Mink Machine

Celebrities of the web

What is it that make someone famous in the computer world? I don’t speak about “famous” as in Bill Gates or Steve Jobs here, but rather normal people who for one reason or another gets recognition for their work.

To be recognized in the developer community twenty years ago meant a lot of hard work. It was often centered around measurable productivity, such as “the father of C++” or “author of 12 books on [insert your favorite TLA here]”. Unfortunately, it often concerned advanced scientific topics bordering dangerously close to the obscure, which made sure that it very rarely became mainstream.

I once met professor Ken Musgrave in an elevator in New Orleans and had the privilege of exchanging a few words with him. Today I realize that very few people know who he is, and back then almost as few.

Today, things are different. Being an influential person can be a combination of raw talent, positive energy, social skills and mere coincidence. More often than not, it tend to focus on cool young designers rather than boring old scientists. Perhaps it’s a natural consequence of the way we are heading, the computer world in general and the web in particular. Remember, there was no web as we know it fifteen years ago.

For instance, judging by the reports coming from the recently held SXSW 2007, it seems to have been good content and great socializing. Nothing wrong with that, as long as that is what you are looking for. But developers in search of advanced topics may be disappointed when many of the sessions consists of internal jokes and name-dropping on a first name basis.

The blogging community has produced its own superstars during the last few years and mingling with talented people is always a blast, regardless of what timezone you originate from. There was even a VIP room for “A-list bloggers”, which seems like a rather odd idea for a convention like that.

Robert Scoble is one of the most well-known bloggers. I bet most people who know his name don’t have a clue about what exactly he is doing, but they are reading his blog anyway to surf the avalanche of news coming from his virtual pen. I recently read a post by Robert where he told his followers on Twitter to call him while he was driving home, and he received about 20 calls during an hour. Get this: He has so many followers on a quite new social site that they within a few minutes practically line up to give him a call and provide him with the latest new technologies and trends. Fascinating.

Welcome to the brand new world. Please fasten your seatbelt, because we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Frankly, what’s happening in the world right now is quite amazing.


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