52 Pick-Up, or, Where I Went Wrong

Happy anniversary to me: I’ve now been writing this here weekly column for exactly one year. In that time I have opined, prescribed, and predicted many things. And now, as part of my one-man crusade for greater opinion-journalism accountability, I’m going to take a moment to go back and look at what I got right … and where I went horribly, hilariously wrong.

With luck this will be an annual event. I mean, assuming Erick doesn’t take a look at this track record and decide to can me on the spot.

(cracks knuckles)

OK, then: without any further ado, and leaving out posts too recent to be judged or those that didn’t contain forward-looking statements, let’s see what I said over the last 52 weeks, and why…



  • My very first post was How RIM’s PlayBook Could Have Succeeded, six months before RIM even released it. Fortunately for me, I was dead right: it was an unmitigated flop, at least in part for the reasons I cited.
  • In Dear Foursquare, Gowalla: Please Let’s Stop Pretending This Is Fun, I suggested they stop making check-ins a game and just offer users coupons instead. Foursquare has increasingly done just that; Gowalla has actually pivoted to become a travel guide.
  • Pretty good so far! But then I predicted the death of Bump. Boy, did I get that one wrong. Mostly because I wildly overestimated how fast widespread NFC adoption would occur. (And the lack of NFC in the iPhone 4S has probably pushed it back by another year.) But as I wrote in that post, I actually really like Bump; so if I was going to be wrong about anything, I’m glad it was this.
  • I then asked Can Anything Stop The Facebook Juggernaut? Short answer: no. Facebook has become to the social web what Microsoft is to the desktop: mindbogglingly gargantuan, relentlessly mediocre, and almost inescapable, I wrote, and so far I’ve been right.


  • In Here Comes The Wetware, I predicted the rise of thought-controlled computing. Hasn’t happened yet, but that was more of a long-term call anyway.
  • Then I plaintively asked Google eBooks: Is That All There Is? and, indeed, so far Google’s eBookstore is nothing special and has had virtually no effect on the publishing world.
  • I called a bubble in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad App World. Is it? Maybe. But the fight for good talent has gotten even fiercer since. My most important prediction there is a long-term one; that even if this is a bubble, the subsequent boom as the smartphone revolution hits the developing world will ultimately dwarf it. We’ll see.
  • In The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be, I predicted that Android would conquer the developing world, and that tech there will start to evolve faster than it does here, thanks to their blank-slate advantage. Seems I was dead right about that first one; jury’s out on the second.



  • In The End Of History, Part II, I took on Malcolm Gladwell and claimed that social media were, in fact, a really big deal in the Arab Spring and the like. It’s a view that more and more people seem to support these days.
  • In Quora vs. StackExchange: Why, Joel, Why? I suggested that while StackExchange’s expansion strategy was good, their tactics were flawed. I stand by that.
  • In Burning Chrome I lauded Google for their canny strategy of slowly and iteratively replacing the operating system with the browser. I’m happy to stand by that too.


  • I returned to poor RIM with RIM Finally Sees The Light. Unfortunately, It’s An Onrushing Train – Or Is It? in which I suggested that maybe they would do something really subversive and disruptive, and fork Android. Got that one dead wrong … but that is exactly what Amazon did, for the Kindle Fire, which is already a success beyond PlayBook’s wildest revised dreams. Oh, RIM. You never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
  • Then an embarrassment: I wrote The Walled Garden Has Won, in which I argue that Android is really just as controlled a platform as the iPhone, only to issue a subsequent mea culpa because I got a crucial fact wrong.
  • In How The Mainstream Media Is Failing Us With Its Nuclear Hysteria, I took the stance that the Fukushima disaster and associated nuclear terror was horrendously misreported and exploited by the world’s mainstream media, considering that nobody died there and it was part of a disaster that killed 20,000 people. The jury will be out on this one for a generation, but it’s worth noting that all the predictions of imminent doom turned out to be wrong.




  • I went travelling through East Africa and North India and wrote a bunch of pieces from the road, including This Is Where The Magic Happens. No predictions there; it was straight reportage, not opinion; I’m just mentioning it here because I’m particularly proud of it.



  • Finally, my most negatively received post, by some distance, was The Tragic Triumph Of The MBAs. I’ll concede that it was a broad-brush piece, and I could have conveyed my nuanced point with more precision. But I stand by its central thrust. I think business types are often unaware of, or at best underestimate, the profound suspicion and mistrust in which they are frequently — or even generally – held by techies, and they would do well to consider why that is.

Hmm. All things considered, I seem to have mostly done rather well this year. Put down that axe, Erick! Looks like I might just stick around.