Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thoughts After A Monday

Mobile Monday London event this Monday. There are a number of Mobile Monday events in large cities with Mobile Software practitioners, and this one in London was two nights ago. We met for two panels in a lecture hall (they call them Lecture Theaters here) at the Imperial College in South Kensington. As I told the gentleman in the seat on my right to break the ice: "I haven't been in one of these in 14 years, and certainly not in this country, but they all look the same and I am having flashbacks. Most of them traumatic." It really sometimes does feel like all Universities and Colleges are the same building with some cosmetic differences. After the two panels, a mixer for drinks and networking.

The first panel was on Mobile Social Media, some panelists couldn't focus on anything but the 18-35 market segment, until I actually asked if there was any thought at all about whether the retired affluent segment might want something to do with social media. You know, the people constantly showing off their grandkids? Nothing, really. Simon Lawson did have the interesting comment that what was holding the older population back from participating in new media was: "It's taxonomy. As soon as you have to learn a bunch of new terms you put people off. When I explained twitter as "you can text me and my brother at the same time" she got it."

Which made me think of how technology always gets explained in analogies (to the point that no slashdot post about the social impact of technology is complete with a car analogy), necessary until the technology actually gets used and internalized. Still, there's an analogy for every new technology explained in old technology, which must have had an analogy to previous tech when it was new, and thus turtles all the way down until you can explain Facebook in very very very long terms of using a stick and lightning.

Still, we have to wonder if the older segment is underrepresented as users of mobile technology because they are not open for new things, or because they will not put up with  crap. Considering my 76-year-old father sends me plenty of SMSes and can't wait until I hit the Netherlands to show him more about his MacBook, it's not exactly the former. New technology that works is nice when it helps you stay in touch. Of course, the phone he uses is a big-buttoned, 4 lines of 20 characters black & green LCD indestructible Nokia from the late nineties, and he is happy with it. He 'gets' the phone, and the phone works. My current phones often don't even work fully for me, yet I put up with it because of the promise that the parts I do get will bring me cool experiences. Sometimes I think us early adpters are just too patient, that if we were more brutal manufacturers would try harder.

I am starting to think older set needs to be the new focus group to evaluate whether a new social technology is a fad or will have a lating impact. If it doesn't work for them, the whole idea and execution is just not robust enough.