Let a hundred flowers blossom

Wednesday, February 8th, 02023 at 13:31 UTC

Sometimes mis-quoted as “Let a thousand flowers bloom”, we really like this phrase, but its origins are problematic. It was Chairman Mao Zedong’s slogan was used for roughly six weeks of 01957 when the Chinese intelligentsia were invited to criticize the political system in Communist China.

Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.

Chairman Mao Zedong, in Peking, February 01957

It is thought that the initiative was an attempt to get dissidents to expose themselves by being openly critical of the regime. Whether intentional or not, many of those who put forward views were executed.

It is understandable how continuing to use this quote is problematic.

Twitter’s (long, drawn-out) implosion has been the news in the tech circles for awhile. Maybe that’s a good thing (for several reasons)? Sometimes it takes a forest fire to burn down encroaching growth and to release the seeds and give them room to see the sun and grow. When a large company collapses, all the staff are little seeds of knowledge that are then redistributed to many, many other organizations.


FAANG “right-sizing”

At the start of 02023, Meta (Facebook), Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google) (Collectively should be known as MAMA) have collectively laid-off more than 51,000 people.

We’ve seen this pattern before. In Iceland, pre-02008 banking collapse, the three big banks and two major enterprise tech companies sucked up all the talent they could. Then in the span of a few short months, lots of people lost their jobs. The entrepreneurs started new, small companies and brought with them others with talent, knowledge and experience.

Friends’ start-ups and companies we’ve worked for took VC money, raced ahead with ideas, grew and grew, only to never find a market fit. Sadly, some of the companies closed, products disappeared and all that was left were the people. But others went on to create amazing products.

People are seeds of knowledge and talent from existing projects. When they are free to spread around, they join other companies or start new projects. They bloom into amazing companies.

It is sad to loose a job/company you’ve been apart of for so long. It certainly hurts emotionally and financially, for the people who built, managed and maintained it. But let’s all take a moment to be hopeful and watch those seeds disperse to greater and interesting endeavors.

Mastodon (ActivityPub) Clients

Tomorrow, February 9th, the Twitter API will convert from free to some form of subscription based on usage. None of which has been made public yet. A few weeks prior, all 3rd party apps were terminated leaving only the boring, ad filled, land grab of the official Twitter app.

When the Twitter API was new, we used it (and their RSS feeds) to gather lists of Icelanders and graph sign-up by month along with interesting data points.

That fun’s all over. No more research, no more interesting bots, no more ElonJet trackers… on twitter.

The distributed, federated social networking platform Mastodon has taken-off and it feels like Twitter circa 02008 again. Lots of experimentation, new ideas, different designs and interesting bots.

The openness of the ActivityPub protocol is another reason we are going to see a hundred flowers blossom. It allows for lots of small communities, niches with special needs, be it photo or audio sharing, text toots, news feeds, or the unexpected. The openness to experiment and try new things is available.


While we’re sad the past is changing, we’re excited about where it leads. When one door closes, many others open. Keep an ear out in a years time for some exciting new product you love, created by an ex-MAMA employee. It wouldn’t have bloomed if the seed hadn’t been planted.