Last Spring, Eastgate dropped into Leancamp, an unconference for young startups who subscribe to lean business principles. The conference was a sea of Mac-toting 20-something males in jeans and sports jackets. The buzzwords of the day were “lean,” “agile,” “collaborative,” “cloud,” “social,” and all of the other familiar words of today’s internet businesses. All of this more or less met my expectations, though I I was surprised by the gender imbalance.

The unexpected part came from talking with people about what they are looking for in software. Everyone wanted collaboration, sharing, and all of the social media virtues. But within this microcosm, there seems to be little room for the individual. People scoff at client-side software designed for individuals. As we’ve seen in social media, everyone contributes but no one is heard.

The question has been bouncing around electronic literature for years, Is our emphasis shifting from the single author to teams? Is the idea of the artist obsolete? Is it ridiculous to expect an individual to create a brilliant work? Collaboration is interesting, but it can run the risk of reducing art (and software) to a mess or a mob. It often takes an individual to reinvent the way the everyone thinks.