How many people are online?

During the recent discussion on “Do You Need a Resume?” we were reminded that not everyone is online or knows how to find you online. Many people are still scared of technology, don’t understand it or are just plain ignorant of what can be achieved. (This is not just in the workplace many of our schools are like this as well, but that is a whole other discussion.)

Tim Bray, a geek from Sun and major contributor to XML, provided a perspective on how small this hip, cool and connected community really is, when he asked just how big is this club, in a recent post.

We who read (and write) blogs and play with the latest Internet Trinkets (and build them) have been called an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, a teeny geeky minority whose audience is itself.

In March, I gave a keynote at Web Design World in San Francisco. Frankly, it did not go that well; in particular, the crowd didn’t laugh at my jokes. Here’s one of them, more or less: “Being a Web Guy at Sun is a little intimidating. At high level strategy meetings the Chip Guys talk about what they’ll be shipping in 2009, and both the OS Guys and Java Guys talk about things a year or two out. As for us Web Guys, well… three weeks ago, I didn’t know that Twitter would become the Hot New Thing.”

It became apparent that most of them hadn’t heard of Twitter. The same joke (I’m a slow learner) fell flat at a meeting of University IT and Computer Science people a week later in Calgary. So let’s take this as evidence of the insularity and smallness—and, perhaps, unimportance—of the Internet In-crowd.

Do this means without a resume or forcing people to find you online means you might be missing out on the greatest job in the world? Maybe.

But many readers would say that they don’t want to work for such an organisation. I think you should. Why? Working for a unenlightened organisation might just be the challenge you need. Because the benefit to the community is huge.

Let me explain.

For us who are online all know about the power of social networks and hence why they are becoming the biggest thing on the internet. Geeks in the audience would know that this power is caused by Metcalfe’s law “which states that the value of a (telecommunications) network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n2).”

Therefore the more people that come online the more power for us all. So go work for a company that does not know how to find your blog, wants a hard copy resume and show them to power.

We really need to do this we need to work at closing the digital divide, John Udell explains why.

What’s more, I believe this tribe is, over time, growing farther away from the rest of the world. That’s happening for an interesting and important reason, which is that the tools we are building and using are accelerating our ability to build and use more of these tools. It’s a virtuous cycle in that sense, and it’s the prototype for methods of Net-enabled collaboration that can apply to everyone.

However to communicate to the “others” we need to be careful we don’t alienate them in the process. John provides, for me, a small insight on how to do this, tell stories.

How do you talk to everyone about the transformative benefits of the technologies we’re so excited about, in ways that don’t make people flip the bozo switch and tune you out? How do you tell stories that make the benefits of the technology come alive for people, in ways they can understand, without overwhelming them with technical detail, but at the same time without dumbing down your explanation of the technology?

Don’t know how to tell a story? Listen to Anna Farmery’s latest podcast on just that topic.

5 thoughts on “How many people are online?

  1. Working for a unenlightened organisation might just be the challenge you need

    You can’t always “kick the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight” Michael.

    Case in point

    That said it can be “fun” to be selling the dream. Sadly that’s all it sometimes is: a dream

    But still, better to to be Cam Reilly than Rod Bruem anyday!


  2. True Tom, however in my optimistic mood today if enough people kick the darkness eventually the daylight will shine through :-). Unfortunately as you know along the way some of us kickers get burnt.

  3. Michael:

    I had something kind of funny happen the other day. I was researching something a little bit arcane – looking for good books on the subject – and as a webhead – I figured that everything available would turn up on the web.

    Imagine my surprise when I went to my (good) local library and found many useful books on the subject that DID NOT turn up in my extensive web searching.

    Moral of the story? Not everything is on the web – not everyone is here yet. Keep telling stories!

    Tom O’B

  4. Tom O, you mean library’s still exist ;-), wife keeps reminding me of this when I need to research something as well.

    Yes so many things and people are yet to arrive online, we also need to make sure that we welcome them to this new place and not scare them away.

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