)

Also natural selection, with Darwin having sat on the theory for a while, and only publishing after corresponding with Wallace [wikipedia.org] and realizing that Wallace was on his way to beating Darwin to the punch.

Re:Social networking? Really? (1)

khchung (462899) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865272)

The Newton-Leibniz rivalry is the go-to example of simultaneous invention.

Not to the target audience of the Washington Post, ie the general American populace, most of whom are so fxxking ignorant of science, math, and history, plus, they are also proud of that ignorance. They eyes will glaze over when they see the word "calculus". You might get a couple of them to recognize the name Newton, but you have to hit the lottery for them to know who's Leibniz.

OTOH, mention Facebook and they will pretend they know what's it about even if they don't.

Re:Social networking? Really? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865328)

Social networking is a great example because most of the people reading the article had seen the evolution of the technology first hand.

Most people have a hard time relating to history because they never got to see it from the ground level. Just like in football, people scream for the QB to throw to a guy 30 yards down the field not realizing what it must be like to have a group of 8 300+ pound guys in between you and the open receiver. History is the same, in hindsight we think of it as obvious but for those who lived through it? It was anything but.

Attention Space Nutters (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864742)

Computers weren't invented because of the Space Race. They were invented piece by piece as technology and science progressed because people are smart. Computers already existed in all spheres of human acitivity by the time they were needed to control a few rockets.
Please take this occasion to learn some history and stop spreading lies about technology. I'm looking at you, tomhudson, you liar.

Ezra Klein is a political shill (0, Flamebait)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864754)

According to him, we should all share in the success of others, even if we took no part in the hard work necessary ourselves.

It's really hard to take this swill seriously, but I see a lot of people here already do.

Re:Ezra Klein is a political shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864922)

"According to him, we should all share in the success of others, even if we took no part in the hard work necessary ourselves. "

Like we should all not share in the energy of the sun providing the free energy that allowed you to do that work right?

Re:Ezra Klein is a political shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864936)

Citation needed, you loathsome libertarian.

Re:Ezra Klein is a political shill (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865362)

Patents are patently un-libertarian. If a libertarian believes in government promoted monopolies, he doesn't understand what he advocates.

Re:Ezra Klein is a political shill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865162)

Did you pay royalties to Newton today? Standing in the shoulders of giants implies a collective inheritance. You're not smart because you read the Rand pamphlet.

Re:Ezra Klein is a political shill (3, Insightful)

bieber (998013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865214)

When the hard work in question is of an intellectual nature and takes no resources to reproduce, of course we should. I guess we should all have to start our lives with no technology at all, and only the lucky few of us who manage to independently discover such novel concepts as fire and agriculture should be allowed to make use of them? Or to use a more recent example, schoolchildren should only be taught algebra and left to do the hard work necessary to discover calculus themselves?

Poke (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864794)

Facebook won because Harvard students love the "poke" feature. The first year of The Facebook was also when I was dating a Harvard girl who was obsessed with this website (I am not a Harvard boy, so I could not get access at the time) and poking all he friends.

It was this silly feature that I truly think made all the difference

Re:Poke (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864880)

And the feature was just like 'finger' from Unix, go figure.

Re:Poke (3, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#33864942)

Obvious, really. Nothing makes people happier, in my experience, than letting them annoy others.

Counter Examples (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33864996)

The Steam Engine of Alexandria
Archimedes celestial clock device
Concrete

All discovered, then subsequently lost and even as technology advanced beyond the point where each was originally invented no one at the time came up with them until centuries after the point this hypothesis would postulate.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865028)

What's "Facebook?" And how does it relate to MyFaceSpace?

I am not entirey convinced (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865268)

It's arguments like this that trouble me.

That's what happened with Alexander Graham Bell, who in all likelihood invented the telephone after Elisha Gray - and both of them came after Antonio Meucci, who couldn't afford the fee to keep his patent current.

Elisha Gray was the audience while Bell demonstrated his telephone at the Centennial World's Fair in Philadelphia in July 1876.

Gray was no stranger to self promotion.

He was an electrical engineer with a national reputation and a lucrative portfolio of some seventy patents. This is guy who co-founded Western Electric. The guy who would later go on to invent an early and commercially successful "fax machine," the Telautograph.

The first Bell telephone exchange opened in Hartford, Connecticut in January, 1878. By 1882 this single exchange had gone through two stages of expansion to become Southern New England telephone.

If Gray had a working telephone in 1876, what the hell was he doing with it?

The answer to this riddle is that - like all the others who had grown up with Western Union - he probably thought all he had in his hand was a plaything.

Bell was the outsider. Bell was disruptive.

An investigating committee established by the British Parliament found Edison's work on the electric light "unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men." Edison himself thought his phonograph "not of any commercial value."
The renowned British physicist Lord Kelvin announced in 1897 that "radio has no future." A decade later a business executive told radio pioneer Lee De Forest that he could put in a single room "all the radiotelephone apparatus that the country will ever need." De Forest himself announced in 1926 that, "while theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming."
So it goes: Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, our ancestors have made fools of themselves. We always laugh at the electrical toy; van Gogh never sells his paintings; Melville always dies unrecognized. The only safe prediction is that people will go on making dumb predictions.

Hindsight, Foresight, and No Sight [americanheritage.com]

It was the chIcks that made FB (2, Interesting)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865332)

You remember those hot babes who were Florida Gators fans who ended up in Maxim? THEY made Facebook take off.

Duh (1)

MahJongKong (883108) | more than 3 years ago | (#33865364)

Thank you Captain Obvious

The spark of fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33865466)

I just today had this discussion with a friend. He said, "Peking Man was the first to master fire." My thinking went like this: someone noticed that fire (from lightening or whatever) was hot; for a while, embers were carried from one fire to start another; someone working with flint (to sharpen tools) noticed that they had accidentally started a fire; the myth of the fire bringer and the fire starter were born.

It's unlikely that there was a single person or single culture that would have discovered fire, or the means to start a fire. It was inevitable.
 

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