Could maybe 20 or so people do some simple work in the next year and change the world to be a much better place? Could only a handful of people doing work that is well within their capacity make life better for billions?
I think so and here is why I think so.
First of all please have a quick look at Dave Cormier's invitation here. He is asking for a few folks to help him develop a farmer to consumer network. If we can pull this off I think we will have changed the world - not just little old PEI.
Now that's a stretch Rob!
If we look at what is happening in the world of media - we can see what is likely to happen if we do this for food.
The "Mass" media used a system that had at its centre a very expensive capital based system that the small could not use. Only the Murdochs of the world could play. Making programs and distributing them to a mass market was very very very expensive. Over time more and more concentration took place. Big was not enough. You had to be huge. So great titles like the Baltimore Sun were sold out of family hands to mega corporations. In the 1990's it looked as if concentration was the only way. AOL Time Warner, Bell 's investment in papers etc. Mega Huge was the way. Billions of dollars was borrowed on this "sure thing".
Meanwhile in the early 2000 blogging began. When I started in 2002 there were about 60,000 of us. It was like a big village. No one noticed in big media. I started because, by then, there were relatively easy tools for non techies like me. I started with Dave Winer's Radio Userland. It was still hard to use and to get pictures loaded. To change the look took real skill that I did not have. This was still "Innovator" time not Early Adopter time. (2002 remember so long ago!)
But the huge thing that Dave had invented that made all this blogging more than narcissism was he had invented the RSS feed. In Userland we could all follow each other and get connected really easily.
This was I think the turning point in the Blogosphere's assault on Mass Media. For the first time there was a global community of men and women in their pajamas.
Over time, the tools got easier and more powerful and cheaper! By 2004 the Early Adopters were well in and by 2006, so was the Early Majority.
I think that the Tipping Point is both Facebook and YouTube - Here the late majority came in.
It is no surprise to me that the core age group of Facebook users is now parents. It's a sign that the system has Tipped. My wife is on the edge of Late Majority, Laggard - she now thinks that Facebook is great and uses YouTube all the time. She suggested to me the other day that we cancel our cable! The system has Tipped.
Now we see the papers die. Soon it will be the TV Networks. Alternatives are here already.
The Mass Media story will be the story of how all the systems that are based on a Mass Market will die in the next decade.
So here is how the lessons will play out for Food and why Dave's ask is so important.
Local food is now like blogging in 2001 just before Userland and Dave Winer and RSS. There is a growing minority of Innovators who are growing and buying directly from each other. Famer's markets are booming. The Idea of Local Food is ahead of where we were in Blogging then thanks to people like Michael Pollan - the background is more receptive than for blogging in 2001.
Most who grow and sell and who buy however are DISCONNECTED. It is a individual thing. Just like bloggers were in 2001. It is hard work for all. The typical Innovator stage when say Video Tapes came in - very expensive and complex machines, few titles, no supply system - no corner store or BlockBuster.
Selilng and buying local food directly is hard because there is no system to make it easy. It's like blogging before Typepad that made all the basics that were hard in Userland accessible to dummies like me.. The costs are high for all too - there is a lot of uncertainty. I can only get local food if I go to the market on Saturday - or to a number of stands. You have to work hard to know and to get there and when you do - you don't know what you will find. Same for the growers. They want to spend most of their time growing etc. But they have to send a ot of time in getting to market and when they do - they don't know what will happen.
The current system is only useful to Innovators.
What Dave is really suggesting is that we get to Typepad fast. That we make it easy to know who has what and who wants what and that we put in a mechanism like RSS to help us all get connected. Connected locally and across the world.
We need a lot of help to do this. We need all who care to share.
Meanwhile the big in food are getting mega huge. Just like the end times in Mass Media. More concentration in every part. Bigger seed companies like Monsanto. Bigger food retailers like WalMart. Biger tractor companies like Deere. Bigger Farms. More credit and money at risk. They hardly know we exists. They fool around with Local as Branding as they have with Organic. But these are only labels to them. Have you seen that Helmans are labeling Mayonnaise Local because the eggs come form Canada!
It is good that we will not take us too seriously at first.
Like the new media, the new food will be a vast system of small. The scale will be in the vastness of the small and in its aggregation.
If we can get Dave's system working well on PEI - it will work well anywhere. Within a year or two it will be everywhere. New Platforms will grow from it - the Food equivalent of Craigslist or Etsy that will Tip the system into the Mainstream.
If it is easy and cheap and predictable to buy and sell direct, who needs the Super Store? If it is easy, cheap and predictable to grow locally, who needs Monsanto, the Oil Companies, the Input Suppliers, the Processors and the banks? Just as who needs the news papers, the paper companies the advertisers etc.
The old will fight like hell. Their existence is on the line. They have the money and they will capture the politicians. They will do anything to defend themselves. But they will fail. They will fail because for the same reasons that the newspapers have failed.
Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot go back. The shift to the new is almost done in media. The same DNA of change will happen in every field. After food - health. While health is changing to a community model - local energy and local credit based on micro credit will take off.
The business world will retreat from mass concentration to a distributed network. All parts of the new network will interact to strengthen the whole. The process will accelerate - like evolution does.
So my friends - all it takes is for 20 of us to start here on PEI.
Not so long ago a few folks got together here and had a long party. The result was Canada.
It's our turn now