Last week TED announced their much-anticipated “City 2.0” project, the recipient of the 2012 TED Prize. City 2.0, The Atlantic states, is “a kind of global Wikipedia connecting citizens, political leaders, urban experts, companies, and organizations, with the goal of improving the 21st century city using up-to-the-minute crowdsourcing techniques.”
Sounds pretty cool!
But wait – isn’t there already something out there that does this? Yes, there is: Change By Us, a project launched by Local Projects a while back, which came out of their project Give A Minute. Give A Minute is a site where cities can get together online to contribute ideas for ways to make their city better.
Now THAT sounds cool.
But wait – didn’t there used to be a site just like THAT out there? Yes, there did: DIYcity, a site where people organized on a city-by-city basis to figure out ways to make their city work better (started by me in 2008, while I was still Head of Product at Outside.in).
If you ask me whether there was a site before DIYcity that did this same thing, the answer would probably be yes (though I don’t know what site that was).
Jake Barton, Local Projects CEO (and a friend) was quoted in the Atlantic saying, “You can imagine from our standpoint, I meet with (TED) early on in their project, and show them both our project, which is public, but also talk with them about the intimate details of it, and I’ve chatted with them in a friendly way since then, but haven’t heard anything about their plans [until now].”
I can definitely appreciate Jake’s soreness at not being told ahead of time about TED’s plans, but really, this happens every single day in the web, does it not? It has certainly happened to me plenty of times. And it forces us to always come back to the realization that Nobody Owns the Web. Everything is just a reinvention of some previous site. DIYcity becomes Give A Minute becomes Change By Us becomes City 2.0. And each step of the way it gets better, and comes closer to serving its intended purpose. (Or at least it should – if it doesn’t, then it crawls under a rock and dies a quiet death). And the thing that came before, quite honestly, comes to look a bit hokey in comparison with the newer stuff.
And that’s actually the whole point, all individual egos and financial interests aside.
Personally, the fact that TED improved on an idea that I played part in developing several iterations back does not fill me with angst. I’m okay with that, especially if it pushes the idea forward. Especially given that I’ve since moved on to exploring these interests in other ways.
I DO hope that the people at TED are equally understanding of this when the time comes for their own iteration to get one-upped by someone else (FacebookCity2.0?).
And the way the web moves these days, that moment probably wont be far off.