Gold Rush: From Everywhere to Everyware

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“California Gold Rush Time poster. Source: Collectors Weekly

In their issue called “The new tech bubble, The Economist reported “Another digital gold rush. The article reminds us of LinkedIn’s recent IPO earlier this month, when share prices increased and increased and ¦ Wherever the ceiling may be, companies like LinkedIn are signs of the times. Today’s virtual gold rushes echo those of the 19th century in three ways, broadly speaking:

Enthusiasm
Both gold rushes drew crowds because lots of people yearned for something of value, as well as growing that value for the long-term. In the digital gold rush, the getting lies in the making”a product or service that helps people get things done, whether it’s taking action or being entertained. Having an idea and making it real is worth every claim of excitement. There’s no “gold-bearing discovery without all the modern equivalents of panning, washing and mining.

Low barrier to entry
Participation in the original gold rush required only a pan and a good spot. Tools for the digital gold rush”while a touch less tactile”are comparable, even in terms of learning curve. Instead of a pan, there’s a computer. Instead of a spot of gravel, there’s a partition of server space. This digital toolkit offers a fairly low barrier to entry for the bootstrapped participant. Like its physical counterpart, the digital gold rush is a “free for all only more so, considering that the stream bend is as long as the virtual shelf.

Keeping the dream alive
The individuals or groups who went in search of gold were driven by a desire for something better. In the digital realm, especially mobile, it’s something faster, simpler, cheaper (or priced in order not to participate “in a race to the bottom). People want all three when it comes to the digital gold rush. Economics aside, a gold rush is another way of holding onto a dream and not letting it dry up. Every pixel, like every mineral, counts.

Video game “California Gold Rush

Whether physical or digital, any gold rush remains vulnerable amidst the fever of “irrational exuberance matched by “inflated expectations. Even so, reaching expectations is the game itself.

Nate Burgos

For yet another digital gold rush, check out this story about China’s (mis?)use of prisoners to dig for Warcraft gold.

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