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Does Standardization Breed Innovation?

A recent email conversation I had with colleagues at Morpheus Media started off with Google Places, but evolved into a talk about standardization. Lately, there’s been a new network, protocol, standard or service cropping up what every week on the internet. Whether or not this increased diversity is good or bad for innovation is the subject of much debate – are all these new products out there just confusing and complicating matters, thereby killing our potential to funnel our energy into creative and productive endeavors? Tr are they offering us more options to create, breeding more and better works than what would have been created in a more limited environment?

Here’s how the conversation evolved:

Lee Frank:

Google brings Places and Hotpot to the iPhone. “The Google Places app only lets you add your reviews and ratings to Hotpot. It doesn’t give you a Hotpot view of places, or allow you to sort places by your friends ratings as you can on the Hotpot Website.”

Dave Surgan:

Been testing this morning, it seems ok in my area for local search.

  • *Yelp mobile:* Great for local recommendations if you’re in a new area
  • *Foodspotting mobile:* Great for tips at a specific venue
  • *Foursquare mobile:* Great for friend’s recommendations and tips at a specific venue. Best at using my social graph.
  • *Hotspot mobile:* Great for local recommendations and local search

Importing my ratings from Yelp to Google Places would be great. Hate having all of my data inaccessible. My Netflix ratings separate from Amazon ratings drive me nuts.
Thoughts?

Maxwell Sebela:

From all my experience with those apps, I feel exactly the same. And yeah, the need for a cross platform, open ID for these reviews, tips, and star ratings is becoming absolutely necessary, especially if any service other than Foursquare has a chance of succeeding with the “average” social graph in the next year or two. When I first read about Hotpot, I kind ofguessed that’s what Google’s actual intention was — to wind up as the sort of aggregating tool for these local businesses that Buzz tried to be until cross platform publishing opened up.

Nora Walker:

I actually love Foodspotting for discovery purposes too if I’m in an area and want to both visually view as well as read about potential meals near me (and I’m a food photography junkie), but it would be more fun if more friends were using it (Miso just got way better in that regard) and if it was combined with Yelp reviews that would be good too. Even still, I feel like most people don’t have the patience to use more than three apps max on a regular daily basis, if that.

I think Foursquare is moving in the direction of incorporating more of the things Max mentioned and creating a more robust experience online and off for their users (and subsequently moving away from “gaming” as a focus). How are you using Hotspot Mobile though – is there an iPhone app for that now?

Dave Surgan:

Follow up on the standardization. Here’s a well thought out argument explaining why standardization isn’t always for the best.

“So, if you are looking for clean bathrooms and no traffic jams, stay in Iowa. But it is in cities – dense, loud, unplanned, messy – where the breakthroughs emerge.

Getting back to the specific case, here, let’s look at Flipboard. Flipboard rejects the use of neat-and-tidy RSS, and reaches through the URLs it finds in Twitter to directly paw the text, images, and links placed into articles and posts, and then it chooses what to display based on a proprietary algorithm inside the guts of the app, not based on the publisher’s RSS specification.

Flipboard, Twitter, and other dense, complex social tools create a messier world, one that has superlinear scale. The tradeoff between complete openness (or individual control of information and its experience) and superlinear social density is one I am willing to make. And so are all the users of these tools, or should I say, residents of these cities?”

Jeffrey Donenfeld:

I’m in agreement on messy, chaotic enviroments breeding creativity and innovation, but only to a certain extent. There comes a point when there’s simply too much noise out there, and some standardization needs to be made in order for the industry to move forward.

One interesting example is the recent European mandate for one unified power charging cable for all mobiles. It just got out of hand, and instead of manufacturers coming up with new plugs and solutions to make consumers lives better, they were making new plugs to keep extracting money out of consumers. With one unified plug, creativity and innovation can once again move forward with the peace of mind and stability of standardization.

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