Would Malcolm Gladwell invest in ripple?


Robert Harpool’s recent post on XRPTalk got me wondering: would Malcolm Gladwell invest in ripple? Here’s Robert’s post (reprinted with permission):

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell catapulted into public consciousness with the release of his bestselling book The Tipping Point. It was a pioneering analysis of how new phenomenons are sparked, take hold and eventually become mainstream.

Does ripple meet Gladwell’s criteria to become exponentially popular, or is it doomed to eventually sputter and fade into oblivion? To answer that question, we have to look at the three elements Mr. Gladwell believes are necessary for a phenomenon to reach “the tipping point” (as paraphrased from wikisummaries):

1. The Law of the Few. Certain types of people must be involved. Specifically, Gladwell says there must be ‘Connectors,’ ‘Mavens’ and ‘Salesmen’. Connectors are people who interact with numerous social groups and can thus cross-pollinate the phenomenon. Mavens become deeply knowledgeable of the phenomenon and have a compulsion to help those around them make informed decisions. Salesmen are charismatic people who are persuasive in inducing the decisions of others.

2. The Stickiness Factor. This is the aspect of a phenomenon that makes it stay in people’s minds and influences their future behaviors. Gladwell asserts that the phenomenon needs to be a dramatic divergence from the conventional wisdom of the time.

3. Context. The phenomenon’s appearance in the right historical moment is critical. Furthermore, the group size where it takes hold is important. Gladwell espouses that for a phenomenon to reach a tipping point, groups limited to 150 people are most conducive to its spread.

What is your experience when you overlay ripple on Gladwell’s required mechanisms? What role do you play? What do you see as the stickiness factor? What historical trends do you see afoot that will engender ripple’s mainstream adoption?

Here are my thoughts on each:

1. The Law of the Few. There are definitely connectors, mavens and salesmen involved with ripple. They’re the bloggers, forum posters and reddit hawks flooding the web with content. I think the whole crew at Ripple Labs qualifies, too. They’re some of the smartest people in the tech world, and they’re being led by an entrepreneur (Chris Larsen of Prosper and e-Loan – check out my post on the Top 20 quotes from the co-founder of Ripple Labs, Chris Larsen) who knows how to navigate choppy venture capital waters and bring innovation to one of the stodgiest industries in the world (aka finance).

Tying the distribution of ripple to BOINC and World Community Grid was brilliant in and of itself. Not only is it an arrow shot at bitcoin’s waste of electricity, but, to be blunt, it gets geeks excited. I could be mining litecoin on my laptop when I’m not using it. Instead, I’m running projects for the grid (even though the payout is much smaller). There are obviously lots of other people out there like me, so we’ve demonstrated passion for the platform.

2. The Stickiness Factor. During my exclusive interview with the founder of NoFiatCoin, Robert Reyes, he said something about ripple that’s stuck with me: “With ripple, it’s like you see the future, and there’s just no going back.” That resonated with me because I feel the same. It’s a dramatic departure from today’s banking system, but it’s catapulting us into the future making full use of the technology that’s readily available. Sticking with today’s hodge-podge financial system (full of delays, fees, overlapping layers and dependence on banking hours) is like riding a horse to a motorcycle race. It just doesn’t make sense.

3. Context. Obviously more than 150 people have embraced ripple and are helping to evangelize and grow the community. But we have a lot further to go. Competing bitcoin protocols seem to pop up every day. That’s a sign, though, that the timing is right. Bitcoin cracked the outdated foundation holding up the financial system. I believe ripple will be the platform that rebuilds it.

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