Thursday, September 13, 2007

Age and IT

Sometimes I feel old. I have trouble keeping up with all the latest tech. I wonder what I'm missing that would really make my life better. I've tried to keep up - really! I was into web forums far earlier than my usenet-oriented sweetie. I used linux back when it was RedHat 1.5. I started using IM (mostly on gaim, then later added jabber clients, iChat, YahooMessenger, and googletalk to my repertoire) almost as soon as it came out and even introduced my current husband to IM. I started on LiveJournal in 2003. I've joined multiply, orkut, myspace, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I've used feedreaders for a couple years, and subscribe to multiple podcasts. I've got a Second Life avatar, and I recently started using Twitter.

Some of these things, I've figured out quickly what they're good for. For example, IM rocks. I hate telephones - they're too intrusive - but IM can leave a message that I can see and attend to when it won't interrupt my thoughts (with the right settings anyways). LiveJournal is a great place, for me, to do my journaling online where my family and friends can keep up with my private life. I love podcasts - it's so nice to hear news and broadcasts while getting other stuff done.

But, too many of the "trends" are unclear to me (and to many of the geeks I know) as what they're good for. And I know they're good for something because they're so popular - they are trying to fill a need - I just don't always grok what need they're trying to fill.

Take Facebook, for example. It took me almost an entire year to figure out what it was good for, for me. Mind you, much of this is a generational thing, I believe. I'm not a teen or twentysomething who needs an instant update on where all my friends are at all times. If that's what need it fulfills, then it's not all that useful to me. But I have found uses, things like setting up study partners, and get to know people I've met at campus far better than I otherwise would have. I know, however, that if I hadn't gone back to school at 40-something for my undergrad degree, I would still be wondering what Facebook was for. And I can easily imagine someone using it to keep in contact with their social network, if that was something they'd started using together in school.

Tonight, I figured out what Twitter is good for, for me. I had attended an open house at a company and was feeling out of place - I didn't know anyone, and everyone had either come with someone or had cliqued up before I got there. Finally, I ran into an acquaintance from the Python community. About that time, it was time to go sit down for the presentations. I told him I'd save him a seat. A while later, I got an email from him telling me where he was sitting and asking where I was. He didn't have my cellphone number to SMS me - but if he'd had Twitter, I could have twittered(?) him my location, and he could have joined me. Hey - if we'd been following each other's Twitter feeds(?), we could have met up earlier at the open house. We'd have known we were both there. This could be very useful for conferences! My friend had heard of Twitter but never used it and wasn't sure what it was for. So, I have, once again, realized that, while my uses for a particular technology may differ from those of a younger generation, I often can find uses. And I once again got to introduce someone else to a new technology. Kewl! Maybe I'm not so old or out of touch after all.

No comments: