Chris Dent asks Why Wiki?. He raises the important distinction between automation and augmentation.

Automation is trying to get computers to replace what people do. Augmentation is helping people do more.

I’d echo Chris’s sentiments almost word-for-word. I also want to build tools to augment humans rather than try to replace them. Of course, augmenting human capability often requires automating repetitive chores. Email replaces the postman with machines.

But this distinction is good to keep in mind.

And here’s the SDI angle. “Smart Disorganized Individuals” is my mantra. It reflects my aspirations as to what I want to make, or rather who I want to build tools for. Who do I want my software to empower in society?

Let’s look at that last word : “individuals”. I want to make software for individuals. What I mean is, I want to make software that helps people express their individuality. That helps them to solve their problems. That helps them to work better on their own terms.

What I’m sick of, is writing software for institutions. I’m sick of software that one person commissions for someone else to use. And which has features designed to oppress. I’m sick of software that’s designed to impose uniformity on a workforce. Sick of software designed to police your actions. Sick of software that helps keep people under the thumb of their managers. That tries to turn the public into a mindless audience.

The good news is, I don’t think I’m alone. Every day on the internet I come across people like Chris, who want to “augment” not “automate”, who want to build cool stuff that people can really use to do their own thing.

There are plenty of the other sort too, of course. Companies who sell software to other corporations, designed to turn their employees into deskilled, replacable parts : call-centerization, content management with workflow modules etc.

But I think the individualists are winning. Content management dinosaurs are dying out. And smarter, more individual focused software is flourishing. People’s expectations are rising. And it’s a challenging but good time to be making software.

Robert Cringely has some interesting predictions about what things are going on at the moment, that might change the shape of the computer industry.

PBS | I, Cringely . May 12, 2005 – Inflection Point

What he didn’t see is Apple’s move into podcasting, although downloadable enclosures does fit Cringely’s story of Apple’s dominance of video.

Something for all software developers to think about …

After reading Adsense Tips for Bloggers 6 – Relevant Ads I realize I have to emphasize that this blog is mainly about wiki. Yes, that’s right wiki. Wiki in the enterprise, in small business, in the home, in the garden shed … wherever. And that wiki is a great aid to personal productivity and success.

You got that, yes, Googlebot? Wiki? Hello? Can I have some wiki (or even hyper-text) related ads. Not ads about b**gs please.

Interesting new feature has appeared in Google Ads. There are now links to swap the ads to a slightly different set.

The ads are turning into content. In one sense, it’s a promising evolution. Advertisers (or Google on the advertiser’s behalf) are starting to see their message as something people will want to read. At the same time, as the ad-bar becomes a kind of contentful space controlled by Google. What else might they choose to put there?