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osandi

i think of constraints as the pressure needed to push an idea to the point of function or practice.

my challenge for instance has been with open source hardware controllers that are designed to allow any user create the parameters for music software like ableton live.

with over 80+ buttons and knobs and very little experience with the software (yet more w/ protools), it's actually been more limiting (no to my ideas but how to implement them) than if i was restricting sections for a specific use.

great design has it's laws, like those of nature which if anything challenge the notion of 'can this happen here?'.

very very very insightful analysis people.

i love thinking on this level.

osandi

twitter.com/osxyz

Robert Goldman

I own both an ipod touch and a Google Android phone, and I think it would be instructive to compare the experiences on the two platforms.

While I am a strong proponent of open source tools, use them every day in my work, and do what I can to contribute to them, the Google Android experience is a very strong argument against unfettered openness.

The Android Marketplace is mostly a trash heap. It is well-nigh impossible to navigate, and the software one downloads seems as likely to supply an unpleasant disease as a useful service. The only tool that we are given to winnow through this enormous pile is a set of reviews by other users.

These reviews seem almost completely useless. They are summarized in a one to five star ranking that is not calibrated to any standard of quality. There is no way to tell who the raters are, or whether any individual rater is to be trusted.

For a text edit application, the top comment is "cant[sic] display chinese" (2 stars). Another is "PLEASE IMPLEMENT a SEARCH FEATURE...absolutely essential..." (5 stars). Are we to expect the application to get six of a possible five stars should this "essential" feature be added. There's a thoughtful and mostly positive review of the interface (3 stars). "Not wat [sic] I exscpected [sic] uninstalled." (1 star). Another app: "Force closes [crashes] way too much..." (3 stars). Software that crashes frequently, should never be three stars.

Wading through this for a while makes me understand why, after Yeltsin, the Russians flocked to Putin. It makes me want someone to impose some kind of standard. This is what happens when openness is not coupled with any standard-setting mechanism (such as, for example, the linux implementation assemblers like Ubuntu, SuSE, etc.).

I encourage you to have a look at Android; it might help bring a new perspective to this discussion, if only because it shows openness is not enough.

Carla Casilli

It appears that you, Mr Zittrain, and Mr Gillmor are arguing politely and intelligently about Apple's system—what is essentially a walled garden. Generativity, emergence, lock-in: these are large and important issues so I am grateful for the discussions occurring around them now. I only hope that they're landing in the right ears.

In the midst of this ongoing dialogue, let's keep in mind the observer effect, or the Heisenberg indeterminacy effect, or the observer-expectancy effect (it goes by any number of names), which suggests that what is watched is directly affected by the watching. Whether this effect will work toward increasing application creativity or decreasing consumer options has yet to be seen. Apple is certainly implementing a type of communication control. And this leads me to ask the ultimate question with regards to Apple's vetting process: who will watch the watchers?

howardweaver

I’ve gotten into hot water with Dan Gillmor, Dave Winer and others I admire (on Twitter and elsewhere), for referring to “the religion of openness.” Still, that remains the most illuminating metaphor I’ve come across.

In the temple, open is simply good. To whatever degree something is less than open, it is bad. Results do not matter: it’s ideology.

Me, I’m an agnostic. I’m not interested in Apple’s sins, or Google’s sainthood, or vice versa. What works? What yields the best results?

Isn’t that the scientific method?

kathy gill

Steve, I think the more troublesome point is the possibility that publishers might move content off the web and onto iPhone applications. Certainly, they are unlikely to do so in the short run, since the universe of people who read news sites on a computer+browser is much larger than the universe that does so on an iPhone, iPad or iPodTouch -- whether on browser or app. But that threat is, I believe, a real one.

It is that potential balkanization of content -- off the web and onto iPad apps -- that causes my angst. Look at the WSJ iPad app: no highlight/copy, no visible URLs to snag. A very tightly controlled one-way communication environment: old school, in other words.

Regarding user experience, however, I think the constraints that Apple has fashioned around iPhone apps are comparable to the constraints that made Mac computers "just work" when the PC world was an anarchy of mismatched software and hardware. The mainstream consumer benefits -- the lunatic fringe (edge case geeks) and early adopters, not so much.

An anecdote about controlling the store: I was watching a Harvard Business School video this weekend - one on the continuing gender gap in salaries. What ad was served up before the video? One for Trojan condoms! I don't think that Harvard would have been very happy had they known this -- does that make them "bad" should they decide to exert control over the user experience associated with their videos? I think not, at least in this case. And that's how I think about the iTunes store.

Disclaimer: I own AAPL stock. And my S.O. works for MSFT.

Rikardlinde

Clearly there's a lot of iPhone innovation going on and the amount of apps is a good sign but I'd like to know more about two things.

1. What kinds of apps are being built for iPhone compared to the web? There are, for example, thousands of innovative games but only 2 web browsers. Maybe not a fair comparison but I'd like to know more about the distribution of different kinds of iPhone apps.
2. What is Apples message to developers who want to extend the functionality of another app?


-Rikard

twitter.com/mitensampat

Steve, your definition of generative is more befitting the underlying meme of this discussion.

A platform that creates a level playing field for participants of all sizes while delivering a great customer experience (or value of some form) is the key ingredient for it to be generative.

the success of a platform (whether the iphone OS, or the Internet) depends largely on customer adoption ...and not on a set of legalese that protects one side over another. customer adoption directly depends on the customer experience which includes many things outside of the developer agreements.

Apple is doing a great job of moderating all the above thus far.

-Miten

Jeanot van Belkom

Steve, when you state that generative platforms are the result we are aiming for, I have the feeling you are mixing up two classes of arguments. Yes, the result also matters, but there's always the underlying fundamentals. Take the constitution: perhaps in every practical sense, a country may enjoy complete freedom of speech. But that practical situation is no substitution for the fundamental right laid down in a constitution. A monopoly may also result in a de facto generative platform, but it's still not desirable to have one. It's all about control - no matter how good your behaviour, it never makes up for a fundamental flaw.
- Jeanot

Game Controllers

Very informative article!!
i was bother to these What Does "Generative" Mean Anyway?
i think the best way to achieve a generative open platform is to build a generative open platform.

Nice article ..

jordan 11

Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us as we grasp them by the handle or blade. Do you understand?

tera gold

Generative led to our goal. An open platform, is a tool we use to achieve this result. This is Zittrain's book of the central argument: if we want in our media and software, generative, and then turn on the platform is the best way to achieve this goal. However, if the generation of open platform part of the definition, then it suddenly started to sound a bit circular: the best way to achieve the formation of an open platform is an open platform to generate.Yeah,that is right.

seks izle

I own both an ipod touch and a Google Android phone, and I think it would be instructive to compare the experiences on the two platforms.

jordan 7

When talk about field,the first sight I think that is the own of somebody,but now I haven’t thought that,because I read your post,that new opinion there,thanks,learn the knowledge from you lots.

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I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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