How I got in touch with my curious contrarian… or How a single pickle started it all
Do you remember Kozmo.com?
If you were an NYC dweller during the late 90s, it may have been part of your daily life - like grabbing your shoes out of your never-used oven or squeezing yourself into a mass of bodies aboard a subterranean rocket during rush hour. If this was your life after 2001, too late. You missed it. One more stream of air let out of the late 90’s tech bubble.
The golden (orange) days of the Web. Image posted under CCL: http://www.photoree.com/photos/permalink/721867-78416373@N00.
For those who may have blinked during this period and are unfamiliar with the eulogy, Kozmo.com was, in fact, was a delivery service. Any of the city’s bountiful small delights delivered to your door in less than an hour - a box of Marlboroughs, a wedge of baklava, the Memento DVD to watch with your film school geek squad, whatever.
But to me - as a wide-eyed, tech-intrigued NYU student - it was so much more. As I penned idealistically in my many cover letters, it was a revolutionary attempt to align distribution channels to the whims of the emerging information age. Not just information delivery, but physical delivery of real things, not quite at the speed of a microprocessor. But at least at the speed of the slick orange bikes. Fast enough to slip through the slim window of opportunity between a finicky craving for mint chocolate chip Haagen Dasz & laziness. It was revolutionary! And I needed to be a part of it.
The Sad Fate of Shiny Bubbles
I’ll never forget the moment when I heard my college roommate call Kozmo to bring her a Diet Dr. Pepper & pickle. Not a jar of pickles - just one pickle. Initially, Kozmo had no delivery charge (really) & no minimum order (seriously). Their delivery area also included a part of the city lousy with college students.
But the primary perpetrator in my eyes, was my nonchalant roommate. I wanted to bellow - “How could you treat the revolutionary distribution channels of this revolutionary service with such flippant disregard! Don’t you know they’re going to change the world as we know it!”
Well, she was apparently not alone. Kozmo.com went out of business in 2001 due to a business model that anyone but a naive, pixel-drunk 20-year-old could have spotted as disasterous. And a small leak appeared in my own personal technology bubble.
Why I Need You - the Pioneers, Late Adopters & Agnostics
Since then, I have spent decades in the web world. And the whole time I have wrestled with that same unending hope & heartfelt disappointment of my 20-year-old self. Even as I worked in strategic web positions, there was that nagging shrill voice reminding me that technology doesn’t change people. The doubt that we, as a society, will always trend Justin Bieber over Michio Kaku or charity:water.
(To be fair, my NJ roots - the same metro area that nourished lovable curmudgeons like Jon Stewart & Anthony Bourdain - certainly has added to the contrarian side. I learned from a young age that skepticism was next to godliness & the only intellectually honest approach to the world).
This blog is my attempt to battle the skeptical voice & pin it - once and for all - to the cold, hard ground. To celebrate how the Web is a wondrous place that can save lives with things like ushahidi.com & even spawn revolutions! To acknowledge that we are up to the task, and that I want to be one of the builders - and not a piercer - of possibilities.
So, I appeal to you, thoughtful readers, to help me - wherever you may be in the continuum of contrary & curious. Please keep me honest, yet hopeful. Help me grow my passion, while staying grounded. This is our Web! Or at least our corner of it. And for my part, I always want the room to park a shiny orange bike in it!