The cafe: a case study
Discovering that it is a fast changing world
There are two main categories of writers: writers of fiction and writers of non fiction. One deals with fantasies and dreams the other deals with facts. In between these two extremes is a less definable region: an area that deals in ideas and speculations.
Authors who deal in dreams and fantasies can be identified with the providers of Internet and Web based entertainment and amusement. They create for eyeballs and attention and are not especially concerned with facts or knowledge. Authors who deal in facts are the algorithmic strategists, they provide specific information gained from past experience and proven or irrefutable facts. Their strategies are more closely associated with those of conventional Industrial Age businesses, where the main goal is reduce to a minimum uncertainties and ambiguities.
Authors who write in the area of ideas and speculations can be more closely associated with the providers of e-business solutions. The focus is on an uncertain and unproven future, rather than a certain and known past.
My own involvement in writing about e-business came as a direct consequence of the kind of unpredictable changes that occur so often in information technology. I'd lost most of my money in a naive rush into CD-ROMs when they first came out. Along with thousands of other I was caught out when the expected boom fizzled out. I came away from that experience poorer but wiser - or so I thought.
Looking for a place to pick up the pieces and start in something new, I'd was attracted to writing books on programming. This appealed to me because it allowed me to work from home, experiment with new programming ideas and write about the experiments as I went along. It seemed a great way to earn a living - that was until the realities of the unpredictable electronic world caught up with me once again.
At the end of 1998 I had two books published. One I'd spent two years working on and the other was a new edition of a successful programming book I'd written three years previously. Within two months of these being published, a major revision of the programming language I'd been using was announced. To my dismay, it was incompatible with most of my programming examples. Although the changes were relatively minor, the examples in both of my books didn't work any more - wiping out the credibility and saleability of the books at a stroke.
This shock forced me to take my head out of the box to see what was happening in the wider world. The experience was much like a soldier spending a lot of time digging a nice deep trench on the front line and then looking over the top to find that while being engrossed in the digging the front line had moved several miles further away.
It didn't take long to figure out that wherever I dug my trench (subject matter I wrote about) the front line would be continuously moving away from it. I soon noticed that this was a trap that many had fallen into. The constantly changing technology had created an unstable environment where the front line was constantly on the move. Change that can be anticipated isn't a problem, but, these changes were unpredictable.
As I looked to see how others were coping with the volatility, my attention was drawn to the world of e-business. There it was plain to see that billions of dollars were being lost through the same kind of problem that had wasted a couple of years of my life writing about computer programming. Day after day, businesses were digging expensive trenches on the front line only to find the front line moving away from them.
It was then that I discovered a more interesting game to play than experimenting with computer programming. I could try to work out how best to make use of the information environment of the Internet to overcome the problems of complexity and uncertainty: a strategy to keep abreast of the moving front line.