Introduction: Why the experiment?
As a futurist and a CIO, I’m expected to stay up to date on new technologies. I’ve attended talks on the digital divides (there’s one between the rich and poor, but another one entirely between the young and the old). I realized I was giving speeches that referenced the second divide, which describes me as digital immigrant and my kids and grandkids as digital natives (terms coined by Marc Prensky). In other words, they can do things naturally that I have to work at.
The first personal example that hit home came with my first ipod about three years ago. Here I was, a late adopter, and in my mid-forties. But theoretically capable. Turns out it took me hours to figure out how to adjust the volume. I felt seriously frustrated. There’s no volume button, no slider, no volume option on any menu. I did figure it out, but it was so unintuitive to move my finger clockwise or counterclockwise on a ring! At least to me. Mind you, I love how it works, now that the secret is out.
After that, I decided I’d better get a more direct handle on the things I’m talking and writing about. So now I own two blogs, participate in this one, and update a social networking space.
I started one blog about a year ago to capture the reading recommendations I post to my website once a month, and to have a place to periodically just say other things I want to say, but which aren’t yet either articles or stories. Sort of an author’s blog. I only update it a few times a month. People do drop by from time to time, and I expect more traffic as my next two books come out.
Last month, I started a more focused blog on global warming that I’m updating at least five times a week. This one is not yet frequented by very many people. But hey, it’s new. The global warming blog is by far the most interesting, if just because I’m learning how many ways the topic shows up in my daily life. Drop by, leave a comment, and let me know how it affects you.
I like to read my friend’s blogs, and good blogs on topics that seem to be written by people who a) know how to write and b) have something to say. Which isn’t the vast majority of bloggers, as far as I can tell. Corporate blogging is getting popular, but in my work life, I don’t take time to read corporate blogs any more than I take cold calls from vendors. What about the rest of you? Does corporate blogging work for you?
Many of my writer friends have livejournal accounts, so I decided to use that to try social networking. The information that gets posted in much more personal, and sometimes inane. Interesting topics do crop up. Some of us use lj to talk about our writing process, displaying daily progress and challenges. We can all cheer each other on. Personalities come through: the people who are more social in real life ask for more help and the more ego driven brag a bit more. In other words, people are refreshingly themselves. The posts that get the most comments are almost always the more personal posts (mine or anyone else’s). That’s tough for me since I’m sort of emotionally private. So maybe a digital native is more comfortable expressing emotions in a potentially international forum?
The good: I do feel much more connected to those of my friends that I have found here (People I counted as friends before and know in person, and who have sites). The first thing I do when I log on is go read my ‘friends’ page where the posts of everyone I’ve ‘friended’ are displayed together. I really enjoy that.
The odd: I haven’t met very many new people this way. I’m sure it’s done quite often. But for me, I feel like I barely have time to keep up with the people I already know, and I really like reading their daily posts. I’ve only ‘friended’ a very small handful of folks I didn’t know before.
The irritating: Some people post multiple times every day. Sort of the ‘too much information’ syndrome. But I don’t have to read it all.
This is probably a great tool for groups of friends, for families, and for disconnected workers (people sharing jobs in disparate locations). I’ll stick with for a little while longer, but it does take precious time every day. But what manner of keeping in touch with people doesn’t? I know more about my close friends than I did before, and see them in person at least as often.
Why should you try the interactive web?
Social networks, blogs, vlogs (video blogs), and other interactive content is becoming a key means of communicating. As the wireless web settles down over all of our larger communities, web 2.0 (and higher, I’m sure) will be the always on, always available choice for one to many communication. The cell phone will stick around for one to one communication, but the phone will access these tools as well as the more antiquated email. In the next few years, not participating in the active web will be like sticking to land-line phones in the 2000’s. So whether you’re a CIO, CEO, salesperson, minister, artist, or student, this set of tools should be available to you. And besides, learning new things is a great defense against aging!