Chemists, Directors and the Demise of the Web Technician

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with Lee LeFever, and we were talking about webby stuff. He brought up an excellent metaphor for today’s Web that’s worth repeating:

Just recently I found one courtesy of my friend and neighbor Josh Petersen of the Robot Coop. He was quoted in the book Wikinomics. “He likens developments in the new Web to the early history of cinema ‘There was a period of time where cinema was a very technical art. You practically had to be an engineer just to run a camera.’ As the art form evolved, directors stepped up to become storytellers who were less and less preoccupied with cinematic engineering and more concerned with craft rich and engaging experiences. ‘I think something like that is happening on the web today,’ says Petersen.”

That’s a lot of nested quotes. This is all getting a bit meta, but in our conversation I added that I thought visual artists were the same way. In previous centuries painters had to be chemists in order to create the colours they needed to make their art.

We’re rapidly eliminating the technical barriers from web publishing. Publishing text to a website is already about as easy as writing an email. The customization (“make my website pink with scalloped edges”) and intregation (“show my knitting photos and upcoming S&M events on my website”) work isn’t as simple as it should be, but we’re getting there.


  1. I teach photography at Focal Point in Vancouver and last week I delighted my 18 young and youngish students who had never heard of a wiki. But then consider that I have yet to figure out how to post comments in Tim Bray’s while I can explain with some detail the inverse square law in relation to photographic lighting. Perhaps those geeky things simply have not been de-geekified enough for me.

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