I’ve started to have trouble tracking down my various, scattered writings and interviews on the Net myself, so I decided to create a page where I could find my own words when I wanted to refer to them. I figured some other people might want to look at this archive as well. If you’re interested in even more than you find here, check out my official bio and my short official bio.
Tim’s Blog Posts
Go here to find all of Tim’s most recent writing.
Tim O’Reilly interviewed by Forbes Editor Jon Bruner — April 2012. Forbes editor Jon Bruner interviewed me at #whereconf. We talked about location services, how data is the new source of lock-in and competitive advantage, and how sensors are transforming not only the location landscape but the entire way that data is disappearing into services.
Measuring the Economic Impact of the Sharing Economy — March 2012. While at our Strata Conference, I stopped by +John Furrier’s Cube for an interview. We talked about a lot of things, but this is probably the first public airing of some ideas I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, namely how we can best measure the economic impact of what Lisa Gansky calls the sharing economy.
I start with a paper I read in the 70s, Steve Baer’s “Clothesline Paradox,” which pointed out that when people hang their clothes on the line rather than putting them in the dryer, that reduction in demand doesn’t go on our energy books as a credit to the renewables column, it just disappears from our accounting.
The same is true of open source software, or, for that matter, of most of the products of what +Clay Shirky calls “cognitive surplus.”
This discussion is important in many contexts. For example, when talking about SOPA/PIPA, the movie industry talked about economic impact while the internet industry talked about freedom. Yet it’s quite clear to me that there is a new economy of content that is quite possibly larger than the old one, but just not as well measured, because we measure value captured, not value created for users.
In other fields, we celebrate lower prices for consumers and expansion of demand, but here, paradoxically, we are ignoring it, as well as ignoring the many real economic transactions that do occur. I intend to pull together some people to change that.
Tim O’Reilly speaks at the USRio+2.0 Conference — February 2012. Here’s the video of my talk at Stanford a couple of weeks ago for the #USRio20 conference on sustainable development. I was trying to frame lessons from technology, including the notions of collective intelligence, man-machine symbiosis, real time feedback loops from sensors, to provide a context for understanding the role of tools like FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, Crowdflower, Samasource and the like in their work. (I also give a shout out to Dave Warner’s Beer for Data program in Afghanistan, and Claire Lockhart’s Fixing Failed States.)
As I’ve been doing a lot lately, I took off from Google’s autonomous vehicle, because it brings together so many key themes in the technologies that are shaping the future, and by unpacking the technology behind this vehicle, you get deeper insight into where technology is taking us, and the fusion of machine learning and collective intelligence that is powering that future.
Tim O’Reilly Discusses Collective Intelligence — November 2011. I really like how this interview I did at the FutureMed conference turned out. It’s a short, sweet synthesis of how I think some of the key trends from the consumer internet are going to have an impact on healthcare.
Tim O’Reilly – Keynote for 2011 NDIIPP/NDSA Partners Meeting — November 2011. At this meeting, I try to illustrate, using personal examples, several key issues that need to be addressed by those involved in digital preservation. Freeman Dyson once said to me, “Forgetting is so important: it makes room for new things!” This is what we should keep in mind even while we address the importance of preserving what is important.
In O’Reilly’s history, there have been examples of failure of preservation. The first: we have no copies of the first commercial website that appeared on the web. So the first point is: The things that turn out to be historic are not recognized necessarily as being historic at the time. The mindset has to be there or should have been there in our own company.
The second example is also of failure in preservation. The first Open Source summit was an important event. We did know it, we tried to preserve the documents and the links, but the links in a few years were gone. So the second point here is that we have not built the tools necessary to increase the possibility of preserving what is important.
The third point is that digital preservation might not be enough in every case. Recently traveling over the Sierra Madres, I found myself in need of a printed map. The screen on my phone did not give me enough “real estate” to reveal an alternative route to the closed mountain pass at which I had arrived, and my Google maps app crashed. There were no printed maps at the gas station!
Preservation should be baked into the tools that we use. I would love to see an initiative that would address what the web’s memory ought to look like. I would like also for you to think of yourselves as people engaged in a task that is important to everyone and not just people in a scholarly niche.
In the question and answer session, a questioner made a tweetable comment: “In the end, all data preservation is about physical preservation,” whether it is on a hard drive or an optical disk, it’s physically somewhere.
Channel 9 Interview — September 2011. A spot I did for Channel 9 on innovation and what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.
If you look at the really great revolutions in technology, they were begun by people who were a little out of step with their peers. These people were doing things that were just so cool, they couldn’t not do them.
You have to care. A really great company only comes when the founders care about what they are trying to accomplish.
On Steve Jobs’ departure — August, 2011. In this interview, I was asked about Steve Job’s resignation as CEO of Apple for health reasons, and what that might mean for the future of Apple, given its decline when he was fired by John Sculley. I explained that unlike his earlier departure, this is Steve Jobs leaving at the top of his game with everyone in the industry trying to copy him. That leaves Apple in a very strong position. The design team at Apple will likely continue to produce innovation as they remain inspired by the vision and the standards set by Steve’s proven genius. Obviously, given the continued success of Apple after Steve’s death, that has turned out to be the case.
Global Philanthropy Forum 2011: Rapid Fire Talks – Speed Bumps and Bottlenecks — July 2011. This session addresses some of the issues confronting those seeking social change. My remarks begin at the 50 minute mark:
After describing the growth of the computer industry and the global internet operating system, I point to the fact that the subsystems involved have tended to be monopolized.
“We started with something that looked like it was allowing everyone to participate, yet technology is taking us in a direction where power is concentrated in the hands of a very few.”
“The world we are heading into has great capabilities for good and for harm. So my message is: Take technology seriously. It is becoming ubiquitous and inescapable. Try to understand how to make it your friend. Reach out to technologists in your midst. Get them to work with you. Understand how they can help you.”
Open Source and the Architecture of Participation — July 2011. In this interview, Chris Anderson, editor Wired magazine, Yves Behar, designer and founder of fuseproject, and I discuss open source, the maker movement, innovations in energy and health care, and sustainable design.
I make the point that systems need to have an architecture that allows people to participate which then enables people to create. The internet itself is an example. Innovations happen when people are doing what they love, when they are exploring a new medium. Motivation is another important factor. “We need to recognize how much participation is actually driven by a desire to learn. There is a hunger in people to create and not just to consume.” When asked about interesting trends in the maker movement, I pointed to the growing human-computer symbiosis driven by our devices which are constantly adding data to the “global brain in the cloud”. In energy and healthcare innovations, the effectiveness of feedback loops for changing behaviors was also discussed.
Piracy, Tinkering, and the Future of the Book — March 2011. Jon Bruner had some interesting questions to ask in this March 14 Forbes interview. Sharing my thoughts with him on various issues… I don’t believe that the print book will go away for some time, that publishing is not dead but may need to reinvent itself, that market pricing for e-books is yet to be determined, and that piracy matters but only up to a point.
“I think having faith in that basic logic of the market is important… You’ve probably seen my paper from 2002 called “Piracy is Progressive Taxation.” I think that’s a really good metaphor. If you are extremely well known and have a very desirable product, then yes, you probably do suffer a bit from piracy, in the same way that if you make a lot of money you pay more in taxes than if you don’t make any money. But we generally accept that tradeoff because you know we use the money from the people who make a lot of money to help the people who don’t.”
When asked about the high end tech competition presented by sites like Stack Overflow, I pointed to the reality that, as much as I admire what they have done, there is room for lots of types of businesses.
“At O’Reilly the way we think about our business is that we’re not a publisher; we’re not a conference producer; we’re a company that helps change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. So we started a venture firm, for example. And because we don’t think of books as our business but knowledge transfer as our business—and in particular knowledge transfer from areas that are unrecognized—we’re out there evangelizing some piece of the future. That means we’re somewhat less interested in stuff that’s well known, so that tends to take us away from the competition.”
The Power of Platforms from Web 2.0 to Gov 2.0 — March 2011. I spoke at the ESRI conference in March and touched on some of the key ideas that have been my focus for the last few years: the internet as operating system and government as platform.
Not only is data transforming the new applications that are emerging in the tech world, but data is now being collected by sensors. All these changes are making possible really important work, from using mapping data in rescue work after earthquakes to viral forecasting. “We are in a period where we are transforming society through technology. It is really important to get it right. How can we build applications and systems that really help society?”
The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Tim O’Reilly: Government 2.0 — June 2011. Steve Paiken asked me a series of questions here that ended up in a discussion of a topic that I have been focused on for some time. That is, what can government learn from the internet? The example of the iPhone becoming a platform is a wonderful metaphor for how government should act—and does act—when it is at its best. “If you consider, for example, the decision to open up of government collected gps data to the private sector, you realize that we wouldn’t have the amazing number of location applications that we now enjoy.”
The last point I make is that government has always been a mechanism for collective action. What is so powerful today is that even though the scale of problems we have is vast, technology can enable new kinds of collective action to meet them.
Tech Cocktail Delivering Happiness at SXSW — March 2011. After a quick review of O’Reilly Media’s history, I touch on a topic that I have recently become more involved in—I think there is a revolution brewing in health care. We are going to start having feedback on what works and what doesn’t. We can apply technology to fix the lack of accountability and other important issues. I think a lot about how our entire society is in a bubble, not just a tech bubble… there are some really important issues that may have a dark future. “This is another reason to work on what matters. I love to have people take seriously that we need to make a better world.”
Happy Accidents — March 2011. Paul Hontz from startupfoundry.com began his interview with the question, “What is up with the animals?” that populate the covers of our books. The answer is, of course, that it was one of many happy accidents that brought O’Reilly to its place in the market today.
Interview with Bruno Aziza at Microsoft Business Intelligence — February, 2011. “Data is the heart of competitive advantage,” is the point I make in this interview with Bruno Aziza. In fact, data driven operating systems are the heart of Web 2.0; they are the reality of the internet. Massive amounts of data are being used to deliver right here right now applications, that deliver a point service to people. However, there is missing expertise in the area of “mashups”, delivering data from multiple sources to the end user, but I make the point that we need to recognize that somebody else’s data may be able to fill the hole in your own data. A great example came up in a Community Health Service meeting—I suggested using tobacco taxes to determine smoking rates on a county by county basis, rather than worrying about a potential $30 million survey.
MIX Maverick — December 2010. Gary Hamel, a professor at London Business School, interviewed me for The Mix, an open innovation project aimed at reinventing management.
Part II. Designing the Edge-in Organization
Health 2.0 2010 — December 2010. In my keynote at this year’s Health 2.0 conference, I spoke about how Web 2.0 technologies are changing the healthcare industry and what the major healthcare providers can learn from the dominant web players like Google and Amazon.
The Battle for the Internet Economy — October 2010. In this webcast with John Batelle, founder and CEO of Federated Media Publishing, we introduce the Web2.0 Summit schedule with a discussion about the topic driving the conference this year: the points of control and the future of the internet economy. We talk about the players and the big questions facing us in the most exciting transitional times since the dot com bust. “There are some really powerful strategies in play that are going to affect every developer, every entrepreneur, and you need to figure out whose strategies are going to hurt or help you and who you can ally yourself with in order to achieve your goals.”
DC Law.Gov Workshop sponsored by the Center for American Progress — July 2010. A short, extemporaneous talk I gave at Carl Malamud’s Law.Gov workshop held at the Center for American Progress on June 15, 2010. I talk about what government can learn from computer platforms, how law is like the specification for a program, how debugging is the art of finding out what you really told your program to do rather than what you thought it would do, and how we need a similar practice to debug our laws. We must understand their effects, not just our intentions. One great aid to that is the work that Carl is doing to make the full text of all laws available to scholars, to students, and to the public. Much as open source software provides a great opportunity to learn how software works by studying the source code, how can we have a working democracy in which citizens can’t even see the rules of the programs that guide our government.
By the way, that’s Vint Cerf saying “Wow, that’s a headful of thought.” at the end.
CBS interview with Shira Lazar — July 2010. In this CBS interview with Shira Lazar, I talk about how government can be a vehicle for innovation. By making data available and sharing applications among cities, there are some great possibilities emerging. “There are opportunities for cities to actually work together.”
Portland Oregon CivicApps Awards Ceremony — July 2010. In this short video clip (I appear twice: briefly at the beginning and then closer to the end), I make the connection between Open Source, Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0.
C-Span at Gov 2.0 Expo — July 2010. In this interview with C-Span at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo I explain in depth what I mean by the term Gov 2.0 and offer insights into how some of the applications could affect health care in particular.
Live Video Chat with Inc. Magazine Readers — May 2010. This webcast covered many of the same issues as the Inc. Magazine profile, but also topical issues such as Facebook privacy. Inc. did something very clever, breaking the hour-long video into short, topical chunks. Here’s one of them, in which I comment on the idea of work-life balance and the pursuit of profits vs. the pursuit of passion and meaning. I said “They don’t need to be balanced, they need to be integrated."
The other short segments include:
- Monetizing Gov 2.0
- Starting O’Reilly Media
- The Most Important Traits for an Entrepreneur
- DRM in Books
- Professional Societies are Outdated
- Advice for Start-Ups
- Web Meets World
- Reinventing Higher Education
- Semantic Web vs. Web 2.0
- Facebook, Big Business and Your Privacy
- iPad Opportunity
- 100% Organic Business
- The Future of Publishing
- Trendspotting in Entrepreneurship
- Earning Trust in Gov 2.0
- The Imbalance of Women in Tech
- What to Offer Start-Up Partners
The Oracle of Silicon Valley — May 2010. In his cover story for Inc. magazine, senior writer Max Chafkin profiles O’Reilly Media’s history and touches on my efforts to encourage transparency and interactivity in government.
The (Tim) O’Reilly Factor — May 2010. Publishers’ Weekly interviewed me recently about the Tools of Change (ToC) conference in New York in February, 2010. This interview covers my views of the publishing industry, particularly ebooks, the devices, and the big three competing in this arena: Google, Apple, and Amazon.
“When you have a new market, it takes a while for the economic engines of it to become clear… But we already have a real economy of ebooks. Are there tradeoffs? Yes. There is some piracy, of course. But I look also at the opportunities. More than 60% of our e-book sales come from countries where we have no physical book distribution, so we have this huge expansion of our market as a result of e-books.”
“That’s part of our vision with ToC, to get publishers together to share what works. That’s why we spend a lot of time evangelizing the idea that it’s important for publishers to share data, to tell their stories, talk about innovations that work, and to be challenged.”
In a more direct way, my presentation at the ToC conference itself covers the challenges of publishers in the digital era. What do publishers need to be really good at?
“I’m not saying not to be creative and innovative, but a lot of what you do (for authors) is the boring stuff. You need to be really good at production, distribution, pricing, channel management, marketing, and sales.” This is one of the reasons I give for why I think that there will always be publishers.
Geek Power: Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists — April 2010. Steven Levy’s review of hacker culture, on the occasion of the 25th re-release of his seminal book Hackers. Steven kindly includes me among the luminaries he discusses (even though I wasn’t in the original book).
MySQL Conference 2010: Keynote Address: The Internet of Things — April 2010. The future of data and open source: Where is it taking us in the age of the cloud? “The future is inconceivable and we need to get our brains around that future… we haven’t seen far enough into the future. At O’Reilly we try to find the people who are living in the future already.”
“The data itself is becoming the source of building new applications… (The future is) real time cloud based intelligence delivered to mobile apps. Build for the data based world that you can see coming.”
The following two posts are the ones I mention in the address above.
The State of the Internet Operating System — March 2010. Ask yourself for a moment, what is the operating system of a Google or Bing search? What is the operating system of a mobile phone call? What is the operating system of maps and directions on your phone? What is the operating system of a tweet? I’ve been talking for years about “the internet operating system”, but I realized I’ve never written an extended post to define what I think it is, where it is going, and the choices we face. This is that missing post.
State of the Internet Operating System Part Two: Handicapping the Internet Platform Wars — April 2010. As I wrote last month, it is becoming increasingly clear that the internet is becoming not just a platform, but an operating system. The question is whether a single company will put together a single, vertically-integrated platform that is sufficiently compelling to developers to enable the kind of lock-in we saw during the personal computer era, or whether, Internet-style, we will instead see services from multiple providers horizontally integrated via open standards.
Location Debate at Where 2.0 2010 — Mike Arrington and I chat, and though the location debate never occurs, we cover some interesting topics.
“We both agree that competition is good for people… (But) If you go head on at a very strong opponent you are going to lose… attack where you can be strong.” Mike, as a reporter, however, likes to watch the giants going at each other.
Chris Vein and Tim O’Reilly on City Data — March 2010. Chris Vein discusses with me how releasing data to the public has generated new applications. The city of San Francisco hopes to see this kind of synergy in six key areas: Transportation, Crime, Public Safety, Commerce, Health, and Recreation & Parks.
“There is an incredible rich store of data that we have never looked at before… we are releasing that data to the public. From that release, we have seen about 30 applications… that we don’t have the money to develop.”
Six Years in the Valley — March 2010. This interview with the Economist at their Innovation event in Berkeley, March 2010, covers the origins of the Web 2.0 Conference, the rise of advertising as a business model, and the core lesson of Web 2.0: that users add value. I talk about lessons from Google, the idea of applications that get better the more people use them, and what that means for the future of the web.
A particularly interesting moment came when the Economist asked me why there were so few big Web 2.0 successes. “It’s too early to tell… Roll back the clock to the 80s, when there were hundreds if not thousands of personal computer software companies. And most of them failed. Would you say that there was a paradox in the software industry business model because most companies were not able to actually become successful?”
The Future of Face Recognition — March 2010. Moritz Metz interviews me about Google Goggles, Face recognition, the future of AR and post privacy.
“I think a lot of this (face recognition) is going to become commonplace… Social apps is a huge repository of data collected online. We are going to find new uses for it… and we’ll get used to it.”
Open Source: Education as a Platform — January 2010. I discuss the University as an open source platform: What are the possibilities? “When choice is brought to the marketplace, exciting things can happen.”
Cloud computing Explained: An interview with Tim O’Reilly — January 2010. I explain cloud computing and it’s interconnection with mobile computing, and how this ultimately connects to government data and crucial policy decisions that enable the future.
“There are a lot of unchartered waters where everything is accessible to everyone. But I think that there are more benefits than risks.”
C-Span at Gov 2.0 Summit — November 2009. I was interviewed by C-Span at our Gov 2.0 Summit. I appear at the beginning of this video, followed by Jack Dempsey, co founder of Twitter, and others. I explain what Gov 2.0 is all about: how thinking as a platform provider can bring services to citizens using government data and the creative power of the private sector.
TechCrunch50 Interview — September 2009. I was interviewed after the morning’s panel discussion and was asked why I was critical of some companies and what I liked about others.
“I like the companies that are looking toward where technology is going. They are pursuing a future that will help us build better tools. Even if they fail, the interesting startups still leave the soil richer.”
FORA.tv Interview — April 2009. In this interview by Blaise Zerega, president and CEO of FORA.tv, we talk about the origins of the term and the meaning of Web 2.0; the development of the internet as a platform; what amazon and google got right; how twitter has added real time to the internet; why I think RFID is an evolutionary deadened; what publishers can learn from software developers; why I did not take venture capital even early on in the life of my company; and my view of collective consciousness as part of human evolution. “Although there is much about human beings that is the same, there are significant changes occurring as we respond to increasingly global and automatic connections that are a direct result of technology.”
Interview with IBM’s developerworks — October 2008. I tell the O’Reilly Media story: its focus on innovators in the field, growth, goals for the future.
“First of all, our basic methodology, as we’ve developed it over the years sort of through trial and error, is that we find interesting people who are innovating from the edge. And then we just watch and see what they do. So, for example, we have an event called foo camp… we invite these guys together with no program, and on the Friday night, they introduce themselves and then there’s a bunch of big whiteboards with space for talks, and they put up the talks that they want to give. And we watch that and we say, ‘Wow—what are they wanting to talk about?’”
Archive of Interviews/Articles
Organized in reverse chronological order within each subject, with a brief extract from each piece so you can get the flavor without actually following each link.
- O’Reilly History, Business Model, and Values
- Editorial Philosophy
- Software and Business Method Patents
- Web 2.0 and the Internet Operating System
- Government 2.0
- Open Source Software
- Publishing Industry, EBooks, or the Practice of Publishing
- Reviews: Books that Have Shaped My Thinking
- Science Fiction
- Travel Writing
This is the list I came up with when asked by Computerworld for my favorite posts.
Why I support Barack Obama (Oct 2008)
My endorsement of Barack Obama
“I want to be clear that this is my personal endorsement, and not an endorsement by O’Reilly Media. I’d like O’Reilly to be a company where people of all political persuasions are welcomed and supported, and feel free to express their personal opinions, as I have here.”
Pascal’s Wager and Climate Change (Jan 2009)
This may be one of the most important pieces I’ve written.
“In my talks I’ve argued that climate change provides us with a modern version of Pascal’s wager… We don’t need to be 100% sure that the worst fears of climate scientists are correct in order to act. All we need to think about are the consequences of being wrong.”
The Change We Need: DIY on a Civic Scale (Apr 2009)
This is the piece where I first articulated some of the key themes of “government as a platform”—which I later fleshed out in Government as a Platform.
Why I love Twitter (Nov 2008)
“I soon realized that Twitter has grown up to become a critical business tool, ideal for following the latest news, tracking the ideas and whereabouts of people who will shape the future of technology, and sharing my own thoughts and attention stream.”
Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again (Dec 2006)
A nod to one of my big influences on the industry, since What is Web 2.0 wasn’t a blog post.
Some pieces on Web 2.0 and the enterprise
What would Google do? (May 2007)
(A piece I wrote a year and a half before Jeff Jarvis wrote the book of the same name.)
“I’m interested in comparing the way these companies [phone companies, credit card companies, banks and insurance companies] act with regard to the data they collect to the way Google (or Amazon, or any other Web 2.0 giant) acts with the data it collects… Google or Amazon mines its database in real time and builds the results right into its customer-facing applications.”
Why Dell.com (was) More Enterprise 2.0 Than Dell IdeaStorm (Sep 2008)
“Web 2.0 is ultimately about understanding the rules of business in the network era. I define Web 2.0 as the design of systems that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, or more colloquially, as ‘harnessing collective intelligence.’ This includes explicit network-enabled collaboration, to be sure, but it should encompass every way that people connected to a network create synergistic effects.”
Google, WalMart, and MyBarackObama.com: The Power of the Real Time Enterprise (Dec 2008)
“What do Google, WalMart, and MyBarackObama.com have in common, besides their extraordinary success? They are organizations that are infused with IT in such a way that it leads to a qualitative change in their entire business… [The] general trend is clear here: competitive advantage comes from capturing data more quickly, and building systems to respond automatically to that data.”
My Tongue-Lashing from Eben Moglen (Aug 2007)
“I do believe that the issues that I invited Eben to talk about are among the most urgent facing free software advocates today,[and I have been asking the industry to engage in a conversation about these issues since 1997, when I gave my first public talk on open source.] so it was disappointing to me to have my position that Web 2.0 provides some fundamental challenges to free software characterized by Eben only as self-promotional hype, and Google and other centralized data services dismissed as ‘thermal noise’ in the long term trend of the computer industry towards decentralization and freedom.”
Why I love hackers (May 2008), video clip
“(Why) I love hackers, the edges they explore, and why hackers and alpha geeks, not entrepreneurs, are the first step in technology innovation.”
Piracy is Progressive Taxation , and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution (Dec 2002)
I enumerate 7 lessons that have emerged in O’Reilly’s experience with online distribution and explain the final conclusion:
“And that’s the ultimate lesson. ‘Give the wookie what he wants!’ as Han Solo said so memorably in the first Star Wars movie. Give it to him in as many ways as you can find, at a fair price, and let him choose which works best for him.”
The Open Source Paradigm Shift (June 2004)
“Paradigm shifts occur from time to time in business as well as in science. And as with scientific revolutions, they are often hard fought, and the ideas underlying them not widely accepted until long after they were first introduced. What’s more, they often have implications that go far beyond the insights of their creator.”
“I find it useful to see open source as an expression of three deep, long-term trends:
- The commoditization of software
- Network-enabled collaboration
- Software customizability (software as a service)”
What is Web 2.0? (Sept 2005)
“Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core. You can visualize Web 2.0 as a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core.”
The Publishing Point Interviews
In this series of videos, Michael Healy interviews me at The Publishing Point in New York, September 29, 2010.
Part 1: My original business model for my company was a one liner: “interesting work for interesting people”. At some point I realized that what we were really doing was changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. That became then our mission. So publishers need to think about what job they do in the world.
Part 2: What is necessary for a publisher is to answer the question: what do you really do? It’s not just about putting words on paper and binding them. Some outgrowths of publishing are natural, like seminars if you are a business book publisher. An important motto for us at O’Reilly is “create more value than you capture.”
Part 3: What are the hard things that publishers do? It’s not about picking out what’s best or who is the best author. Publishers haven’t always done that well! At O’Reilly we just try to focus on what matters, on what people need to know about. The real questions are more about reaching the consumer—how to do that, in fact—and what is the right “form” that is going to get people excited.
Part 4: Why do people read? Is it to pass the time, to escape, to become informed, to change one’s viewpoint? How a publisher answers these question may determine what will get published. On the practical side, one of the more important and urgent questions is what is the right price to sell the greatest number of books, particularly e-books.
Part 5: More on e-books and the future: It’s more important to care about something other than the preservation of one’s company. The people who are lit up by the future are going to be pursuing that future. There could be some really interesting innovations around book clubs or social reading. One of the big challenges or risks for a new company is to be willing to take things that others might throw away.
Part 6: What is quality? This is a hard question to answer in the industry. The role of libraries is discussed in response to a question from the audience as well as what a library might look like in the future. The most compelling thing I find in a print book is when it is beautiful.
Part 7: We should be trying hard to grow the digital aspect of publishing and looking for new business models to do that. The good news is that this electronic ecology is going to get better.