Where did all the good tech discussions go?

Back in the day, you could always get a good tech discussion going by asking which was better, Token Ring or Ethernet. It would bring out engineers that would give blow by blow differences on each and why their favorite was better. Heck, there used to be great battles on the merits of OS/2.

Then we got to the point of arguing about Windows Media vs Real Player vs Flash. Then Flash kicked everyones ass and MicroSoft tried to up the game with Silverlight. But where is the real down and dirty discussion contrasting the two and the best and worst places to use them ? Im not saying there isn’t some, there is, but its not part of the core discussion of video on the web and its future.

The same applies to the internet and digital connectivity to and in the home. When Yahoo and Intel announced their widget platform, everyone outside of cable industry publications ignored the Tru2Way element of the announcement. That shocked me. Intel and CableLabs announced more than a year ago that Intel would support Tru2Way on the chips that were core to the Yahoo/Intel announcement.

On fhe flipside, I got a good laugh out of my buddies at EngadgetHD (a site I love btw), who wrote that this announcement was much to my chagrin. Not quite guys, this is what I have been hoping for all along. Konfabulator on top of Tru2Way Thats progress. But it never generated any discussion as to how and where.

How would you configure a widget ? Yahoo says you wont use a keyboard, you will use a remote to pick your widget. How much of a true internet experience can it be if its limited to a remote ? RIght ? Where would the widget gallery be hosted ? This is an example of an announcement that people presumed they knew what it was about, when instead, it should have generated some amazing technical discussion as to what tech choices would be made. Maybe its too early, but I dont expect to read anything for a long time.

About the only tech discussions I seem to be able to get into these days are about P2P and those have all but disappeared along with any excitement for P2P, and with Dave from DSLReports about whether or not the last mile has enough bandwidth to allow the open internet to replace cable and satellite as a primary source of TV for mass consumption……it cant.

Call me nostalgic, but an indepth tech discussion is a whole lot more fun and interesting than today’s customary “the internet solves everything”

43 thoughts on “Where did all the good tech discussions go?

  1. I googled \”please please please there must be something interesting on the internet\” and got this site @#1!
    How could this happen?
    Strange thing is… this is what I do! OMG time to do something different!

    Comment by Ben -

  2. It seems like a combination of what Bryan said and that at this stage, the conversation is 1- moving into other venues and 2- getting a little more private. I still see a little heated debate, but not on blogs or in articles. I see it on FF or Twitter occasionally, but with everyone talking and thinking their view is correct, what is now passing as conversation is a short burst of snarky one-liner exchange.

    Comment by Tinu -

  3. the discussions are still there they are just linked to the associated groups. Its like what you said awhile back alot of the internet is the same as it was 15 years ago. with message boards etc. discussing their agendas. you have to know where to go.. to see the applicable discussion.

    Comment by noteguy -

  4. Sorry for the bad grammar. Hey Mark can you help a guy out with a built in spell check here?

    Comment by pete -

  5. Does anybody want to talk about this?

    I can\’t be the only that is seeing what is happening with regard to Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, am I?

    I have been waiting and watching for the next e-vrolution of the world wide web.

    Google has been a great search tool but never could fully understand how it could have a stock value of:

    463.29 -10.49 (-2.21%) Aug 29 4:00pm ET
    Open: 470.00
    High: 473.78
    Low: 462.33
    Volume: 3,848,298
    Avg Vol: 3,950,000
    Mkt Cap: 145.68B
    Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
    27.29 -0.65 (-2.33%) Aug 29 4:00pm ET
    Open: 27.70
    High: 27.94
    Low: 27.29
    Volume: 50,753,881
    Avg Vol: 67,129,000
    Mkt Cap: 249.16B

    Microsoft just launched IE8 that allows you to browse In Private without any browsing history and bought Ciao.com for 480M.

    What that means is Google can no longer collect analytical data of EVERYTHING YOU HAVE SEARCHED FOR with using your computer.

    Did you know that preety much every computer has a unique id and its location disclosed by identifying the ISP provider and address assigned? My prediction is that those prices will be reversed in >5yrs.

    Google has become a lazy person\’s tool.
    What I mean is that I would bet that most people used it to not have to type in a web address they already know.

    The search within a website search is a cool feature on the results page but there is not enough content on most sites to be useful or too basic to find a product. People like to browse and experience the site they are visiting.
    The Google \”drive-thru\” menu is truly worthless except for looking at books online.

    Google is \”recomends\” using Mozilla as a slam to Microsoft till the get the chrome browser figured out.

    Yahoo\’s only value is that mail (the old version) works well and the new version is way too small too read and people don\’t care about the drag and drop feature into folder feature.

    Web2? is here, a new web is not until there is another e-vrolution with regard to hardware or operating system.

    When I can pull out of my pocket a wallet size computer and link up instantly to any flat screen in the room to be used as a monitor, then I would say its here.

    IBM where are you? Sleeping?

    Google has missed the boat and getting too fat and slow.

    They missed the boat to colonize into what cars.com, hulu, myspace and facebook have become.

    Google apps? ya right. If Apple can get it together and put a tie once in awhile they might be able to compete better. They are not a failure but step up already and enouht with the cute ads.

    All apple needs to do is pick the 5 most important business software tools, make them better than anything else and start hustling and hand selling the Mac to corporate accounts.

    Knock knock Amazon? who\’s there? Microsoft, oh crap!

    Comment by Pete -

  6. I am not a techie and there is a big part of this discussion that I do not understand, but Mark\’s indictment of those who simply brush us away with \”the internet solves everything\” rings very true.

    I suspect that a lot of the people having the discussion arent technical enough to be having it, which is why they resort to platitudes and evangelic blanket statements. I used to work with such people, ang they are annoying.

    Its important that the techie-level discussions take place, but it is equally important that someone then explain it to the rest of us in a way in which we can understand and make reasonably sound decisions.

    Comment by Esteban -

  7. \”the world is a just place. you reject the truth, you get a world void of creativity and liberty. if that\’s not what you want, then just embrace the truth, and you\’ll get all the stimulating conversations you could ever want and then some.\”

    Kid Mercury wrote.

    Alexander Francani

    Comment by A Boss -

  8. Mark:

    Have you seen the games of Centrobasket 2008 where JJ Barea has been having one of his best all time performances?

    Comment by PRfan -

  9. The problem is there are too many discussions by too many trying to make a name for themself and lacking any experience with actual success and failure.

    So we are drowing in information from self proclaimed experts.

    Could we have an online tracking system (social network?) of what they said vs. what happened so we can gauge the gravity of their latest position or prediction?

    Until some sort of a new clearinghouse comes along, we are just left to our favorite blogs, magazines and personalities with too little time to comment because we are drowning in information.

    Comment by James Glasscock -

  10. Tech is more than computers.

    Biotechs may be having an interesting year in the stock market. There will be lots of technical, ethical and other discussions on this.

    And the run up in gas prices has caused a shift in efforts toward energy. Should the U.S. drill in Alaska? What about alternative sources of energy? Public transportation?

    The boom in commodities and growth in the world may cause a renewed interest in tech that improves ag productivity around the world. GMO vs. non-BMO … organic and natural vs. regular … rice production and yields … etc

    Finally, technology today may apply to risk management: income volatility, disability, relationships, viability of employer, etc … You see a lot of discussion on moral hazard, bankruptcy laws, health insurance, labor markets (uemployment and participation rates) … How does tech impact this? (monster.com, social networking – linkedin, etc) What should be done about big financial losses at GM and other large entities?

    Comment by nathan -

  11. I like \”This Week in Tech\”. Good tech discussions. Weekly, and about an hour. http://twit.tv/twit

    Comment by Promalp -

  12. Mark
    There are several different topics/ discussions on technology – depending upon where you look.

    Regarding Packaged solutions (otherwise also known as ERP Solutions), there is the trend of going with Open Source solutions vs. commercially available solutions.

    Another discussion/debate is Google vs. Microsoft in regards to tools and platform for delivery of content.

    Another discussion is the changing dynamic of outsourcing vs. growing local talent and incubating local technology firms. This is a more political than technical debate, but one nonetheless regarding the future health of the US.

    Comment by TDgobux -

  13. what not sure if its just me but thats a bit hard to follow lol.

    Comment by craig -

  14. there are no good conversations because nobody wants to tell the truth. not about google censorship, not about plans for internet 2 that will disrupt the way the web works, not about lawrence lessig\’s warning that he was told there are plans for a cyberattack and the internet equivalent of the patriot act. (link: http://www.piriketseverler.tr.gg)

    Comment by PiriketSeverler -

  15. I think it has to do not with people\’s willingness to discuss or expertise on said topics but more about HOW they are discussing these topics.

    Message boards are not very well searched by google and others. Other mediums such as wiki\’s are much better suited for organized discussion and search engine indexing. But wiki\’s have been a little too difficult to comment on and discuss across because wiki is generally thought of as a final product, fact based tool – not as a tool for organized debate and discourse.

    Move the discussions to wiki\’s and dedicated sites for enthusiasts and you\’ll start to see not only search results from the big search engines, but also an eventual collection and databasing of the archive of such discussions that will really help in finding information on topics going forward. Message boards and mailing lists are just a little too ubiquitous and disjointed to provide real effective content that is organized.

    Comment by Jack -

  16. In a virtual world that supposedly simplifies your life, it\’s more like \”the internet complicates everything\” – The internet is like a question that gives birth to 10 new questions, with a net result of more unknowns than knowns.

    Comment by Brandon Piddington -

  17. Lets talk about the following in this order.

    Multi Layered LCD\’s..
    FIOS Business Model down to the suburban desktop..
    oh yeah and this..
    I mean is that a MIT Holodeck? LOL

    Comment by Dante V. Crescenzi -

  18. Great post. I agree with some of the others who have observed that the venue and methods for technical debates have shifted. But that misses some larger issues from a commercial perspective. Specific to video on the web:

    1) The market and technology have matured. The major early challenges (and there were a ton of these remember the 2*2 square of horrible quality that seemed to buffer forever? The significant technology improvements we faced have been largely solved.
    2) Its now a two horse race with both being acceptable to the market
    3) Technology for web video isnt key anyway; content is king. When my friends tell me that Dan Rather is the best journalism on the air, they could care less what technology you use

    From my experience as an executive at Sybase, Real Networks, and Commerce One, the technology cycles seem to be repeating themselves. As the core technology matures, the market tends to get less passionate about the bits and bytes and shifts to business models and for those with commercial aspirations; gee how do we make money at this.

    The great entrepreneurs figure out how to excel at both passions ($$$ and technology) concurrently while seeing well into the future before the others. Its also very hard to attain. Especially anticipating and adapting to the future which is essential to sustaining a strong market position.

    I miss the intense debates and vicious battles for technology and commercial supremacy. Anyone recall the BusinessWeek cover article from the early 90s with Sybases CEO Mark Hoffman wearing the white hat battling Larry Ellison and the evil Oracle? My experience from the being with Mark in the database tornado was challenging, exhilarating, rewarding, and at times scary.

    Defining and leading important markets is a rare opportunity and something I wish more could experience in their careers. Those were the days!

    Comment by Jeff Mandelbaum -

  19. Mark,

    I have written many emails and letters to the Mavericks over the past couple of months. This post has no relevance to your post, which I enjoyed by the way, but I just would like you to tell Donnie to look at Shaun Livingston. Please. I\’m sure you guys have already talked this over… but still I just have to put it out there even if there is the tiniest percentage that his name has slipped through the free agency agenda.


    Yours sincerely,


    Comment by Grant Norris J -

  20. mark,

    we used to argue about DC vs AC to set up the power grid. we used to argue about running the electrical wiring through the old gas supply lines. we used to argue about septic vs water treatment.

    i think (as you have said) the web, the internet, and computers in general have become \”appliances.\”

    i used to pore over digital camera specs and put hours into getting a great bargain. i recently bought my 3rd digital camera (i get one every 4 years or so) and this time i was mostly worried about size and color of the body! they all take nice enough photos. i used to obsess over my laptop specs. now i buy the ones that i like the size, color, and weight of.

    many technologies reach the asymptote – none of them are better, and so they have to find new ways to be different to SEEM better, or else they will really get commodotized more than they already are.

    i think today\’s tech arguments are in clean energy. the real geeks are arguing about the energy balance of ethanol. what solar can really do for us. is clean coal really clean? and all those windmills, what do they really gives us? what\’s the best way to make an electric or hybrid automobile?

    thanks for your blog, it always gets me thinking.

    Comment by lee -

  21. Mark,

    I was at IDF specifically for Eric Kim\’s presentation. I suppose I wasn\’t suprised to see Tony Werner there talking up tru2way and I\’m sure you already know my position on the subject. If you don\’t, you can find a direct quote I gave our PR guy at the link below.


    Anytime you want to have a confidental techie discussion regarding the rest of the referenced subject matter you know where to find me (or at least Jeff does).

    Have a nice holiday weekend…

    Comment by Tim Elliott -

  22. There are fewer discussions because unlike the past where all the big players worked WITH each other now they are working AGAINST each other.

    Lots of stuff in the industry is completely screwed up, and as a developer of 2 cloud computing applications in movie editing and distribution, why would I want to discuss the messed up nature of the tech world when I face it every hour of every day.

    The conflicts and problems make the tech world less enjoyable to talk about. I remember 1996 when we were building raid zeros with massive amounts of drives debating set up and configuration issues with zeal. Back then Windows NT worked and worked well without all the crap associated with battling brands trying to gain market dominance.

    Laughably, to this point, we were trying to get an HDMI demo to work flawlessly on both a computer screen and a large HDTV but the conflicts caused by Microsoft\’s \”unwillingness\” to support a certain manufacturer\’s video card made this nearly imposible to do via HDMI. This is a $2000 capture board that we use HDMI out for previewing live capture. Total hassles due the stupid state of tech.

    Talking about it just makes it worse.

    Comment by Chris Caffee -

  23. To be quite honest, it\’s just obvious this phase of 2.0 is fading into the sunset. We\’re quantum leaping into 4.0. The end result is that everyone seems to think they know everything and communicate nothing of substance. Sorry Mark but the \”Golden Era\” of DOS and Cobalt resonate with an up and coming generation born with Windows \’95 like my Grandpa\’s old war stories.

    Comment by Bryan Thompson -

  24. I agree partly with Mark\’s post. I think the major media sources are not doing these tech discussions. You see more of these at the niche sites that cater to these areas. You also alot of this discussion in forums all across the internet. In that since it may take some digging to get to the real discussions.

    Comment by Missing Link -

  25. hacker news:

    Comment by jonathan -

  26. there are no good conversations because nobody wants to tell the truth. not about google censorship, not about plans for internet 2 that will disrupt the way the web works, not about lawrence lessig\’s warning that he was told there are plans for a cyberattack and the internet equivalent of the patriot act. (link: http://www.boingboing.net/2008/08/05/lawrence-lessig-on-t.html)

    the world is a just place. you reject the truth, you get a world void of creativity and liberty. if that\’s not what you want, then just embrace the truth, and you\’ll get all the stimulating conversations you could ever want and then some.

    9/11 was an inside job,
    kid mercury

    Comment by kid mercury -

  27. \”Back in the day\” the vast majority of people knew very little about anything tech that applied to the Internet. Today, teens are growing up with the Internet as a part of their entire lives. My 17 year old daughter does not remember not having the Internet in our home.

    Obviously with so many new advancements in such a cluttered field, there is much more to debate these days.

    Comment by Old Hat SEO -

  28. Where\’s That Manual?

    Comment by SatRadKid -

  29. \”Too many non techies that think they are techies drowning out the real techies\”
    Yes, thats true, withou school or withous skills, just somthing like economy or politics knowledge(education) and talking about General relativity

    Comment by Kataster Nehnutenost -

  30. Wow, that is so true.

    Comment by Dave -

  31. What the hell is Cube\’s talking about?

    Comment by Nathan -

  32. Quite frankly there is just too much damn stuff to keep up with these days. I\’d rather argue about why America is going to the crapper if we don\’t change things.

    Comment by GO Zone Preconstruction -

  33. You obviously have a background in streaming webcasts *cough* Broadcast.com *cough* but I think we have moved on to different types of discussions.

    The discussions you are talking about really started when the technologies were in their infancy. They are much more mature and mainstream today, not a whole lot to debate really. Although I must admit I am somewhat impressed with MS Silverlight.

    The discussions I get involved in are still age old debates that rage to this day: Intel vs AMD, Microsoft vs Open Source, Net Radio vs RIAA (http://www.savenetradio.org/), Cisco vs …Juniper?, ehh not much of a debate there :p

    Comment by Brandon Mangold -

  34. I think so much of the actual technical merits of the discussions, for many techies, has become a mute point since the actual best technology (i.e. Beta vs. VHS) doesn\’t always actually win the race in the long run. The average person doesn\’t hear most of the high tech stuff and selects things based upon how well known the company is that provides it, commercials, etc. It is pretty scary the digital divide between the 1% of the people who understand the technology, the 20% who can\’t stop the VCR from flashing and the rest who know almost enough to be dangerous. Even techies who buy my companies product seem to be far behind the curve an far as many software related issues are concerned. I think the knowledge gap is growing as the speed of new technology introduction increases. I am just now looking into the whole bluetooth thing. OUCH!

    Comment by Rob Thrasher -

  35. Too many non techies that think they are techies drowning out the real techies. Acting nerdy talking about crap like Twitter, and Iphones, when they should be talking about interpreted vs compiled web development languages, and Ruby on Rails caching systems.

    Comment by Nigel Kehler -

  36. You want an interesting tech discussion. Check out cloud computing…


    Comment by Kyle -

  37. The Yahoo/Intel tech is going to end up on the tru2way platform. Look at all the vendors involved in the press release. And then there\’s this: http://twurl.nl/6q42tm.

    And the folks above are right. Deep tech discussions happen on the forums.

    Comment by Mari -

  38. I think tech discussions, like most things, are cyclical. They\’re still going on, but they\’re not quite as mainstream right now as they have been at other times. Just give it a few years: they\’ll be back.

    Comment by Scott Johnson -

  39. Mark, this is simply because you don\’t know where to look for it anymore

    places for good discussions

    Ars Technica\’s OpenForum – http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/
    AVS Forum – http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/
    HardForum – http://www.hardforum.com/

    and right now I\’ve been playing around with media center, so I\’ve been reading and posting to the green button – http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/

    there are many others that fulfill what you remember.

    What I would say is that if people aren\’t discussing tech, then it means they don\’t care about it, so take that for what you will about tru2way.

    Comment by sp -

  40. You mean like \”debates\” on whether or not you\’re just \”lucky\” or you actually have been one of the leader innovators in all of business? We know where to find that discussion!

    Comment by Jeremy C. -

  41. Mark,
    We actually had some pretty good technical debates during the whole HD DVD vs Blu-ray thing, but to your point it was necessary to root through all the fanboy bias to find it.

    And we at Engadget can\’t get enough of your stuff too, we really need to get you behind the mic again like back in the beginning of the HD Beat days.


    Comment by Ben Drawbaugh -

  42. You\’re looking in the wrong places, Mark. There is a ton of good technical discussion on the web, but it doesn\’t come from the popular places like Engadget, GigaOM, or whatever. Great technical comes from the people implementing the technology, or building something on top of the technology. It\’s much rarer coming from the end users and the people writing about the technology for popular audiences.

    The real technical discussions are taking place in mailing lists, on Usenet (which as been usurped by Google Groups)and IRC, and in highly focused blogs written by developers. You actually have to work to find where to tap in to \”the know\” on any particular set of technologies.

    Comment by grant -

  43. Mark,

    It\’s a good point for sure but I think contributing to the difference in these discussions is the proprietary nature of much of the technology. Arguing token ring vs. ethernet was great because you could code for either and could get into a very detailed examination of how they function. How much of Microsoft\’s technology is open to real discussion? Not much…

    How many CS majors today can look at proofs about best case/worst case/average case run times of competing products outside of the Linux/Open Source world?

    That being said, there was a great discussion going on today about the exact causes of some of the iPhone 3G connection issues on DailyTech:


    And the film business has had some interesting conversations going on about recording technology when RED stepped on the scene. What we don\’t have are great conversations about output formats – just instructions how people think it\’s best to deal with them.

    Comment by Noah Harlan -

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