The Next Bison

In 2006, we took our then two-year-old son to dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant that specializes in bison burgers and has pictures of bison on the walls. Looking around, he asked, “What sound does a bison make?” I told him I really didn’t know, but when we got home I opened up YouTube and searched for “sound of a bison.” And the first hit was exactly that:

Could you have predicted this would be possible? I know I couldn’t have. I remember as a grad student chatting with my advisor, Mitchel Resnick, about whether it would ever be possible to search for an arbitrary word on the web and get a meaningful result. We both agreed that was silly–no way! Of course this was around 1992–we were discussing NCSA Mosaic. So maybe we can be forgiven for being short-sighted. If being able to do a meaningful search for anything on the web is surprising, being able to search for anything (like bison) on YouTube is even more so. Sites like YouTube and Wikipedia have reached a critical mass of content that make them truly useful.

The Next Bison is the next big thing made possible by the Internet that will be transformative. That will make us sit back and shake our heads and laugh.

These thoughts began as a short workshop paper Understanding the Internet’s Present, and Values-Based Design of its Future I wrote for the workshop on Technology-Mediated Social Participation organized by Pete Pirolli, Jenny Preece, and Ben Shneiderman at PARC in December 2009. My day-to-day thoughts here are guaranteed to be more mundane. But I hope something bigger may emerge. Small facts speak to large issues, winks to epistemology, bison to user-generated content and the next big thing.

  1. beki70
    January 20, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    I’m looking forward to the next bison!

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