Posted by: rolfsky | November 21, 2007

being ThankFul, and some perspective

I’ve been trying to write this post for three days now. Perhaps my tension is related to my two-week hiatus (including one very nice trip to Italy), or perhaps I was just digesting all the news around the latest “openWhatever”.

A few days ago, we received a “Happy Thanksgiving” card from my in-laws where they related what they were thankful for this year. One very big thanks was related to a successful recovery from a radical bout with breast cancer. Just about exactly one year ago my mother-in-law was diagnosed and within weeks had undergone surgery which altered her body dramatically. Good news is, she’s full recovered and we are all thrilled. (Hi Darcy!)

Reading this note in my kitchen, I reflected on what was important in life, both the big and the small. It would be easy to jump to extremes and rant again about that social networking is “superfluous” and fluff when compared to illness and disease, but the real answer lies in balance. All lasting things achieve some type of balance in their environment and within each trend there is a kernel of truth.

Recently I’ve been scanning a lot of blog traffic saying that Facebook “is for toddlers” and that is partially correct. Today in my inbox I had a few application invites, mostly just a few of my friends wanting to send Hotness or compare likes or movie trivia.

While I am too weary to add these apps, I know where my friends are going with this. Of course my friends want to chat, play, interact and compare stuff. This is what people do. At a party or the subway I’d have no problem engaging them but it all seems “so permanent” when I need to add an application to do this. (And who, btw, is now getting access to my profile information? Since when do I need my conversations facilitated by a third party? This is an artificial barrier.)

People are in their nature social creatures, and also creatures of habit. Over on van Elsas’s blog, he’s been observing his wife venture into social networks when she had resisted before. Her explanation was plain and entirely valid:

“My wife uses Internet and mobile. She is not a tech person, but instead uses these means to an end. She doesn’t care about the technology itself, but if it helps her communication needs then she will try it. She has gotten numerous invites to join Hyves over the past year or so, but wouldn’t join. Main reason?

“I can already call, SMS, e-mail, and IM my friends. I don’t need anything else”.

And where does this leave us, in contrasting our new-found social-sphere with the needs of an average human? At least one observer put “Web 2.0” at the peak of inflated expectations according to the Gartner Hype Cycle as far back as August 2006. The source article had already placed “social network analysis” as entering the trough of disillusionment. Perhaps F8 and OpenSocial have just served to further reinforce social network’s waning popularity among the blogging and tech community, but I still have hope.

I still have hope because there are certain in-alienable truths about humans and therein lies opportunity. Serve the needs of humans and there is always a place to make money (or “Get Spun“). So for all the innovators out there, here is what I want, and what I consider the Right Thing.

  1. there is only one me, so I should never ever have to type in something twice on the internet
  2. though there is only one me, I won’t tolerate losing control over who/how/where/when people have access to me or my information; I need easy, nuanced control.
  3. being one person, I also have only one set of friends, but not all of them know each other, and I like it that way
  4. I often want to say, “hey, check this out!”
  5. I often want to say, “hey, aren’t I cool?”
  6. I often want to say, “hey, YOU are cool.”

Basically I believe that I was put on this planet to learn, share, explore, succeed, and help out those who I love. The best set of technologies available for me to do that is exactly where I will be and where my dollar will be spent.

Now if only someone could invent a technology to keep me from misplacing my cell phone, life would be perfect.

Enjoy your Turkey Day!

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