21 August 2008
Racing with Teenagers
Last night I had a dream about RSS feeds, how many I should put on each of our websites, and whether or not there should be corresponding blogs. You have to admit that this is pretty strange, even for a dream, and that it should probably surprise me, but it really does not.
A few weeks ago I gave Todd, the bright and promising new guy in our office, that task of learning everything he could possibly learn in a few short days about things like Facebook, Plaxo and Linked In. I wanted to know whether these "social networking" tools are something we should be involved in from a marketing standpoint. Todd is 27 years younger than I am, well educated, and knows his way around a computer. But even at his young age he found all of things daunting.
Todd and I had a long talk yesterday about the things he was experimenting with and what he had learned. I sensed a lot of frustration. Unless you are kid with plenty of time on your hands, it takes a lot of patience to assimilate these things and decide whether or not they have any place in your life.
Personally, I find social networking sites and blogging to be irritatingly worthless. Most people use blogs to vent their frustrations with their boss, their boyfriend or their cat. I blog because the same guru who told me we should jump into the deep end of Facebook and Plaxo told me to blog. I have to confess that I am astonished by the number of people who read this.
On Plaxo I joined several "groups," which has lead to an onslaught of pointless and unwanted email and hook-ups with some rather unusual people. Every time a member of one of these groups introduces the company website to the group, one bizarre member leaves comments like "Check and verify several websites and their proffered offerings of services regarding hotel amenities and the hotel/motel industry and you can find listings of and ratings of their performance and then you can align yourself with those that will give the character and the quality of performance you desire."
Perhaps Valiumshould be sold over the counter
I shared with Todd my conclusion that we are running a race with fourteen-year-olds. If you want to know all the ins and outs of anything new, find a teenager. They seem to know everything.
As we were talking I looked back at what I was doing at age fourteen. I was among the first to own a transistor radio. (If you are under 30 you may not even know what that is.) When I heard that Timex had invented a watch powered by a tiny battery, I dreamed of never having to wind a watch again saved enough money to buy the very first one in the town where I grew up. At fifteen I was working hard enough to learn to fly and soloed at sixteen. Then came laser disks, pocket pagers, the first personal computers and cell phones.
The Univac was the fist computer I remember, probably from watching Art Linkletter's show on our massive black-and-white television. Univac was as big as a house and devoured cards punched with tiny square holes that could not be spindled, torn or mutilated.
Unlike many people who will probably read this, I can remember the very first personal computers. Nobody had heard of a mouse yet because they had not yet been invented. Like the Kaypro computer I bought, monitors were monochrome green and about six inches across. A floppy drive was five and a quarter inches across and a ten megabyte hard drive was a pretty big deal. Nobody thought it would ever be possible to fill up a 30mb drive, which was about the size of a box of cigars. (Chances are good you may not have ever seen one of those, either.) Windows had not been invented yet, and many computers used a language called CPM until IBM invented something called DOS. Nowadays, I spend about fourteen hours a day with my eyes and fingers glued to a device that I could not have possibly imagined would someday exist when I was only fourteen.
One law of nature dictates that every time something new comes along something old fades away. It is not difficult to make a list of products and technologies that were very commonplace but have virtually disappeared. Do you own and use a turntable or a typewriter?
That, I explained to Todd, is why we have to know everything about Facebook, blogs, and RSS feeds. Every day we run a race with a world that is getting younger and smarter. If you do not keep up, you become irrelevant and will slowly begin to fade away, like Betamax, Bosco, Mrs. Wright's Blueing, and 8mm movie cameras. In other words, adapt or you are finished.
Besides, these new social networking toys give us the perfect place to complain about the boss, the boyfriend and the cat.
"You are not blogging enough," my mother tells me by email. "Some of these people blog every day, you know." She's 83, running her own race, and winning most of the time.
"You should write about food," Nut suggests. He claims to have what he calls crocodile tongue. He is fond of telling me that "I eat to live, you live to eat." So I have relented and, based on his usually-infallible judgment, my second blog, is born. Where to Eat will appear in nearly every edition of the blog you are reading now I will tell you about the great restaurants I have found in my quest to eat my way across Asia.
Jerry Falwell and Strom Thurmond are both still dead and that is a happy thought. However, Larry Hagman is not dead. (Sorry, Larry, I thought those cigarettes had caught up to you long ago.) I was extremely happy to learn that he is still alive and that many of the original cast are filming a 30th anniversary Dallas Reunion Gala to appear on the boob tube in November.
By the way, did you know that Hagman is the son of the legendary actress Mary Martin? And can you hum the theme song from his first TV series? Barbara Eden is also not dead. In fact she's looking pretty fantastic.
Another thing to be happy about is that our customer and friend Rodney from San Francisco will arrive over the weekend with a big bag of goodies from Costco, including walnuts and industrial sized Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. I still have a months supply of Velveeta in the larder. Thanks, Rodney! And thanks to Marco for the gran pezzo di formaggio he carried so lovingly from Milan.
On one hand we are really happy that Thailand is finally rid of its cowardly former Prime Minister, who fled the country to avoid trial for enough dishonesty to fill an entire blog. Tens of thousands of Thais demonstrated outside the British embassy last week to demand his extradition. It took me two and a half hours to get to the office on Tuesday--a trip that normally takes twenty minutes. I was happy, in this case, to donate my time to Thai civil disobedience. Plenty of people here want the scoundrel back so that he can be tried and sent where he really belongs. If you are British we hope you can help turn up the heat your government so that the UK does not become the next Paraguay or Libya. You get Gary Glitter back, we get Thaksin. Fair trade, na?
By the way, if you subscribe to the RSS feed I dreamed about last night you will be among the fist to learn about my arguments with my cat. Nut and I never argue. There are times I wish I had a boss to complain about. Thanks for reading, and happy trails...