” What could you create for the Web if you only had 10 kilobytes of code? It’s time to exercise your minimalist creativity and get back to basics – back to optimizing every little byte like your life depended on it .”
That’s the challenging invitation to Mix09′s 10K Smart Coding challenge . And though I posited in my previous post that the immediate future of the Web will be characterized by the “- ating ” suffix (“aggreg ating “, “integr ating “) it might already be time for me to expand the list of suffixes that will characterize the emerging Web: it’s clear there will be a place for “-ity”: Agil ity, commun ity.
The 10k Smart Coding challenge represents a full embrace of the ideas that “simple wins” and that a community, even when only loosely and temporarily organized, can create real value. Developers at Mix09 are challenged to produce useful Web applications that can not exceed an uncompiled size of 10 kilobytes. When complete, the applications are posted to a gallery where the community can review the ideas, rate them and determine a Community Choice winner.
With open source increasingly the norm and developers crowding under the hoods of platforms everywhere to grab their favorite part of the engines for their own use, expect the future to be characterized by the ad hoc. Loosely affiliated groups will engage in quick, targeted cycles focused on reshaping one piece of the ecosystem to address a singular goal. With the goal met, the group will dissolve until the next goal is articulated, at which time a new group, different from the previous group, will emerge. That is, if the individuals of the community are given the platform of tools and the freedom to organize as they need to in pursuit of the goal.
But here’s the caveat: when change becomes easier, strategy becomes more critical. The strategic goal is the litmus test that tells you if a new app is cool because it moves the organization closer to its goal, or if it’s only cool for its own sake.
As Clay Shirky points out in his must-read book Here Comes Everybody — the Power of Organizing Without Organizations, social computing tools dramatically reduce the costs of organizing groups and the result is that groups form where they might not have if blocked by high managerial costs. And when groups form where before they wouldn’t have, ideas come to light that before would have remained unarticulated, unheard, undeveloped.
The applications posted at the Mix09 gallery are, for the most part, amusing concept pieces that will not, as produced, be implemented in any organization. But they’re great test pieces, they show principles in action, and anyone browsing can’t help but start to think of practical applications for the principles given whimsical light at Mix09. Through the socially organized gallery, the ideas displayed foster other ideas that would not have happened if the Mix09 developers hadn’t been given the social platform to communicate their ideas in the first place. I played with the Moustachr app that let me paste different configurations of facial hair onto Bill Gates’ cherubic face. I doubt that app will find wide adoption, but it got me thinking that if the idea was applied to an interior designers Web site as an application that let me quickly add different features to pictures of my own home’s interior…well, now we’re on to something.