Tipping Points and Big Adventures
In Malcolm Gladwell's year-2000 neo-classic, *The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference*, the phenomenon of epidemics is explored. He explains how small events catalyze sweeping changes and discusses them in many different contexts. Many of us have been anticipating the Ruby and Rails tipping point to be close at hand. It is clear to me that this is happening now. The growth of use of the language and framework, the coverage in the press, new books appearing on the market, sell-out conference attendances - all are indicative that the knee in the curve has been reached. But different epidemics have different quantitative characteristics. There are many dimensions in which the epidemic manifold may lie, and the shape of the curving surface depends on many factors - what's important is unique to each epidemic. Gladwell helps his readers understand what tipping points are and why they occur, but doesn't give us ways to recognize what the small events were that enabled them except in retrospect. It is much easier to analyze a historical epidemic than measure an occurring one. Take the Asian bird flu and the i-Pod as examples. Will bird flu be the explosive pandemic that the health officials have predicted? Has the knee-phase in the i-Pod curve been completely passed? How can such things be measured when it's not clear exactly which measurements are appropriate? I suppose that in absence of prescience, all we have is gut feels, educated guessing, and luck. The closet futurist in me says to the intrepid software developer in me that the Ruby and Rails epidemic is hitting. The wily entrepreneur in me is overhearing the conversation and wondering about timing, asking the mysterious gypsy in me to do a little gazing into the crystal ball. As I stand at the edge on the hill and look up to see the peak of the summit, I wonder which route will get me to the top and let me enjoy the best sights along the way. It is joyous to live in such fun, turbulent times.