2011: The year that was

Before we kick in a new year of post, I want to take a quick look back at things I covered on 2011 as I still believe many of those represent important trends and inform some of my thinking.

I kicked off the year with the usual prediction list (and closed it out with a review) and was surprised by how many of the themes I highlighted ended up making their way through other entries.

I had set a goal for myself to do a post a week and decide to create a framework that allowed me to do so efficiently. My process is to capture simple ideas in a backlog and then dig through them once a week, sometimes tying the story to a recent development. Every Friday night or Saturday, I then crank out a post that covers that top in as broad a way as I could.

I write mostly for myself, as a way to get a better sense of my own thinking on a topic and then get feedback on how wrong (or occasionally, right) I am. This allows me to refine the strategy behind Keepskor and get a better sense of where our industry is heading.

While I never set a narrative for what is being covered on TNL.net, one seems to emerge when I look at the work I produced over the last year.

An emerging New York

I kicked off the year by making a bold prediction about a re-emerging and re-invigorated New York technology scene.  A year later, I feel ever more strongly about the things I highlighted in that series of posts: New York has emerged as a major player and I suspect that, within a generation or two, New York has a chance to displace the valley as the center of the US tech industry (note that the longer view is something I articulated later in the year but has been a dominant theme on this site for a decade).

The series created quite a stir when it came out and was one of the most trafficked group of entries this year (in fact, it still gets a decent amount of traffic a year later.)

If you’re on the East coast, you no longer have to relocate south of San Francisco to make it. New York provides an environment that rivals San Francisco and has a few extra advantages I had not covered in that series. For example, being halfway between London and the Valley, New York is the perfect place to manage a business that is not solely aimed at the US.

Myth-busting in startup land

This feeling from the ground, as I started re-entering the startup world, got me in the direction of thinking about the broader trends relating to startups. I a series about startup myths, I debunked the ideas that startups are risky, expensive, idea-based, smooth rides where everyone makes money.

My reason for doing this series of post was to archive thoughts on this that I could send to people when they brought up those myths (and as someone who spend too much time on Wall St., I’ve been exposed to quite a few of those people.)

Financial Markets

Using some of the skills I did pick up on Wall St., I’ve been trying to make sense of the financial markets and get a better understanding of the overall economic picture. This first led me to analyze whether internet valuations were getting over-inflated (they weren’t.)

As internet companies started testing the IPO waters again, I checked to see if LinkedIn was overvalued and highlighted some concerns around the GroupOn offering and later in the year, I started thinking writing more about digital currency.

The Internet War

The concept of digital currency is but one of the hot flashpoint between the current world and the internet one. Over the past year, we’ve seen increased activity from hacker groups and the rise of the internet as a political philosophy. Calling for an end to apathy on the part of our industry when it comes to policy making, I tried to make the case for the creation of a new set of definitions and protocols to control the internet of the future.

This is in reaction to an increasing privatization of large parts of the web, balkanizing the open web,  as companies try to monetize their user base to return value to their investors or counter suspected threats by new entrants. Along the way, those companies are redefining identity ownership through surprising terms of service agreements.

A resurgent Microsoft

Meanwhile, another story that has made its way through my narrative has been a massive comeback: Over the last few years, Microsoft has become a symbol of technology decline. But 2011 has shown us a resurgent company, first in its agreement with Nokia, which will bear fruits in 2012; then with the bets its placing on the web as a core component of the next version of Windows; and then through the success of its revolutionary Kinect device.

Microsoft’s bet on the web as the core of Windows is a smart one. HTML5 is enjoying wider support and new technologies like WebGL are bringing the web to new levels, levels that could be matching native apps soon. I will probably write more about these trends in 2012.

Internet and TV Colliding

Another item I have covered extensively in 2011 is the merging of television and the internet. Last year, I looked at where 2010 box office winners were streaming, how available popular TV shows were, and whether there was a delay in availability.I also looked into why live TV streams were not available online, explaining how some of the missing pieces of the puzzle could fit together. This provided readers with a stronger understanding of where the market stood. At the time, the results showed that availability was getting better but still had a long way to go.

I will start revisiting a lot of this information next week to gauge how much progress has been made in making movies and TV shows available on the internet.

My interest in this as a trend is that it provides us with a better view into whether internet TV is ready for primetime as a new internet channel (Netflix getting into the content production business was a major event in that direction, opening the door for other internet companies to offer something on that third screen… and for a few players to become new gatekeepers if we are not careful.)

I suspect this collision is part of the reason we have seen the entertainment industry rally behind SOPA, as it has seen first the music and now the book industry getting impacted in radical ways as media increasingly become mobile and can be consumed on phones and tablets.

Other trends

However, I was surprised that I had not spent more time covering some other trends I’m seeing emerging.

My archives did not include any mentions of bitcoin, though I think that virtual currencies are one of the hot topics currently sitting below the surface. While I am not convinced that bitcoin is the one that will win in the future, I do believe that we will see increasing traffic in that arena soon.

I also strongly believe that a new manufacturing age is upon us. The revolution behind 3D printing, 3D scanning and more customized and micro-produced materials is something that we will see on the edge this year and probably in the mainstream by end of year or early next year. This will have a substantial impact on our economy in the long run and I will keep an eye on it.

Conclusion

While I have deliberately chosen not to focus my writing on a narrow area, it appears there are broad topics that I return to on a regular basis. The intersection of media, technology, business and politics are part of the broad trends I follow around here and generally form the core of what I write about. My friend Anil defines his own writing as being about culture and I believe that broadly, he and I write about some of the same things.

Over the next year, I will revisit a lot of the work I did in 2011 as I wanted to establish a few foundational posts from a trending standpoint. But as we become more public about Keepskor, I will also write about some of the things that led to its creation and some of the thinking behind it. As someone who spent a lot of time dealing a dual life as blogger and Wall Streeter, I haven’t really said much about what I’m working on but I’m sure that readers will be interested as it taps into some of the trends highlighted above and a few that I haven’t talked about yet.

2012 is going to be a very exciting year and I will try to have a body of work at the end of it that matches what I’ve accomplished in 2011.

About the Author

Tristan Louis

Writing and working on the internet since 1993, I've launched 6 companies, of which 2 (internet.com and Earthweb) went public and two were sold (Net Quotient and MoveableMedia). My latest, Keepskor provides tools allowing anyone to develop mobile and connected TV games without writing a line of code. This is my personal site and all opinions here are mine.