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Springing Out of Nowhere

Feb 12, 2010 In Web Culture By Hans Hugli

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, said this in 1899: “Everything that can be invented has already been invented.” Poor Charles probably took his misquote to the grave

When did you become aware of the great sites that exist on the web now? Were they there for a long time, but you just didn’t notice? Have you come across new sites you now can’t live without? What is that makes a new, amazing site so amazing?

Once You See It, You Can’t Stop.

Let’s talk about the last time you might’ve purchased a car. After you bought it, did you all of a sudden see other people driving your car, maybe even in the same color, everywhere? You probably wouldn’t have noticed those cars driving around if you hadn’t just bought your own. But they were there. This situation is a lot like a psychological phenomenon that Carl Jung referred to as “Synchronicity”: the occurrence of two or more events that are causally unrelated, but that occur together in a meaningful manner.

I’ve found that “synchronicity” often describes people’s experience of the web. Have you noticed that since social networking sites have become popular, you tend to see their icons canvassing the web? Do you now see signups for tweets everywhere—on billboards, ads, television, the web? Now that you know about Twitter,are you unable to get away from it?

The ubiquity of sites I know about makes me wonder: what’s out there that I’m not seeing?

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

Charles H. Duell,Commissioner of the US Patent Office, said this in 1899: “Everything that can be invented has already been invented.” Poor Charles probably took his misquote to the grave.

Time has proven that innumerable inventions and opportunities had not been discovered in 1899—since then we’ve discovered (or created) everything from the Ziplock bag to the Internet. Even in 2010, it’s arrogant and narrow-minded to believe that we’ve already thought up everything there is to think up.

All the Low Hanging Fruit Is Gone. Guess We’d Better Get a Ladder.

Sure, all the simple stuff has been done. But aren’t we all astounded when that new something pops up out of nowhere and enriches our lives? Sometimes it takes intense research or vast amounts of money to create the next big thing; other times all that’s required is a clever twist—making something that already existed immensely more useful or aesthetically pleasing. Take the iPhone or Facebook, for example: they’ve both hit a resonant chord with the masses by improving upon a good thing (the cell phone & social networking).

Keep Trying. Things Will Happen.

My sister once explained that in her art class, she was instructed to visually represent an object (I think it was a chair) in 100 different ways. The medium did not matter. She said that the first 8 or 9 chairs turned out okay, but that the next 20 to 50 were boring and lifeless—just the same thing over and over again. She said that she grew frustrated and angry about the assignment and considered giving up, until she reached a point where she was forced to really think differently, and break out from her usual mold. After that, she finally started to come up with good, wild ideas. In the end, she created some fantastic works that she didn’t think she was capable of.

Drawing a chair a hundred ways turned out to be an incredibly empowering exercise that gave my sister the confidence and fortitude she needed to continue her career. She went on to become a successful Graphic Designer.

The lesson? When designing or thinking up something new, don’t just go with the first idea out of your head. You’ve surely not reached your potential.

Open the Mind.

I have found that there is much more available on the web than I had previously thought. Discounting things we do not understand is something that we tend to do to protect ourselves from an overwhelming flood of information, valid or not. As a result though, we will likely miss something invaluable. I find it easy to become complacent and only visit sites that I already know, but I’m always amazed that when I really start looking for new things; I find them everywhere. Try to allocate some time to simply looking around the web for something new; something might just spring up, and it might just be a gem. It’s probably already there.

Have you found a web site that you can’t live without? How did you become aware of it? What about it do you really love? Let us know. Leave a comment or if you tweet, follow us on Twitter to learn about new content, opinions and articles.

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2 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

ali@N said on Feb 12, 2010

fusion id Its likely to B key

fjpoblam fjpoblam said on Feb 13, 2010

About 2 years ago, a post on Lifehacker described "information overload" after watching so many RSS feeds daily. It led me to a rather plainish website I watch daily. I can''t live without it: http://www.techmeme.com

(Worth noting: I no longer follow Lifehacker!)

The only other two I follow daily are one I''ve followed for *many* years (also rather plainish, and a membership forum) http://www.webmasterworld.com and http:www.arstechnica.com (a cross-discipline science feed)

I became aware of these last two by web-search for answers to technical questions.