Wikipedia Entry for Kirkyan *Update*

Posted on Friday 28 April 2006

Funky. I’ve gotten a couple hits alerting me to a new entry on wikipedia for my “kirkyan” neologism (Link). Now I’m worried though. What if people start thinking deeper than I have and ask me questions about the concept I can’t answer? I guess it’s too late to pull the “Don’t look at me, I’m just a designer” thing. Can I claim I was just on a neologismic joy ride?

Damn. This blog is going to make a (bigger) fool of me yet.

{Update: How cool is this: it’s already up for deletion! Believe it or not, this is awesome. This confirms something I’ve suspected and which I was testing by coining the term. This is actually better than I could have hoped.

Let’s say I’d coined a term for the RadTag back when I’d come up with the idea. Let’s say I decided to call it a “blogject”. When I discussed the concept among a number of people, almost no one understood what I was describing. It was doubtlessly “nonsense” and “drivel” to most of them. Yet now it’s not drivel at all. In fact, the topic is red hot, and there’s lots of “research” on it and conference meetings to discuss it and people getting all excited about it. And half those people (at least the one’s whose bios I’ve checked) don’t seem to have a technical bone in their body.

This is the same as what happened to “spime” afaic. That idea wasn’t new to me (and I said this earlier- reLink). And not to others, either. There were some amazingly smart people I knew in the early days of Aironet (the wireless company) that had more skills and experience than I’ve ever had and who were playing with those same ideas ten years ago. Care to name them? You can’t, because they didn’t give the idea a name. But along comes someone like Bruce Sterling (through no fault of his own, mind you), a famous science fiction author, gives it some funny name and now it’s an important concept and people go to conferences to listen to him discuss it. How is that okay and what I’m doing not okay?

What exactly are Sterling’s engineering/ design/ CAD/ rapid prototyping/programming/ material science/ wireless credentials? I don’t know of any. As far as I understand, he’s a writer who apparently (based on his recent article in Metropolis – “I now know what computer fabricators do.”) hadn’t even really understood the process of going from CAD to rapid prototype until he went to Art Center a year ago. Huh???

Has Sterling fabricated a “spime”? Has he done the kinds of basic research the people over on Wikipedia are expecting of me now? Can he show us some schematic or CAD or code or model? Not that I’m aware of. I have a background in most of these subject areas and also most of the skills to design and fabricate a limited prototype (though admittedly I’d need some programming and electronics help). I’m not famous though. I couldn’t have gotten away with it. If I had coined the term “spime” for that (unoriginal) idea, I’m sure it would also be put up for deletion and called “a hoax” just like the “kirkyan” concept now.

For all the words of how the net equalizes and levels, this seems to say that nothing has really changed. People complain about their government, but don’t vote. They complain about their lives, but don’t change them. They complain about the perks given to the rich and famous (and Reggie Bush is sure feeling the heat, isn’t he?), but then gladly bestow it upon these people themselves. Truly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lesson learned: accepted ideas are the province of the famous and the popular and the wealthy (we even have a skewed patent system to help them). I even read yesterday that statistically the “rags to riches” American Dream is actually less likely in America than many other countries. For an unknown person to have an original idea – which I don’t honestly believe “kirkyan” to be – is to go against some unspoken rule {actually not “unspoken”; there have been discussions of this same rule applying to blog popularity} that limits how many people can ascend to a level of recognition above the hoi polloi.

For all the promise of the internet as a tool for democratization, the people themselves will drag it down because the current mentality for how Success works means that someone else must Fail; it’s schadenfreude. It’s a limited-resources mentality doggedly applied to a space where there are no limits on resources. So in the end, even the internet will never have a level playing field until we outgrow our self-imposed restrictions. Someone tell all the desperate musicians on MySpace that there’s only room for so many at the top – even if their music is better than the tired crap of those with a lock on the public’s attention (note: this is why the Attention Economy is so important).

As I’ve already stated elsewhere, the technology no longer matters imo. And personally, I have absolutely no interest in being anything other than some anonymous person in the crowd; I’m comfortable that way. So I’m happy to see this term die. You won’t have to go looking for me to swim naked to get attention and perhaps some day receive some belated recognition for an idea I wasn’t supposed to have (if you don’t understand what I mean, read up on actress Hedy Lamarr). Sadly, not everyone out there – most of whom are far more deserving – are in a position to be so casual.

  1.  
    4/29/2006 | 1:55 pm
     

    Don’t give up on the kirkyan, reBang blog! The concept is more important than humility!
    It’s in the ‘spime’ article links now:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spime

  2.  
    4/29/2006 | 2:51 pm
     

    That’s not it at all. I’m plenty arrogant! But I coined the term more out of a sense of disbelief that obvious ideas could be given a name and suddenly someone becomes their “inventor” or the “first person to think of it”. It strikes me as being all the things I dislike about the patent system when it’s abused (e.g. “one-click”).

    I’m serious when I say the engineers I knew ten years ago were already thinking about these sorts of things. Are they unknown only because they didn’t make up a funky name for their idea? Is that fair? I don’t think so.

    Consequently, when I came up with this concept I didn’t think, “Oh, no one’s ever thought of this before”. As a designer who spends time using the USPTO online service, I’ve seen a bunch of amazing ideas from many years ago. And I had my own experience where, back in the early 1990′s I came up with the idea of shoes that generate electricity (using fluids, not gears or crystals). So when someone patented that basic idea in the latter part of the decade, I first thought “Hey, that was my idea”, only to later learn the inventor had come up with his ideas decades previously while a soldier. After that I just don’t take my ideas that seriously anymore. That taught me a lesson I’ve not forgotten.

    I do, however, take the social implications seriously. People shouldn’t erect artificial barriers, which is how I viewed this situation. I believe it’s a valid concept. What it’s called I couldn’t care less; and could care even less if I’m credited. More than anything, I just don’t want someone receiving credit for an old idea. And I also wanted to see the reaction to someone like me coining something in comparison to someone like Sterling. So far my sense of how the idea would be received is correct.

    The only thing that matters afaic, is taking the idea and doing something with it.

  3.  
    W
    4/30/2006 | 12:17 am
     

    well.. you’re right. what matters is Doing Something with it. Otherwise, it’s just a word.
    I’m a librarian, you’re a designer — others, like publishers, artists, machinists may be reading this.
    I’m getting itchy of a sudden to build a kirkyan book.

  4.  
    4/30/2006 | 8:57 am
     

    Otherwise, it’s just a word.

    I’ve heard Sterling’s comments on the importance of giving an idea a name, and I tend to agree so I wouldn’t put it quite this way. It’s just that for me, what I do is make things. So from my point of view that’s what matters. It’s the old 1% inspiration 99% perspiration thing.

    btw, I was heavily involved in another book. Lachezar Tsvetanov’s winning book for the blind (Link). Lach did much of the work while an intern at the company where I was employed and quite a bit of the concept developed during our discussions. I’ve not spoken with him in a while. Wonder how he’s doing. And if the book is ever going to get manufactured.

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