Gundam Wing

One of the most popular pieces of imagery for my 8-year old son is the super-sized robot.

They were used on the Power Rangers shows, in Dexter’s Laboratory, and they’re the main plot device of his new favorite Japanese import, Gundam Wing.

For a little boy, such an image must be irresistible a robot bigger than a house, possibly under the control of someone his size, and capable of saving the world.

But when both sides have robots, as in Gundam Wing, a curious thing happens. Attention is refocused from the robot to its operator, for when two robots of nearly equal strength are matched it’s the pilot who will make the difference.

This is happening in web technology, as I found while doing a feature for B2B, a Crain bi-monthly formerly known as Business Marketing.

Before the web was spun, campaign management was a seat-of-the-pants affair. Reports would come from the traffic department, and analysis would take some time. The web compressed this time between delivery and analysis down to nothing.

The response was to write campaign management software programs. That worked for a time, until the campaigns and programs grew in complexity. After all, you want to take full advantage of your data warehouse, right? Today the cost for this software alone can run into six figures, once you get it installed. It has become like Dexter’s robot.

The new trend is to sell the robot’s service. In the case of campaign management this is done through an Application Service Provider (ASP). This allows any major client (or their agency) access to a powerful robot, as in Gundam Wing.

The next stage in this evolution should be obvious, according to Mike Galgan, chief strategy officer for Avenue A in Seattle. The focus is returning to the human factor, to the operator of the campaign management software, just as in Gundam Wing the focus is on the robots’ pilots.

My guess is the same thing is happening throughout the Internet industry. You try to turn something into software, the software becomes so big you have to make it a service, and the service then requires a skilled operator. This is why prices for designing web sites continue to escalate, despite the fact that you can quickly write a site with Microsoft FrontPage. This is why talent isn’t being made obsolete by software tools.

But the job is different. It’s not entirely a creative activity you have to understand the software. But there is creativity in how different people react to the same software, and running a campaign management program is an entirely different skill from running a program like, say Macromedia Dreamweaver.

Next week I’ll try to find some profound insight in my daughter’s favorite show.

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