Running Silent

It's not easy to keep radio silence. Not in a week like this last one, where Oracle swallowed Siebel Skype swallowed eBay Microsoft swallowed RSS Salesforce swallowed Google Sun swallowed its message As Dan Farber puts it on this week's Gillmor Gang, that's an exaggeration.

It's not easy to keep radio silence. Not in a week like this last one, where

  • Oracle swallowed Siebel
  • Skype swallowed eBay
  • Microsoft swallowed RSS
  • Salesforce swallowed Google
  • Sun swallowed its message
    danfadamb.jpg

As Dan Farber puts it on this week's Gillmor Gang, that's an exaggeration. Well, Microsoft tried to swallow RSS, but they may end up choking on it. The plain cold truth is that everyone, as Jon Udell said about Microsoft, is on their game these days, protecting their flanks, charging back up the middle, and consolidating ground gained in this fundamental reboot of the converged technology landscape.

Everyone includes the entire once-virtuous circle of vendors, press, and analysts. The Syndisphere has gobbled up these constituencies--and in the case of the vendors, their sub-constituencies of engineering, marketing, PR, and management--and spit them back out in small component-sized bits of XML known as RSS and enclosures. The media folks are taking the underground shuttle back and forth between mainstream media and Yahoo!, Google, MSN/AOL, and Barry Dillerville. The analysts are trying to figure out how to stay quoted while becoming the quoters. Me, I shut up.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to say anything, just get paid for keeping quiet. As those of you who have applied to, and been accepted as members of the Attention Trust know, you can both pay attention and be paid for it. That is the notion of the Attention Economy, which takes off from the fact that we own our own gestures of intention to derive equity from where our feet and feeds carry us. If folksonomies can take root in del.icio.us, and picsonomies in Flikr, then as Professor Irwin Corey first said and Buckaroo Banzai reiterated, wherever you go, there you are. But equally if not more importantly, wherever you don't go, there you also are.

The economy of silence is the art perfected by Johnny Carson and currently employed to great effect by Craig Ferguson at 12:30 on CBS after Letterman. Carson's feigned look of disgust with the audience was the trigger for the real humor, the shared notion that we're all just looking for a cheap laugh. Ferguson, night after night, cracks his obscenely salacious bullwhip sound effect, says nice things about his ex-wife with a sotto voce for legal reasons, and punctuates random denials of evil thoughts with a quick counter-shake of his head. Imagine Eric Schmidt saying Google won't answer any more questions from CNET for a year, and then quickly saying just kidding with a shake of his head. I guess you'll have to imagine it.

Even George Bush seems to have found his match with the Silence Economy. Millions of Americans voted with their dismay, unsubscribing from the Feed that told them what a good job was being done. Millions of gestures of inattention were heard throughout the land. The silence was deafening. The children were seen but not heard. Insert and flip your own stock phrase here. Or a favorite song: I've got no expectations.

Me, I'm looking to my peers for gestures of attention: to Dave Winer, who bravely endures the sacrifice of the prophet; to Adam Curry, who camps out 10,000 light years from home to help fashion a new industry; to Jon Udell, who shows why teachers are the salt of the earth; and to a thousand other heroes who move in and out of our lives in the blogosphere with grace and, sometimes, bless them, a little silence.


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