Let me tell you a story about a couple of brothers I know. They’re both rich. The older brother’s name is a bit of a tongue twister. His name is Angrily Aggregated (though, prior to the 1990s, he didn’t go by that name. He was just known simply as Media). He is really old. He made a lot of money from a beautiful woman named Advertiser.
Angrily Aggregated did some great work from time-to-time that affected society profoundly (taking down a terribly corrupt president, for instance), but other times slept on the job (like its failure to report on the Holocaust). Angrily Aggregated was, and still is, an arrogant fellow. He is prone to vanity and assumed Advertiser would just take care of him forever. But one day, say about 10 years ago, Advertiser fell out of love with Angrily Aggregated. Advertiser started sleeping around, in fact – mostly with Angrily Aggregated’s younger brother, Aggregator.
On the surface, Aggregator is a cool cat. He is much cooler than his older brother Angrily Aggregated, who still lives in Los Angeles and New York, wears suits, works on PCs, uses Internet Explorer, hates sharing, and whose primary weapon is having a bunch of lawyers. Aggregator, on the other hand, lives in the Bay Area usually. He’s really tech savvy and has several occupations, including computer scientist. He wears faded hipster jeans (sometimes with holes poked through them intentionally by the manufacturer), non-athletic sneakers with flat soles and sits happily behind an Apple computer and open source web browser. He’s rich with New Money and likes to spend it (unlike Angrily Aggregated, who is clutching for dear life onto his Old Money).
Aggregator doesn’t believe in private offices. He helps out his cousin, whose name is Happily Aggregated. Happily Aggregated lives everywhere, wears many different outfits, and likes to blog on a variety of interests. Aggregator’s financial success largely stems from organizing the immensely diverse interests of Happily Aggregated and, ironically, Angrily Aggregated as well. Aggregator’s ability to do this is why Advertiser thinks he’s a stud.
Both brothers actually have a bunch of different names, by the way. Angrily Aggregated sometimes goes by weird names that sound like a drug (like Viacom, for instance). Aggregator goes by names that sound offbeat but cool (Google, Technorati, and Digg).
Unfortunately, Angrily Aggregated and Aggregator seem intent on not getting along due to differences culturally, technologically, financially and creatively. In one case, Angrily Aggregated sues Aggregator for using its content illegally. In another case, Aggregator complains that Angrily Aggregated is meanly intimidating his cousin Happily Aggregated with a lack of fair use in its warnings. In a third case, Angrily Aggregated says Aggregator should just give him money outright.
As these battles play out, the unfortunate thing is that it hinders collaboration and information sharing – thus stifling innovation. Each brother should shoulder some of the blame. Angrily Aggregated should realize that he has made terrible business decisions, and as a result should not blame Aggregator for capitalizing on something he missed.
Aggregator, meanwhile, should learn from Angrily Aggregated’s hubris during the 20th century – the paradigm can change again quickly, for all we know. Aggregator should also appreciate his older brother because, though he is stodgy, he still produces some exceptional work that involves work like phone calls, investigating, and traveling to far off places to really understand what’s going on in the world, like wars, for instance.
If these two brothers can learn to get along, they can create things on the web that allow us to share information and become better people, employees and consumers. If they don’t, they’re both liable to get too big for their britches, and their cousin, Happily Aggregated, will walk around in a state of sheer confusion.