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Live and Let Die

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Apparently we are now in the endgame, the victims of information overload ready for the triumph of socially curated automation flows. You’d think people might be wary of placing big bets on impossible goals (what were they thinking at HP?) but that’s not what keeps happening. In retrospect, it seems stunningly obvious: TouchPad? Why Pad? Why Touch? Why not make it HunchPad as in HP, as in I’ve got a hunch this is not going to work.

Again, what were they thinking? Well, we’ve got this suicidal idea that we can destabilize our Microsoft and Intel relationships with a new WebOS, unhinge our developer community with dreams of doing God Knows What to Apple’s giant wave of momentum, and give Google even more room to consolidate Android as the new Microsoft emerging market replacement. OK, let’s vote.

With friends like these, Microsoft must be longing for the days of DOJ and EU consent agreements. Back then, Bill Gates was laughed out of the interrogation room for suggesting a Google might come along and eat its lunch. Now HP proves him right by beating the Windows tablet to market by at least a year and giving the real Google room to do a Yahoo! on Motorola to cement the after market, buy a way in to set top boxes, and give Zune developers something to think about in terms of the likelihood that the Netbook will return.

No wonder Bill is happier fighting starvation and AIDS where at least he has a chance of making a difference. But wait, there’s more. Google has also claimed the high ground with a classic Microsoft tactic, the one rumored to be coming down the pipe along with the ZunePad, a replacement social network. Google+ arrives just in time to say, sorry, Steve (Sinofsky) don’t waste your time building a competent clone of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, been there, done that. Say what you will about G+’s brain dead circle spam engine, Vic and Bradley have plenty of time to fix things up before ZunePad gets its $99 firesale.

Along the way, G+ will need to take a hack at the noise problem aka socially curated automation flows. The inclusion of Plus in Google Search already paid off when I was looking for a link to Marc Andreessen’s Wall Street Journal post on the End of Hardware and found it courtesy of a Loic Le Meur Plus citation. This represents the only real solution to noise, a social incentive to populate G+ with more than Scoble blog posts. The social algorithm is not driven by content inside G+ but by the pointers in from search and RSS (Twitter).

Google needs a universal validating stream to succeed here, one that rolls up the major networks rather than trying to kill any one or several of them. Whether Twitter enables access to its hose or not, its users can take control if they start linking to Plus threads or objects as a way of building social credentials. For Twitter, there’s nothing to be done to stop this short of emasculating its audience’s social imperative, the basic drive for making a difference.

Twitter’s new Activity @mention streams are just such a social imperative engine, boosting usage of previously useless citation formats like Favorites and Lists by surfacing the actions we take to try and filter the unfilterable. It’s not the specifics of who and what we are signaling, it’s the envelope of metadata around the signals that not only tags the objects but is something that can be tracked, ranked, and applied as a filter. In other words, it’s the people who are the algorithm but only if they have an imperative to produce.

A Paul McCartney song plays over the McDonald’s speaker, suggesting we Listen to What the Man Said. In this time of Netflix and Spotify, the track oddly resonates with its post-Beatles sheen and pre-iCloud sensibility. It’s not the stuff we’ve endlessly been pitched in various holiday blockbuster windows that bubbles up. No, it’s the stuff that confidently sets out to be comfortable in its own skin and be ready when there’s nothing on. After all, it’s just music, right? Nothing to save the world, just something to arrive at the right time and be supportive rather than invasive, productive rather than interruptive. And the fingerprint of these products or services as they now are delivered forms the sweet spot of value in this world we live in, you know, so live and let die.

So thank you TouchPad, we hardly knew you and never were going to. As the dinosaurs become oil, we’re regaining a say in the soundtracks of our lives. Call it filtering, call it curation, call it a cab. As George Harrison said in Hard Day’s Night about God Knows What or Who: She’s a drag, a well-known drag… It’s not the subject that we remember, it’s the inflection, the attitude, the rhythm of the thing that counts. And the rhythm of the TouchPad was just plain awesome. What were they thinking?