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Is 30 Too Old To Be A Web Visionary?

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Ah, your Twenties – when your invincibility nearly reaches the heights of your arrogance. How I miss them, when I was certain any moment Oprah would call to recognize my brilliance, and my bedroom had a revolving door.

Is 30 Too Old To Be A Web Visionary?
Is 30 Too Old To Be A Web Visionary?

I’m 30 now, so I remember my Twenties well, dead as they are. We say "turning" 30 because that’s what is: turning some crazy corner in life. I’m slower, fatter, and my knees and stomach don’t work like they used to. The music’s getting too loud. I like four-door cars and watching the news.

But I’m not dumber, or less in-tune with things, or limited in creativity. In fact, I’d say I’m better than I used to be at everything except jumping. That’s not arrogance. That’s confidence. I’m smarter, more experienced, less apt to be impulsive and have learned more about how the world works.

I’m responsible, mostly because now other people rely on me, rather than just me relying on myself.

The preceding speech is inspired by a recent blogospheric spat that came to a head over the weekend, pitting old against young – a classic battle, really, an "age-old," if you’ll forgive the pun, tale spanning back even to the Old Testament, where conscientious older observers look back and laugh at the ignorance and capriciousness of their youth, and laugh harder as they watch the once-immortal turn 30.

With Thirty comes the epiphany: I really don’t know everything. I’m just really good at blowin’ smoke.

The debate begins with venture capitalist blogger Fred Wilson, who suggested in a multi-part series that web services entrepreneurs over 30 are becoming obsolete. He writes:

I really don’t want to be the guy who made it harder for anyone older than 30 to get funded in the web services market.

But I’ve been thinking about all the young entrepreneurs we are seeing walk through our offices. I’ve been thinking about Mark Zuckerberg, Rob Kalin, all the ycombinator entrepreneurs, and the 15 year olds who are hacking up facebook apps. You can’t ignore it. There is something fundamental and important going on….

Who is developing this "clearer idea"? Who is developing the set of "design patterns"? It’s the younger generation. And its important to understand why.

It is incredibly hard to think of new paradigms when you’ve grown up reading the newspaper every morning. When you turn to TV for your entertainment. When you read magazines on the train home from work.

Though he made a few concessions later, them’s, apparently, fightin’ words. Dave Winer, Original Blogger that he is, was quick to put school in session.

"I’ve been a net native since before I was 20," he writes. "Yes, I read newspapers growing up, but I also blogged before it was called blogging, and created a lot of the technology that the kids are developing now. Yet I’ve had arrogant idiotic asshole kids tell me I don’t understand the net."

Heh. He used the "A" word.

Steve Hodson, aka codenut, takes the curmudgeon profanity to a new level, on par with Mr. Greenlawn’s raspy command to STAY OUTTA MY YARD: 

To Fred – kiss my ass. Just because I have gray hair, fathered a couple of kids, been divorced more than once – you know … that thing call Real Life … doesn’t make me or any of my generation any less of a potential to shift more than an occasional paradigm.

Who the hell do you think invented the net you duffus – it was us gray haired old farts when you were probably still in pampers…[obligatory reference to Berners Lee and Cerf]

You talk about the 20 something’s being the true harbingers of paradigm shifts. Crap. They wouldn’t know a paradigm shift if it slapped them in the face.

If you’re not on the floor laughing now, then you’ve got no sense of humor whatsoever. Just awesome, Steve.

Wilson wasn’t out there on his own though. There are two sides to this, as usual. A surprising supporter is Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team and most certainly not in his Twenties. The same way Hodson cites Winer and Kahn, Dodge reminds us of Jobs, Gates, Brin and Page, all in their Twenties when they changed the world:

Young people have vision for what is possible, and are not blinded by "knowledge" of what is not possible….Older, more experienced people ( I am an old guy) are typically better at taking a startup idea and building it into a business. Older people are great at understanding the potential of "paradigm shifts", but not great at seeing them beforehand.

Indeed, they do seem to need each other most of the time. Brin and Page needed Eric Schmidt. Skywalker needed Obi-Wan Kenobi.

But let’s get back to the arrogant a-holes, that was more fun. Marcus Frind, founder of PlentyOfFish.com (featured on the Today show this morning, it just so happens) takes a harder line on the issue, with a very "modern" view on spelling, capitalization, and punctuation:

I agree with fred,  older people dont’ invent stuff,  they tend to take other peoples ideas and improve on them and use their connections/knowledge/money to get credit for it….

People over 30  tend to go out and look for emerging patterns to predict the future  but don’t really understand it.    Free dating never worked before I came along,

Wow. And girls can’t play baseball, I guess, just like Asians can’t drive and all Kentuckians are toothless, shoeless hillbillies. Nice. Just make sure you keep the pigeon in the hole; he’s unruly when he gets out.

Is 30 Too Old To Be A Web Visionary?
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  • Lisa Ditlefsen

    hi Jason,

    Great post and round up of what have been said on the matter. I was just eating my breakfast, having a cup of tea (I’m in the UK lol) and this post really made me laugh.

    I’m 30 next year myself, I think my ideas and creativity in my early 20s were crazy and iratic. Now in the last year of my twenties (as a single mother to a 3 year old and 4 jobs later..)I have good ideas, I feel confident in what I’m saying and can actually execute an idea. But I must agree that with my naivety I also lost some of the creativity. Real life kind of stops you even thinking about that crazy idea..

    Have a great day =)

    Cheers,
    Lisa

    • Jason Lee Miller

      Thanks for the kind words, Lisa, and glad you identified. The best way I’ve found to deal with the naïveté/creativity drain is to ratchet up the crazy as much as possible. I’ve done a good job so far, I think. One day I’ll be rich enough to be able to afford eccentric.

      Cheers back atcha.

  • incrediblehelp

    Funny stuff. The web loves controversy when safely seated facing a computer. I am 32 and I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I am online as much as any teenager. I see both sides of the argument, but I can see myself taking a side on this one.

    PS, what was so original that Marcus created? Free dating website that was MFA? Come on.

  • http://www.modernmagellans.com Roger Andersond

    Jason
    Thanks for setting the record straight. One issue, I think that more 20 year-olds can take the risk and so we see huge gambles. There are just more 20 year-old gamblers and it gives the impression that they as a whole might be smarter. Enough monkeys in a room…

    • Jason Lee Miller

      that’s a really interesting point, Roger…the same reason they get big car insurance bills…

      • http://www.modernmagellans.com Roger Anderson

        With 2 College students I know that insurance pain all too well.

        I find it funny that Marcus deleted his original post. Too much flack?

        This goes in my “How a blog can be bad for business file”

    • http://www.watercarz.com water powered cars

      Roger,

      I do agree with you. Experience always counts.

  • Guest

    My oh my. People need to stop complaining. Thirty years of age is nothing. You’re still young and letting yourself go has nothing to do with turning thirty…

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