Sunday, August 12, 2007

Technology Evolves Rapidly, Human Nature Does Not

If I look at what’s happened just with blogging and RSS feeds alone since 1999, the technological improvements have been both very rapid and very beneficial.

But when it comes to human nature things haven’t changed since the dawn of recorded history. There are no conferences you can attend to speed to pace of evolving human nature. If there was such a conference I’d pay $1000 to attend. I worry that attendance would be sparse. A conference on how to make money via blogging, on the other hand, as you know,would be much more popular.

Please note there are no ads on this site and it is not currently my objective to make money off of this site. I do hope ultimately there is a revenue model for (don’t bother going to the site, it’s not live yet) which I co-founded.

There are many aspects to human nature, and one of them is that in bits and pieces we love some vicarious drama. We also, quite naturally sometimes love to get a laugh at the expense of other’s misfortune. The German word for this is Schadenfreude and while I didn’t get as much of the Schadenfruede genetics as my brother Steve, like anyone else, I’m not immune.

A couple of examples. Last Tuesday I walked from the Marina over to 24 Willie Mays Plaza to see Barry Bonds hit #756 (it was an exciting, emotional and exceptional 10 minutes or so). It’s over a 4 mile walk and I walked it through Fisherman’s Wharf and then around the Embarcadero. It’s not the shortest path, but it’s gorgeous and there are no traffic lights on the Embarcadero so other than the tourists in Fisherman’s Wharf, there’s nothing to slow you down.

As I walked through the Wharf I saw about 60 people congregated on Jefferson St. and looked over to see what the heck they were checking out. It was that staple of the Wharf, “The Bush Man”. He’s been there for years and his shtick is that he hides behind a few branches he carries around with him and then jumps out from behind them scaring the bejeezus out of unsuspecting passersby. The crowd of 60 or so that had amassed was enjoying it.


Via my friend Mike Raneri’s real-life social engineering (it didn’t happen on Facebook if you can believe it) he’d actually wound up scoring the 2 tickets in front of our seats for the game where Bonds hit #756 so four of us got to enjoy it which was really nice. I sat in front of Raneri, who as it turned out had been dropping peanut shells on the top of my baseball cap for about 20 minutes. He was amused, as were the other two. As a younger man, this might have really irked me, but I am not a young man. I thought it was funny too and was OK with the others (including some of the other 42,000, I’m sure) having a laugh at my expense. C’mon, it’s not like he was putting the shells in my beer!

All the attention on Paris and Lindsay is of a similar nature. This weekend, the Web 2.0 crowd had its own little version of this with The Winer-Calacanis Slapfest involving Dave Winer and Jason Calacanis.

I wrote about this, and Jason posted some of that on his site and between that and a frenzy of people searching for “Calacanis Winer Gnomedex” I had about a 600% increase in traffic. Of course that’s easy because this site has no traffic, but typically Saturday’s are the slowest day and I had record traffic.

It’s no different than my friends being amused with the peanut shells on my cap or the crowd of people gathered to watch “The Bush Man” scare people by jumping out from behind is branches. I accept that’s the way it is, though this acceptance has been a long time coming. My preference would be that more people would want to read about whether capitalism is self-destructive and how to lose 80 pounds and keep it off. But the way human nature works, we’re more interested in Paris, Lindsay, Jason, Dave and The Bush Man.

Another part of human nature is that if you “attack”, people tend to fight back. I wasn’t at the Gnomedex conference and didn’t see the full context of how Dave heckled Jason. But I saw what Dave wrote on his blog and even if he’d not heckled Jason at the conference, Jason would certainly have responded similarly. For Dave to not realize that calling Jason a spammer would be viewed as an attack, at least by Jason is to have complete disregard for how human nature really works, and also completely ignores cause and effect. I’m sure Dave doesn’t view his write-ups on Friday and Saturday as any kind of attack on Jason. But, they were. The odds of Jason having a response were predictably 100%!

When Jason (somewhat surprisingly to me) received a lot of support via the blogs, Dave somehow felt victimized. Steven Hodson called Dave pissy in a post at and Dave responded to him with a comment that Steven was being disrespectful and was somewhat aghast at the response. In this instance, Dave, like billions of others before him sometimes have been, is in denial. I’m not really sure that’s a bad thing either, though I think Dave would be a better friend to himself with a little self-examination on the matter.

The world will move on either way.

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