Clocks, clouds and the digital age

In reading this month’s WIRED magazine (the print edition, mind you), I found a great nugget buried in an article entitled, “Lost in the Details – How breaking everything down to particles blinds scientists to the big picture” (by Jonah Lehrer). The entire article is a great read, but near the end, Lehrer brings Karl Popper (the scientific philosopher) into the picture with his theory that everything in the world falls into two categories: clocks and clouds.

Basically this means that clocks are orderly and neat and the parts of it interact in a predictable way. But clouds are unpredictable in that they are “highly irregular” and their motions are beyond “even the theoretical possibility of prediction.”

I love this concept. And taking it further and applying it to the digital and word of mouth world that we live in as marketers, I’m adopting this as a philosophy when building solutions for clients. Not one or the other, but finding the right balance of both.

Follow me down this path: The clocks are the tools. The Facebook page. The CRM Twitter account. The Gowalla pin that leads to a payoff. They are the inner-workings that can be put into place and set in motion. Yes, we are all still figuring out how to best use them, but we know the fundamentals of working with these tools.

The clouds? That’s the people. The personal interaction. That’s where emotions and personal experience and memories and word of mouth come into play. That’s where users could see a completely different use for what you’ve created. People are unpredictable. And most of the time they know your product or service better than you do. So sure, they will take your clock parts, but what they do with them isn’t always predictable and doesn’t fit into a flow chart.

So now our job is to find the balance. What percentage is clocks and what percentage is clouds? Because once you find it, you’ll have something big on your hands.


  • Twitter Comment

    RT @ADwerks: [link to post] – @spikejones explains how cloud-like people can affect clock-like tools.

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Twitter Comment

    “Clocks, clouds and the digital age” – [link to post] – @spikejones explains how cloud-like people can affect clock-like tools.

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • May 6, 2010

    Allen Mireles

    Spike, I’m so glad to have found your blog. This post is simple yet elegant. Perfect analogy. I think I’m going to enjoy reading this and following you. Jason Falls was right. ;)

Leave a Reply