The more things change…

From my NETT blog:

When the iPad was released last year, there was a cacophony of ooohs and aaahs as geeks, early adopters and visionaries welcomed Apple’s shiny new thing. But if you listened carefully, you could also hear sighs and mumbles. That was from the people who were saying under their breath, “Oh s@!?# – another new technology to try and master – I give up!”

As a small business operator, it can be frustrating to try and stay on top of all of the technologies that may or may not be relevant to your business. It’s easy to question the justification for learning new things that may turn out to be a flash in the pan. Why get immersed in Facebook when it might turn out to be the next MySpace? So tablets are buzzing at the moment – didn’t the Palm Pilot have its day in the sun, to end up on a shelf gathering dust next to my Ipaq Pocket PC? Has Twitter peaked? Should I hitch my star to Foursquare, or Facebook Places – or neither? And I just signed up for a long contract with my iPhone 4 – don’t tell me that Android is the next big thing!

No one has a crystal ball that can tell you which technologies and platforms are going to be winners, or how things will evolve in the future.

Classic examples I use with my marketing students include the VHS vs. Beta wars of the 1980s, or the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD stoush this past decade. Many people – and retailers – who invested in Betamax players and tapes or HD-DVD collections were left with expensive but useless equipment when they lost the marketing battle with their technologically inferior rivals.

It’s an understandable human reaction to say “Enough!” and refuse to adopt a technology until they work out the bugs, or until the winning format becomes clear. When I was a kid, my older brother installed a state-of-the-art 8-track player in his first car. When that technology collapsed soon after, he was so annoyed that he refused to buy a cassette player in case that technology became superceded, too. It did eventually get replaced by CDs, but in the meantime he spent more than 10 years in the music wilderness.

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– Ray Welling

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No trays, grey screens = save the whales

Irish Internet expert Gerry McGovern reckons our inefficient use of computers is contributing to global warming. The evidence ranges from oversupply of information (the classical lawyer trick by burying incriminating evidence under an avalanche of data) to Google using up too much energy in producing the white background to its search results.

I like McGovern’s style because he often takes non-computer examples from daily life and applies them to technology. In this posting, he talks about a study conducted in university cafeterias that showed that when you take away food trays, students waste less food. Another one of those “Well, d’uh!” studies that proves what you already knew instinctively. Anyway, McGovern goes on to argue that we should be more selective with what we publish on the Internet and corporate intranets, because the longer it takes people to find the information they need, the more energy is wasted. Great point! I’ll adhere to that principle by stopping my posting right her—

Too much technology, not enough strategy

Jason Burby has written a terrific column in ClickZ about adoption of Web 2.0 by business. He writes, “In my opinion, companies focus too much on the individual technologies and not enough on the overall Web strategy of connecting a business, customers, and prospects. To build a successful enterprise Web 2.0, spend time to define what success means to you and how you want Web 2.0 technologies to change the ways you communicate with your customers, prospects, and partners.

“….make sure you aren’t just reviewing the coolest, newest technologies that everyone thinks every company must have. Instead, take the time to determine the strategy and forecast out the way these new offerings will impact your audiences’ behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, brand loyalty, etc. Think more strategic. Think about the impact, and not finding a use for a new technology.”

All ages and professions need to get with Web 2.0

This one is a couple of weeks old, but recently came to my attention. Richard Smith, ex-editor of the British Medical Journal, CEO of BMJ Publishing and now involved with open access journals, wrote a terrific blog on the BMJ about how doctors need to expose themselves to the world of Web 2.0/Health 2.0 and the possibilities it presents.

He writes, “Web 2.0 has the potential to improve global health greatly and to solve complex problems in health science. (However,) the barriers to these potential achievements are social and cultural, not technological.

“The machines we can fix. It’s the people – particularly old timers (that’s anybody over 40) – that are the problem.” Smith, who is 56, has some simple advice for his fellow old-timers. “The only way to really understand Web 2.0,” he says, “is to jump in and start using it.”

He recommends everyone sign up for Facebook and concludes, “The essence of Web 2.0 is that it’s bottom up and participative: it’s created by the many, not the few…. Doctors, I fear, are too fond of a top down world – because they are usually at the top. But that top down world is crumbling. Think of Nicolae Ceausescu’s statue being hauled down and smashed. That’s the old world of Web 1.0. Get with Web 2.0 in a serious way or become a yesterday’s person.”