Ecosystems and Small Economies

This tweet got me thinking about how I use different web services and how fundamentally the value I derive from my consumption online is now dependent upon different stuff that talks to each other. Ecosystems.

Tom refers to Instapaper in his tweet but I think this tool is illustrative of a broader move toward web services that create value from an ecosystem.

Instapaper relies on:

  • our desire to defer reading to a time when we’re not as connected, not as distracted.
  • easily ‘bookmarking’ stuff we we come across

Without being plugged in to the stuff we read, where we read it, and also spitting out the stuff into the spaces where we want to read it it wouldn’t work.  This is not a destination service so much as a distributed service, which exists in different states in lots of places such as on my mobile as Insta Fetch, an app made by a third party.

The only way to achieve this sort of distributed service is to have it as an API, a coral reef that people can build on and that is trusted and used because of it’s underlying functionality, in this case taking URLs and making the text readable offline on a platform of your choice.  Your platform is the web (or the internet in many cases).

This gets interesting as it starts to allow micro-economies to develop around experiences. For example I have set up my Pinboard account (a barely social bookmarking service) to save as “Read Later” any URLs in the tweets that I favourite.  I tend the use the twitter ‘favourite’ functionality as a means to bookmark because it’s easier than resolving the URL to save in my time when I’m out and only have 3G connectivity. The pinboard read later items are then polled by Instapaper.

And every week I print out 24, 000 of those URL words to read over the weekend.  I get my own personal newspaper every week.

This ecosystem creates value.  And what would extend this ecosystem and this move to a paper, that has a bit more attention longevity than a screen, is if this newspaper could itself be a URL (or have a URI) which I could share (instapaper doesn’t provide the printout as a defined URL).  Stickybits allocates barcodes to things and so rather than the URL for the newspaper I could use stickybits barcode.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but then I have a means to share my newspaper, or even create a newspaper of shared favourites from my peers where any comments can be aggregated. This is essence is the automated newspaper for friends that I’d like to see Newspaperclub facilitate.

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