Predictions and Scorecards
Most years, I feature some sets of predictions, including the occasional snarky comment and, when available, scorecards for the previous year’s predictions. Of course, good pundits predict far enough into the future to assume that people will have forgotten the predictions by the time they fail to come true. As I’ve learned, a recognized hotshot futurist pundit will continue to be recognized as a hotshot futurist pundit, no matter how awful the track record actually is.
But that’s a different rant, one I occasionally feel like making when names such as Negroponte, Tapscott or particularly George Gilder come up (usually in conjunction with surefire futures they’re touting). Repeating the rant does me about as much good as Seth Finkelstein’s pointed and useful commentaries have done him—so why bother?
Will that serve as a reason for the lack of scorecards and (with one exception) predictions last year? My reasoned judgment that it was a waste of time for me to publish and comment on predictions?
No, I didn’t think so: After all, the Grand Poobahs of Punditry don’t usually make one- and two-year predictions: People might not forget fast enough. What really happened last year was…I forgot. Or maybe I wasn’t reading the same sources.
That introduction is one way of turning a set of scorecards and predictions into something like a perspective. Beginning with some two-year updates from “The hazy crystal ball,” my last roundup of predictions, which appeared in C&I 5:2 (Midwinter 2005).
Notes on some of the forecast sets from that essay.
This December 2004 piece was a two-year forecast and it was unequivocal: These are things “the next two years will bring us”:
Ø The “next PC” will have dual-core processors; two-thirds of all PCs in 2006 will have 64-bit processors; high-end PCs are likely to have 4GB or more of RAM; there may be Lego-like upgrades. True, possibly true, false, false. Two out of four ain’t bad.
Ø Volume production of SEDs in 2007; big OLEDs and other foldable displays stay in the lab; maybe rear-projection TVs with three more primary colors. False (there certainly won’t be volume production of SEDs this year), true, true for one or two brands.
Ø This one’s still “three years out” from now—MIT Research Labs’ claim that we all really want computation everywhere, the Oxygen Project. I still think it’s absurd, particularly if we care about, oh, power and resource consumption, for example.
Ø Smarter photo software using metadata produced by digital cameras: True, I believe.
Ø Hi-def DVD recorders shipping: True (Blu-ray burners started shipping in late summer)—but then, it was true in Japan in 2004.
Ø Nastier worms spreading to cell phones, PDAs, etc.: I don’t know that they’re “nastier” but there are cell and PDA worms.
Ø Batteries made of paper and other fibers: Still in the “any day now” phase, not the manufacturing phase suggested for about now by SRI.
Ø Cell phones with hard disks, able to switch between cell and wifi networks—and usable during flights. Yes (I believe), yes—and so far, no, but that horrendous future seems imminent. One more reason to avoid air travel.
Ø The Smart Home will finally arrive—kitchen tables as virtual workspace, food containers that track freshness, etc. False, at least as a significant marketplace phenomenon.
All things considered, that’s not a terrible track record.
These trends were predicted to “dominate the world of technology in 2005,” so we’re giving an extra year:
Ø The end of Moore’s law: False.
Ø Medical devices inside your body to prevent depression, relieve back pain, “and even paint your esophagus to reduce acid reflux”: False.
Ø Videos, photos, music on cell phones and fast deployment of 3G networks: True and maybe.
Ø Mini fuel cells in commercial applications, with laptops running for days and cell phones taking calls for weeks: False.
Ø Internet telephony with VoIP becoming a household word: True.
Ø The digital living room “with consumer electronics vendors battling it out against PC/software companies.” Mostly false; PCs rarely show up in living rooms.
I suggested the first was premature, the second unlikely on wide scale, the fourth highly improbable, and the last irrelevant except for “a few million early adopters.” I’m satisfied with those comments.
This late-2004 set of eight predictions carried its own disclaimer: “best enjoyed with a salt shaker handy.” Again, predictions were for 2005, but let’s allow the second year:
Ø “The year of the DVR”—more than 10 million installed by year’s end. Apparently true.
Ø Apple’s iPhone hits the market. False.
Ø “Google searches everything, including video.” Sort of.
Ø Blogs and podcasting go mainstream; some make money. True.
Ø Tech consolidation continues—as do startups. True.
Ø Nanotech makes fuel cells feasible. Unclear.
Ø Chinese IPOs “party like its 1999.” Unclear.
Ø “The word ‘passion’ is barred from all business meetings (please).” False.
Surprisingly good for a self-deprecating set, and this wasn’t the only source of an iPhone prediction.
I didn’t quote all 19, and these predictions are stated as possibilities, some “decidedly fantastic.” Here’s how eight that I did quote panned out two years later:
Ø eMachines drops the “Gateway” name. False—and Gateway’s returning to its roots.
Ø Bill Gates retires and devotes himself to philanthropy. Premature.
Ø Apple “launches a PDA smartphone.” False.
Ø Windows XP SP3 and a leaner IE by August 2005. False; SP3 never arrived.
Ø “Spam wins” but nobody responds, so spammers switch to phishing. Unclear.
Ø A supervirus sweeps through “most home PCs without up-to-date virus signatures” yielding loads of “zombies bringing down sites like Amazon, eBay, Google and Microsoft.” False, at least in general, fortunately.
Ø All production of VCRs and full-size VHS tapes ceases. False (with VHS/DVD combos, it’s likely to stay false for a couple years yet).
Ø Intnernet2 moves to the commercial world. False.
Clearly a grain of salt wasn’t enough.
Ed Felten at Freedom to tinker is scrupulous in reviewing his predictions. The predictions for 2005 were surprisingly accurate (I haven’t summarized them), so “we decided to take more risks having more 2006 predictions, and making them more specific.” Here’s the post, including all the predictions within fields I try to follow closely. Predictions in italic, most commentary omitted, my own comments in bold:
(1) DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.
We predict this every year, and it’s always right….
(2) The RIAA will quietly reduce the number of lawsuits it files against end users.
(3) Copyright owners, realizing that their legal victory over Grokster didn’t solve the P2P problem, will switch back to technical attacks on P2P systems.
Verdict: mostly wrong.
(4) Watermarking-based DRM will make an abortive comeback, but will still be fundamentally infeasible.
The comeback was limited to the now-dead analog hole bill… Mostly wrong.
(6) The Google Book Search case will settle. Months later, everybody will wonder what all the fuss was about.
Verdict: mostly wrong.
(7) A major security and/or privacy vulnerability will be found in at least one more major DRM system.
(8) Copyright issues will still be stalemated in Congress.
Another easy one. Verdict: right.
(15) Push technology (remember PointCast and the Windows Active Desktop?) will return, this time with multimedia, and probably on portable devices. People won’t like it any better than they did before.
[T]his didn’t happen, at least not yet. Wrong.
(17) HD-DVD and Blu-ray, touted as the second coming of the DVD, will look increasingly like the second coming of the Laserdisc.
The jury is still out… [M]ostly right. [Too early to claim right, I believe.]
(18) “Digital home” products will founder because companies aren’t willing to give customers what they really want, or don’t know what customers really want.
Verdict: mostly right.
(19) A name-brand database vendor will go bust, unable to compete against open source.
(22) Social networking services will morph into something actually useful.
The meaning of “social networking” changed during 2006… [M]ostly right (I guess).
The predictions were wrong more often because they were more daring and specific.
Briefly paraphrasing from a five-page set of predictions in the January 2006 SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Suber offered thirteen predictions, each in considerable detail: My snap judgments follow.
Ø Continued growth in all aspects of OA. True.
Ø Major year for funding agency OA policies and mandates. True.
Ø “Green” publishers may look for ways to revoke consent to postprint archiving. Not that I’ve seen.
Ø Publishers will take “just about every conceivable position in the landscape” on OA. True. As Suber notes, publishing isn’t monolithic.
Ø People will recognize that most OA journals don’t charge author-side fees, thus reducing particular OA arguments. Suber later called this “the worst prediction I’ve ever made.”
Ø Fast growth in “OA public-domain books.” I’m not sure I understand this one, but it’s hard to judge.
Ø Book scanning projects “will highlight OA business models that depend on advertising, institutional subsidies, and philanthropy.” Unclear—and the book scanning projects generally haven’t made as much noise in 2006 as hoped.
Ø Open file formats will become part of the OA conversation. Unclear.
Ø Far more serious scholarly use of blogs, wikis, RSS, P2P, folksonomies—all OA. True?
Ø The judgment that research on the web (including priced research) matches that of the best print libraries will become conventional. I believe Suber’s drawing a false dichotomy between libraries and the web, particularly since most fee-based web resources in most universities are paid for (and thus part of) the libraries. “Print libraries” haven’t been print-only for a very long time.
Ø Micropayments will trigger talk about affordable (rather than free) ejournals as an alternative to OA. I haven’t seen this, but I also haven’t seen micropayments having impact.
Ø More journals will add free services around articles, not including articles. Probably true.
Ø If there’s another big terrorist attack, it will be used as another objection to OA. There wasn’t, so it’s moot.
Suber’s summary of 2006 appears in the January 2, 2007 SOAN. It’s mandatory reading for anyone who cares about OA—and way too long to include or even excerpt here. There are a couple of points I might argue with, and I may yet excerpt and discuss this in a future Library Access to Scholarship piece, but my arguments would be minor
Let’s start with Freedom to tinker: A smaller set of predictions prepared by Ed Felten and colleagues Alex Halderman and Scott Karlin. I’m only including five (of 13) that I regard as within the foci of C&I; you may want to read the post, as other predictions seem reasonable and are certainly interesting.
(1) DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.
(3) Despite the ascent of Howard Berman (D-Hollywood) to the chair of the House IP subcommittee, copyright issues will remain stalemated in Congress.
(5) Major record companies will sell a significant number of MP3s, promoting them as compatible with everything. Movie studios won’t be ready to follow suit, persisting in their unsuccessful DRM strategy.
(8) AACS, the encryption system for next-gen DVDs, will melt down and become as ineffectual as the CSS system used on ordinary DVDs.
(12) Bogus airport security procedures will peak and start to decrease.
Scott Vine offered sixteen predictions for 2007. Some are outside C&I scope; here are a few I thought worth noting (and my comments in italics):
AllofMP3.com to get bought in a surprise (and risky?) move by Yahoo, who recognise its business model as winner. Doubtful—the legal risk probably exceeds the potential reward.
Google will buy Pandora. Could happen, but I hope not.
The US District Court will once again hold that COPA is unconstitutional in its attempts to protect children online. Let’s hope this is true…and that the Supreme Court agrees.
Microsoft will buy AOL. Doubful.
IPTV will really take off.
Mobile spam and viruses will grow. Likely.
DRM in music will be abandoned (may be 2008 until this one really happens, but maybe). Doubtful, although it’s a wonderful notion.
I think these are intended to be grain-of-salt predictions. Here are a few, again with my thoughts in italics.
Spam Doubles: No-brainer—but no one cares because we’re all using IM, especially at work. “We’re all” is just nonsense here.
Year o’ the Laptop: Half of all new computers sold in 2007 will be laptops and 20 percent of those will be Apple’s MacBooks. First part: Possible. Second part: Unlikely—that would more than double Apple’s market share even if they didn’t sell a single iMac or other desktop.
Print to Web: A major newspaper gives up printing on paper to publish exclusively online. Unlikely—the economics still don’t work. Unless you define “major” very broadly.
Apple goes Apple: The entire Beatles catalog is licensed exclusively to iTunes for a year. Seems unlikely.
HD-DVD wins: HD-DVD is the clear winner over Blu-ray in the DVD format wars. Oh yes, and the PS3 is a bust. I’m already on record as saying that Blu-ray is the likely “winner” if there is one, so I think this is a bad call.
No More Dads: Artificial gametes made from female eggs are sold over the internet, making fathers biologically irrelevant. And pigs will fly.
Greenland Becomes Green: As the ice melts, Greenland becomes literally green. Not this year, but…
Raelians Need Not Apply: A human embryo is cloned for real. Claimed, yes; real, unlikely.
Don’t Don’t Be Evil: Google drops “Don’t be evil” as its corporate mantra. Evil has its justifications, but no one likes a hypocrite. Unlikely.
They’re Watching You: Congress passes a law requiring internet service providers to keep logs of all web traffic and e-mail for three years. Highly unlikely.
MySpace Spaces Out: Myspace splinters as teens head for niche sites… Likely enough.
You knew I was going to give Wired a bad time, didn’t you? And they didn’t even mention their poster child, the “$100” laptop.
Very brief excerpts from a four-page essay in the December 2006 SOAN, with my comments (such as they are) in italics:
The spread of OA archiving policies by funding agencies and universities is an unstoppable trend [with] more mandates than requests.
The spread of institutional repositories is equally unstoppable… I'm tempted to predict a continuing tension between the narrow conception of institutional repositories (to provide OA for eprints) and the broad conception of IRs (to provide OA for all kinds of digital content, from eprints to courseware, conference webcasts, student work, digitized library collections, administrative records, and so on, with at least as much attention on preservation as access). But I have to predict that the broad conception will prevail.
Funding agencies with weak OA policies…will find, like the NIH, that the policies generate unacceptably low compliance rates or unacceptably long embargoes… [And the NIH will eventually move to a mandate.]
When funding agencies consider OA mandates, the center of attention will be the length of the permissible embargo…. For authors and readers, the sweet spot is zero—no embargo at all. The embargo period will be the center of attention for four reasons: (1) it really could make the difference between effective and ineffective OA; (2) it really could make the difference between between survivable and unsurvivable cancellations; (3) it's not binary and could always be nudged up or down; (4) and most other issues have already been settled.
Publishers who don't already consent to author self-archiving are facing increased pressure to go green. Publishers who do already consent are feeling increased pressure to retract or scale back their permission (say) by adding fees or embargoes or both…I think both will continue to increase.
We'll continue to debate the question whether high-volume OA archiving will reduce journal subscriptions, and we'll continue to debate it without hard evidence… [Suber goes on to say “we’ll need the money” spent on subscriptions to pay for the OA alternative—which leaves libraries’ other needs out in the cold.]
We may see occasional friction between proponents of fee-based and no-fee OA journals, just as we see occasional friction between proponents of OA archives and OA journals. But in both cases it's best to interpret this as division of labor rather than real rivalry…
More publishers will adopt the hybrid OA model for more journals. Because the hybrid model is so risk-free, this is an easy prediction… The big question for publishers is whether they want author uptake badly enough to make it attractive… I'm not predicting that many hybrid OA journals will convert to full OA, though that's what I'd like to see happen.
A few years ago most book publishers denied that free online full-text searching (even without reading) would increase net sales. Today most believe it. Today most deny or don't want to believe that free online full-text reading will also increase net sales. But in a couple of years most will believe it and they will seize it as a new and lucrative business model which, incidentally, will help readers, researchers, and purchasers enormously. In retrospect, it will look a lot like the fuss about distributing movies on videotape—a profitable no-brainer delayed by short-sighted panic. Quoted in full because it’s a false analogy—videotapes were never free—and because I doubt this one.
Novel copyright problems are coming over the horizon. Do machine-generated paraphrases of copyrighted texts infringe copyright? What about databases of facts and assertions gleaned from copyrighted texts, either by human gleaners or by software? What about data (not itself copyrightable) seamlessly integrated with a copyrighted text? I doubt that any of these will be taken up seriously in 2007, at least. I could be wrong.
In 2007 we'll see an outcome in the lawsuits against the Google Library project… I predict a judicial ruling, not a settlement.
We've used many methods over the years to educate publishing scholars about OA, and for many reasons this work has been slow-going… [O]ne elegant method is starting to work 24/7 without draining anyone's time or energy. It's simply the growing exposure of existing OA literature. [I]t's easy to predict that this kind of spontaneous author education will also continue to grow.
As always, go read the original.
Morrison, The imaginary journal of poetic economics, published year-end statistics on the growth of open access (both flavors) in a December 31, 2006 post. That post includes two predictive paragraphs:
My prediction is that researchers will begin to prioritize learning about open access in response to mandates from funding agencies, and the more they learn about open access and related initiatives such as open data, the more they will embrace and support it. Educational efforts by librarians and others will be a very helpful factor along the way; the policy mandates will provide the incentives, and librarians will be increasing ready to help provide the information and needed support.
The most important thing I see happening in 2007, however, is less tangible in nature, but rather a shift in perspective; from debating the pros, cons, and possibilities of open access, to a focus on how to implement. For librarians, the key trend I predict for 2007 is a shift in perspective on library collections, from a focus on collections as purchase or lease, to one of building and preserving collections. This is a subtle shift, and arguably one that reflects a return to more traditional values, which is nevertheless key to the transition. Once we understand that building and preserving collections of the work of our researchers for everyone to share is the very essence of librarianship, everything else will fall into place, in my view.
In the synopsis, Morrison notes that the second prediction is for the start of a trend. Both predictions are interesting. The second raises some of my “and not or” feelings [I don’t see a “transition” but perhaps an extension], but I think it deserves further reflection.
Hane, editor of Information Today, Inc’s Newsbreaks, offered this list in a January 8, 2007 article “Wrapping up 2006; looking ahead” that also comments on what Hane considered the most important trends for 2006. I’m nervous about disagreeing with someone as tuned in to the online marketplace as Hane, but I’ll offer a few caveats in italics within selected trends—noting that I’m skipping half of the dozen:
Ø Wikis will likely grow in numbers and importance.
Ø We’ll see more interesting and useful content and tools mashups.
Ø “Widgets” will be cool and ubiquitous… “Cool” is a personal judgement; many of us will avoid widgets to avoid gadget overload.
Ø We’ll see more experimentation with new forms of publishing…
Ø Video will continue to be a big deal. But most people will still watch most video in the form of professional productions, that is, TV and DVD.
Ø Copyright issues won’t just go away and could come to a head in 2007. They won’t go away—that’s for sure—but even with Berman in charge, I believe that more oppressive legislation is unlikely (and more balanced legislation close to impossible, unfortunately).
It’s not a game I play very well, so I’ll continue not to play it at all, other than as notes here and there.
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