Q&A – Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired, at FFWD2014

Advertising and Marketing Week, also known as FFWD2014, kicked off in Toronto on Monday – and now, in 2014, much of its focus is on digital marketing and how the space has changed, thanks to the influence of technology.

So it was only fitting that the opening keynote speaker would be Kevin Kelly. The founder of Wired Magazine, as well as the author of several books on tech and its evolution, Kelly has been watching the tech space for more than 20 years.

IT Business.ca had the chance to chat with him briefly after his keynote address. The following is a condensed and edited interview with Kelly, as he explains his take on technology and how it’s evolving.


IT Business.ca: You were the founder of Wired back in 1993. Between then and now, what are some of the biggest evolutionary shifts in content?

Kevin Kelly: I think the major difference in content is that more and more is being produced by the actual users themselves. Nobody could forecast and nobody could have believed that happened, which is that the majority of content today is being generated by the users themselves.

And 20 years ago, that would have been unbelievable, that would have been incredible, that would have been impossible. And now, user generated content is the norm, and everybody understands it, and that’s been the biggest surprise.

ITB: Your Cool Tools site, that is basically all user generated content. And what’s interesting is that in a New York Times interview, you described that blog as a print blog. First it was online only, and then you made it into a hardcopy book. So what prompted that decision?

Kelly: That’s a little bit harder to explain. But the Web does about 95 per cent of what book printing used to do. So most of the work, most of the chore, most of the activity, most of the function that books do, the Web can do better. So there’s five per cent of those functions that the Web cannot do.

And I think it’s that five percent that I’m trying to capture with the book. And that five percent is immersive sensibility … But it’s a very physical, sensual thing. It’s a very large page book, and it’s colour and high-resolution, and there’s all these different bits of it that are connecting with each other – and that is something that doesn’t happen on the Web. And it does happen in print. So I think there are small finite uses for paper that exist, and this is one of them. This is one of the ways print still works.


ITB: In the book, “What Technology Wants,” that you wrote a few years ago, you wrote about how technology is kind of evolving in a progressive, predictable way. Back then it’s 2010, and now it’s 2014. What do you see as being some of those technological developments in the last couple of years, those evolutions?

Kelly: Well, obviously mobile is the big revolution in the last five years or so. Nobody would have thought that would have penetrated as far as it did. So what’s coming … I think one thing that is coming very fast that people don’t realize is AI, or artificial intelligence, which has been getting in the last couple of years, really fast. And I think it’s going to accelerate until it will actually be useful to people. And I think that’s happening at a very rapid pace.


ITB: In some of what you’ve written, you’ve described technology as on a linear path, going forward into the future. We talk about technology as evolving somehow, almost the way that we evolve biologically. But there are still setbacks in some ways – like the dotcom bust of the 2000’s. So how do you see technology as moving forward, given that we do have setbacks like that?

Kelly: I think you’ve analyzed those are the cycles – there are busts as well as booms. But there are business cycles that go up and down. There’s too much money flowing into an arena, and it makes people crazy, and it’ll collapse and people will run from it. But that’s the natural cycle that I don’t think will stop at all. I think we’re in an expansive mode right now – there’s lots of money flowing in. I mean, of course at some point it will be crazy and people will back off.

But usually when that happens, people get a really good education. Actually, people prefer startup founders to have had at least one failure before they give them any real amount of money. So you can think of these crash times, the times when it goes bust, as when people get an education and have a lot of failures, and they usually come out of it stronger next time. So that after that boom, the next boom is usually bigger. So I don’t think it’s really something to be concerned about … unless you’re investing a lot of money.


ITB: So as a last question – Advertising and Marketing Week was is about digital marketing. What is one trend that you think marketers should really pay attention to in the coming six to 12 months?

Kelly: That’s a good question. One thing that marketers should pay attention to in the next six to 12 months … I think I would look at some of the things that are trying to measure influence, or trying to measure influence in this social arena. Things like Klout or other indexes trying to make sense of that arena. And I think I would expect even more innovation in that space, so I think that can happen in the timeframe of six to 12 months.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Candice So
Candice Sohttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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