The first thing that I noticed about the New Media crowd is that I was a “grayhair,” meaning that most of the people in this space were younger, smarter, and had orders of magnitude more energy than me. But then there’s something that the whiz-kids don’t have. They don’t have the same experience as me. The simple fact that I’ve made ten to fifteen extra trips around the sun than they have gives me a different perspective about the exciting times that we live in.
When people use the word “Web2.0” do they really know what it means in the context of Web 1.0, or even Pre-Web 1.0? Without having lived through those transitions, it can be frustrating for some of the young technorati who just don’t understand why the vast majority of people still don’t read blogs, have a clue what a podcast is, would never Twitter, and are actually very happy with their “First Lives” thank you very much.
But here’s where that “perspective” thing comes in. I remember conversations with these “early-majority” folks back in the 1990s. I remember when my company had email yet all of my customers had fax machines. I can’t tell you how many times I pleaded, “You really need to get email. Debugging your code would be so much easier if I didn’t have to retype it into my application.”
Or the time I created a Computer-based Training Application that fit onto a stack of 1.44MB floppy disks. I remember asking, “Why don’t we just release it on CD-ROM?” to which they answered, “None of our customers have CD-ROMs.”
Or the first time I demonstrated a web browser to a Marketing Manager. Even though the first version of Mosaic supported something like 50 colors, and would quickly increase to 256…most people’s monitors at the time only supported 16 colors. After the demonstration concluded, the great Marketing manager told me, “An effective marketing campaign is impossible to run in 16 colors or less.”
The technology adoption problems that we wrestle with today are very similar to those that we fought before. Today, the vast majority of people can’t live without email, has at least a CD-player in their computers, and their web browsers and monitors work in harmony to display millions of colors. And so, as time marches on, people will eventually take control of their information through RSS, they’ll adopt portable media time-shifting just as they have with Tivo at home, and companies will stop talking at their customers and begin using technologies that encourage dialogs instead.
But, before we get there, we must learn from the past that it’ll take both time and work. The time we can do nothing about. The work we can. As the early adopters, we need to be patient with those who don’t immediately see the benefits of adopting new media technologies. As believers, we need to show them how these strange new tools and techniques will make one part of their lives easier — without sugarcoating the fact that another part of their life will likely get harder. If we do our job correctly, they will see that the new benefits far outweigh the subsequent hassles.
Whew! That took lots of energy. I think it’s time for this grayhair to ingest a multivitamin product and then take nap:-)