Dave Winer doesn’t get it

Dave Winer posted this note recently:

The thing that makes podcasting special is that it is accessible to everyone, not just companies with huge production budgets. Even the NY Times, stodgy old media conglomerate that it is, noticed this (early too, likely because it wasn’t a threat to their business, like blogging was).

Wrong.

The thing that makes podcasting great is simplicity. It’s easy for non-techies to automagically have new content show up in their iPods (or other device, although it’s often not as simple).

Basically MP3 can’t be rigged up to serve the purpose of advertisers, and that’s why I love MP3. And only MP3 provides the portability and compatibility that users depend on. Any other method will force them to jump through hoops that they will resist. If so, then podcasting isn’t for the advertisers. They keep insisting that it is, and that we old timers are just resisting the inevitable, but honestly they’re wrong — they should learn a little technology before they tell us how it is.

And perhaps Dave, you should learn some advertising before you tell them how it is. I’ve been listening to the Slate podcast religiously, and they’ve worked ads in very effectively. And Reel Review’s mention of AOL Music sponsoring their podcast doesn’t bother me either.

Unless Dave is talking about appending the actual file with some bit of ad content, ads will be able to be inserted into any audio file –  it’s simple… instead of a voice talking about content, they talk about an advertiser’s message.

The problem here, in a community sense, is that we see this trend over and over – creators who had a specific vision at the beginning of a concept’s life cycle get upset when the community takes it in another direction. Often the type of people who create great community concepts aren’t the best people to take it into a maintainence/growth mode. They’re are so entrenched in their original vision that they’ll actually go out of their way to sabatoge any forking of that concept, either conciously or subconciously.

Online community founders are a classic example of this. Often when someone builds an online community forum/site, they are doing so to solve a specific need. No interaction from the company that provides the materials for their hobby, a lack of information about an online game, a specific local political problem. As part of their free time, their hobby activity, they build something to address that specific need.

When that specific need is solved or has passed, the community that remains often takes on a life on its own. Good community leaders will recognize that, and follow the community as much as push it in the direction they were originally going.  Unfortunately, a vast number of community leaders simply want to hang onto the original vision. This hanging on creates a certain "resistance effect", where all major decisions are met with opposition, and whether they realize it or not, the community leader is either helping to push towards the downfall of that particular community, or making themselves look like they’re out of touch with the community.

It’s nearly impossible for any human to buck this trend. We all want to stick to our original visions. Which is why the truly great community leaders are those who know when the time has come to turn things fully over to the next "generation".

Dave, perhaps it’s time to take a step back from podcasting and realize it’s not longer the same thing you helped to come up with a while back. You helped to create something cool – so cool people are running with it and changing it up in ways you never envisioned. Yes, you didn’t think up these things, but that doesn’t make them any less cool. Your concept was smart enough that it even allowed for these evolutions. For that you should be proud… and move on.