Sunday, March 27, 2011

Naked Emperors: where are all the connected people?

A NYT headline says half of all American adults have Facebook accounts [4]. Twitter-like valuations are leading to tech bubble denials. Social networks, we are told, led to the Egyptian revolution [1].

Except, I don't see it here among school parents, sports team families, tech company colleagues, and upper-middle-class neighbors.

True, I live in the midwest, but by all metrics Minneapolis is a snowier version of Seattle-Portland. If not here, then where?

I don't see feed readers in use outside our home [3]. Almost nobody subscribes to calendar feeds. Very few of my sample [5] use Twitter. Most of my friends who once used Facebook have stopped posting or even reading. Even texting isn't universal. Everyone has 1-2 email addresses and can use Google, but that's as far as it goes. Forget Foursquare.

I see more iPhones every day, but they're not used for location services, pub/sub (feeds) or even Facebook's user-friendly pub/sub. Around here iPhone communication change has been limited to faster email responses.

There is change of course, but it lags about 5-10 years behind the media memes. Dial-up connections are mostly gone, though I still see AOL addresses [2]. Texting is becoming common. Old school email is now universal, though many (unwisely) still use office email for personal messaging.

It's frustrating for me; all of the school, sport, community organization and even corporate collaboration projects I work with would go better with pub/sub in particular. I've learned the hard way to dial back my expectations, and to focus on 1990s tech.

So is Minneapolis - St. Paul strangely stuck in the dark ages? Or is there a gulf between the media portrayal of American tech use and reality --  a gulf that will lead to a big fleecing when Facebook goes public?

My money is on the fleecing - and a faint echo of the 90s .com bubble.

[1] The same nearly-free-to-all worldwide communication network that Al Qaeda used effectively in 1999-2000 is now celebrated by us for its benefits in Egypt. Technology has no values, only value.
[2] I assume about half those are dial-up. 
[3] Google Reader is astounding. Just astounding. Nobody mentions this, everyone talks about Twitter (not useless, but weak). Weird.
[4] Not actually using FB mind you, just have accounts.
[5] Ages 8-80.

Update: An hour after I posted this I thought of one remarkable exception: LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn has a non-predatory business model. They have been relatively careful not to infuriate their users. LinkedIn continues to grow, and I don't see any true attrition. It will be interesting to compare their valuation to Facebook's.


Anonymous said...

You're hanging out with old people.

Anonymous said...

I agree that I hardly see real people using twitter in the wild. It seems like it's mainly for celebs, etc..

Todd Jordan said...

We, as individuals, are still in an echo chamber. We talk to each other like everyone is connected. Truth? It is still not common place.

My wife is experiencing the slow coming on of her coworkers to Facebook. It is weird. At first there were none nnow there are about ten. And it seems like a lot. It is a small percentage of the total scoop staff.

Hood points. Btw, discovered via Zite app.

Dave Lucas said...

I'm on dial-up and doing fine!

Anonymous said...

I agree most midwest iPhone users barely use the features available. Most don't even use iCal, or any other digital calendar. They have never heard of the reader apps. They basically make calls, text, email, and take pictures to upload to Facebook. I notice fewer FB posts by friends in general and just lots of not so interesting posts by a few. I wonder if others are getting bored with Facebook. I use it, but dislike their security. It seems only "we geeks" use our gadgets to their fuller capacity-I subscribe to calendars, sync with MobileMe and Google apps, use Navigon, Things, Evernote, Dropbox, Goodreader, Readdledocs, Keynote, Dragon, Kindle, scanner apps, read the news, manage passwords, tether and the list goes on. I don't use Twitter, although I have an account. It just seems like constant interruptions to me.

JGF said...

Dial-up AND posting comments on blogs. Dave Lucas, you are a tribe of one :-)!

I liked Anonymous list of iPhone apps -- I use Reeder myself but wish it did better with the "followed" list. I agree many are getting bored or burned out on Facebook. I wonder how common Farmville hangovers are, and how many former FB users feel they were played by the games. (No FB game experience here -- I don't even play the many excellent iPhone games my kids own.)

As to the comment on hanging out with "old people" -- well, yes, I am an old guy. The age range I track is 7-15, then about 23 to 80. I miss out on 16 to 23. still, I'm tracking a good portion of the employed population.