After reading Steve Gillmor’s “Office Is Still Dead” entry, I was reminded of how many times when I was in the computer trade press we came up with a compelling story about how something was dead. DOS was dead there for a while in 1995, though we later to bring it back to life. Notes has been killed and brought back enough times to warrant a special Reanimator award. About the same time I joined BYTE, they killed off Unix. Shortly thereafter, I’m sure somebody killed off NT. The pundits these days are even pronouncing death on things that are barely born: RSS, blogging, Web services, .NET, Java, Windows Vista.
I mean, is it realistic to believe that a technology in use by millions of people (whether it’s RSS or Office) can really die? Or is that simply a horribly simplistic way to express that thus-and-such is no longer “cool?” If that’s the case, why can’t we just say, “RSS isn’t cool any more,” or “Office isn’t cool any more” or “publishing isn’t cool any more.” Why can’t we say what we mean? Why shroud it in the words of extremism?
Oversimplification is not only no longer accurate, it simply makes the speaker look silly. The world is big enough for lots of ideas, interpretations, and predictions. Readers have grown wise to the “dead” ploy (though, like a frog’s leg and a 9-volt battery, you can still get a rise out of most PR departments by pronouncing their technology dead). And with all the potential for getting accurate, deep, thoughtful analysis out there, it’s time to ask again whether extremism shouldn’t be killed.
Is being dead dead?