Dan rants: Predictions and resolutions

As is the custom, some more ignorant punditry, some of which involves complete reversals from last year's ill-fated predictions :

  1. The service portion of the economy will be stagnant, or even shrink. Last year I said that e-commerce would simply replace catalog sales. But for a service based economy to grow without inflation only a few people can benefit. Economic growth is all about leverage, "how can I make my individual efforts useful to more people?", and the fact is that an entry level job sorting merchandise in a warehouse serves more people than running a cash register.

    11 months after my requiem for the independent bookstore I still order everything I can from my local bookstore, but of the last 8 books I've wanted to order, the bookstore couldn't get any margin from the publisher for 3 of them, and couldn't find another of them in Ingram's catalog 'til I found the ISBN on Amazon. The big online bookstores had them all. And I still have to order them, rather than finding a place which actually stocks my favorites.

  2. Despite the decline of retail, people will still want a place to gather. Coffee shops, bars and clubs will see an increase in business, especially as the housing markets get tighter and people can't afford to have large gatherings at their homes. I still see cheeses as the next replacement for coffee, scotch and cigars as a fad, but no longer in terms of specialty shops the way those first three have had such an influence.

  3. Web logs and other personal publications will gain more prominence. With the decline of the service jobs we'll still be looking for that mix of personal opinion and contact. With work becoming less satisfying, people will be struggling to find ways to express themselves.

    I don't think that this will happen via aggregators like Epinions or 6 Degrees , there's not enough personal control over content, and the pay is low enough that ego will be more important recompense.

    Services like Pitas and Blogger and Edit This Page which don't attempt to strictly control the information will win that battle.

  4. This has consequences for syndication as well. An easy prediction is that some of the tools to handle keeping in touch with lots of different web sites will become extremely popular, already about half of the sites on my nibelung ring don't update terribly often, but I still want to keep in touch with them.

  5. contrary to my previous predictions, XML will flourish, for two reasons: first, the PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses) will like it for transfer of certain paid database info thinking that it fixes all their problems, causing no end of hassle to already overworked sysadmins; second, the first implementations of XSL will give designers more control over the user experience and display of the final page.

    This also bodes more divergent content description systems, as WAP and other HTML and XML variants become necessary to describe the specifics of each of their target devices.

  6. Socially, the optimist in me wants to believe that more of us will wake up to the fact that some of the social structures we have in place, such as government, exist only because we believe in them. But I'm not feeling that optimistic.

Finally, a resolution: Rather than judging new technologies and trends on their technical merits, I'm going to try to judge them on their chance of acceptance, and work within that framework. I won't always be happy about it, but I'll probably make more software that gets used.

Sunday, January 2nd, 2000 danlyke@flutterby.com