- Jun 2021
They are artifacts of a very particular circumstance, and it’s unlikely that in an alternate timeline they would have been designed the same way.
I've mentioned before that the era we're currently living in is incredibly different from the era of just 10–15 years ago. I've called the era of yesterdecade (where the author of this piece appeared on Colbert a ~week or so after Firefox 3 was released and implored the audience to go download it and start using it) the "Shirky era", since Shirky's Here Comes Everybody really captures the spirit of the times.
The current era of Twitter-and-GitHub has a distinct feel. At least, I can certainly feel it, as someone who's opted to remain an outsider to the T and G spheres. There's some evidence that those who haven't aren't really able to see the distinction, being too close to the problem. Young people, of course, who don't really have any memories of the era to draw upon, probably aren't able to perceive the distinction as a rule.
I've also been listening to a lot of "old" podcasts—those of the Shirky era. If ever there were a question of whether the perceived distinction is real or imagined these podcasts—particularly shows Jon Udell was involved with, which I have been enjoying immensely—eliminate any doubts about its existence. There's an identifiable feel when I go back and listen to these shows or watch technical talks from the same time period. We're definitely experiencing a lowpoint in technical visions. As I alluded to earlier, I think this has to do with a technofetishistic focus on certain development practices and software stacks that are popular right now—"the way" that you do things. Wikis have largely fallen by the wayside, bugtrackers are disused, and people are pursuing busywork on GitHub and self-promoting on social media to the detriment of the things envisioned in the Shirky era.