So I had entirely no intention of blogging about the absurd event on campus today, but after getting tagged into the corporate photostream I felt inclined to make mention. (Thanks to June and Warren for propogating the myth.) I was entriely amazed at how quickly so many people posted so many pictures so fast. Almost 400 hundred pictures were posted and tagged to flickr in the hour after the occassion, and at least as many have been posted since. Forget about the government ruining your privacy – we’re doing it to ourselves. Immediately after the event I though about how though security was tight and the auditorium was well cloaked, visuals and details on the otherwise private event were about as public as once can find – the most popular flickr tag for the day is even ytomcruise thanks to the saturation of the site’s users on hand. Pictures that you might be hard pressed to catch at a regular press event, such as close up of Katie’s ring or a hollywood kiss are easy pickings amidst a sea of trigger-happy well-connected cameraphone owners.
All that said, it seems ironic that the same photo that captures me at the event also documents a conversation that Mike and Naveen started by questioning the effectiveness of photos to prove one’s attendance to some momentous ocassion or amidst fame. At first it seems a digital photo really means very little in this day and age where bytes are easily modified to suit personal pleasure and there’s no original celluloid to help tie the owner to the print. Naveen suggested that perhaps video was the answer to that age-old authenticity; however, a community documenting relationships of this visual data appears to do more than any one photographer could to prove his association to his location or subject (in this case, Tom). In fact, it is not even important that the photographer actually took the photograph, but that someone took a photograph of the subject, a picture was taken of the person wishing to be associated with the subject, and that those two pictures are related together in time and location in a meaningful and credible way. In this case, I had rather not cared to be linked to today’s event in the short time I was there, but any photo of Tom on stage plus a candid and tagged photo of me is enough to have me incriminated in the court of unproductiveness for the morning. Also, pictures like this one don’t help.
Tom Cruise came to campus as a part of our Influentials speaker series, though while I’m sure many people have had their lives deeply affected by Mr. Cruise, the other Toms who have visited have left more lasting impressions. However, irony rears its head again this evening to suggest that while Yahoos are looking to Hollywood for influence, our ever proximate neighbors continue to be influenced by us. With Google Finance in place, it is hard to take the mutterances of “It’s not a Pohr-tal!” seriously anymore. Regardless, once weather.google.com launches, the transition will be final. Done, and done.
With every new “don’t leave our domain” product Google launches into the marketplace, the community, understandably, responds with less and less enthusiasm. I have to think it was like this for Yahoo! in the early days as well. The directory blew their minds. Finance was really really cool. Mail allowed some people to use a completely new service that was previously inacessible to them. Groups got everyone asking “Do you Yahoo?” Yahoo! Pets were kinda fun. Auctions were, hmm, done already. Bookmarks were… wait, is that still a property? Likewise, every new feature Google introduces further dilutes their identity to the rest of the Internet. In the beginning, everything they touched was gold because of the strong reputation built on their search services and it was novel to see their strengths applied to new problems like email and printed materials. Many at Yahoo! were pressed to imitate and incorpate their innovations, or at least felt guilty for the appearance of imitating, but in the process a lot of sleepy people woke up and a lot of talented people got the opportunity to do something new. Stepping back, the unfinished portait suggests that all along they are really imitating us. Certainly, some of the details in their execution are cooler, but at some point users will stop asking “what has Google done today?” and “hey why doesn’t this Google thing do what the other portals do?” (In which case Microsoft will respond, “Look over here! Where do you want to go today?”) In the end, the flattery turns cyclic. Since we’ve already identified ourselves with users (for better or for worse) as “the site that does everything,” we can collect cool points for integrating the good ideas and making the most interesting stuff really clever. And for that, it is good to know that in lesser known parts of the blogosphere, not every part of the company is drooling at Hollywood.