Echosystem. What a marvelous typo! An e-mail from an analyst firm referred several times to a particular software development ecosystem, but in one of the instances, she misspelled “ecosystem” as “echosystem.” As a technology writer and analyst myself, that misspelling immediately set my mind racing. Echosystem. I love it.
An echosystem would be a type of meme—not the silly graphics that show up on Twitter and Facebook, but more the type of meme envisioned by Richard Dawkins in his book, “The Selfish Gene,” where an idea or concept takes on a life of its own. In this case, the echosystem is where a meme is simply echoed, and is believed to be true simply because it is repeated so often. In particular, the echosystem would apply to ideas that are repeated around by analysts, technology writers and journalists, influential bloggers, and so on.
In another time and place, what I’m now calling the echosystem would be called the bandwagon. I like the idea of a mash-up between the bandwagon and the echo chamber becoming the echosystem.
We have lots of memes in the software development echosystem. For example, one is that the RIM BlackBerry is toast. Is the platform doomed? Maybe. But it’s become so casual, so matter-of-fact for writers and analysts to refer to the BlackBerry as toast that repetition is creating its own truthiness (as Stephen Colbert would say).
Another is that skeuomorphs are bad, and that Apple is behind the times (and falling behind Android and Windows 8) because its applications have fake leather textures and fake wooden bookshelves. Heck, I only learned about the term recently, and repeating the chatter, wrote my own column about it last month. True analysis? Maybe. Echoing the echosystem? Definitely.
The echosystem anoints technologies or approaches, and then tears them down again.
HTML5? The echosystem decided that this draft protocol was the ultimate portable platform, but then pounced when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg dissed his company’s efforts.
SOAP? The echosystem loved, loved, loved, loved, loved Simple Object Access Protocol and the WS* methods of implementing Web services, until the new narrative became that RESTful Web services were better. The SOAP bubble popped almost instantly when the meme “WS* is too complicated” spread everywhere.
There is a lot of intelligence in the echosystem. Smart people hear what’s being said and repeat it and amplify it and repeat it some more. Sometimes pundits put a lot of thought into their echoes. Sometimes pundits are merely hopping onto the bandwagon. The trick is to tell the difference.
Alan Zeichick is editorial director of SD Times. Read his blog at ztrek.blogspot.com.