By Association Adviser staff
“I don't just look at technology from the hot-new-gadget standpoint; my job is to look at how new technology affects our culture,” said David Pogue, the popular New York Times and technology columnist at a presentation we attended last week in Manhattan. “No. It's not your imagination. The pace of change in our society is certainly faster than it used to be and that's definitely the case with respect to technology. Going back to caveman times, the older generation has always been more resistant than younger generations to the next new thing that comes along—like why do you need that wheel thing (laughing)?”
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What you're seeing today is that young people simply accept a world of rapid and constant change as the norm, said Pogue, who also hosts the new PBS-TV NOVA series Making Stuff: Stronger, Smaller, Smarter, Cleaner. “It's not just keeping up with the next new thing, but it's accepting the fact that they're always going to have to learn the next new thing. They take change more easily in stride.”
READER NOTE: More than 40 percent of Association Adviser eNews readers told us in a recent poll that the “aging Boomer generation” is a major concern regarding membership sustainability. More than 30 percent said the “advent of social networking” is a major concern.
According to Pogue, most young people coming out of college don't even bother with getting a landline phone when they get their first apartments, and they certainly don't go out and buy a desktop PC or subscribe to the local paper. Pogue observed that the younger generation also expects everything on-time and on-demand, which echoed the comments of several association membership directors we interviewed for today's lead story. They told us members aren't more demanding per se; they just expect empowerment in all their consumer experiences and expect associations to provide them with an Amazon.com type of customer service experience.
Pogue also hit on the “on demand, on my terms” theme we heard frequently at the American Society of Association Executives' annual conference. Pogue challenged the audience to find a young person who's going to rush home on Thursday night so they can watch a favorite TV show at 8 p.m. “They're not even watching TV on television sets, and they're more likely to be watching on their laptops or iPhones and texting friends during the show. Want to watch a movie? You think they're going to drive down to a Blockbuster store and rent a little box and drive it home, watch the movie, put it back in the box and drive it back to Blockbuster?! (laughing)”
Limited attention spans
Pogue also observed that the younger generation grew up multi-tasking, and you're never going to get their undivided attention, even as they get older. “That comes into play for marketers, journalists and anyone else who's trying to communicate with them. You need to embrace the fact that they're going to be doing other things when they engage with you and don't waste your time trying tactics that say, 'Pay attention to me and nobody else!'”
On privacy and relevance
Privacy and relevance are two areas in which your more mature members might be ahead of their younger peers. Pogue said the digital natives have absolutely no fear of putting their personal lives on the Web for all to see. As they sometimes learn the hard way, the Internet has more permanence than they think. It's not just preserving embarrassing content, but also a great deal of content that's just not interesting or relevant. Boomers tend to have more ingrained filtering mechanisms and a better sense about what's appropriate and not appropriate to share with the rest of the world.
What we can learn from the game changers
If your organization is considering new ways to increase your mobile communication offerings, he said most of the real action with apps, not to mention innovation, is in the iPhone or iTouch—not the PC or Blackberry. Chances are, more of your members are migrating to these platforms, and it pays to have a few people on staff who can really stay up to speed on those platforms.
Here are some “game changers” that Pogue thinks will profoundly affect the way we use the Web and communicate with each other. All have implications for association leaders:
- MiFi – this allows you to become your own wireless Internet hotspot with a simple card-size device you can keep in your pocket. MiFi's not only helpful for business travelers and commuters, but allows you to share access with people within 100 feet of you. This could be a game changer at your trade shows and conferences.
- Dragon Dictation – this is especially useful for iPhone users with no visible keyboard. You just speak into a mobile phone and it transforms your voice into text messages, email, audio files, Facebook- or Twitter-ready posts, etc. It's very useful for on-the-go people traveling, driving or commenting from events and venues. A lot of Dragon apps are now available for free. Why? According to Pogue, their goal is to build up a massive data warehouse of common language patterns, accents, word threads, etc. They can mine all that data to make their product better and better. It's part of the spirit of the Internet, he says. Give away useful applications for free so you can build critical mass, and then start to monetize.
- Internet Phone Service – The Internet is driving free or next-to-free unlimited long-distance calling, even international. The younger generation just expects that. “Dorky” Skype headsets are going away and you can basically get a “Line 2” app for your mobile phone so you can make free Internet calls on your second line anywhere you can get a hotspot.
When it comes to “killer apps,” Pogue made another observation that could be helpful to association leaders: Killer apps don't really wipe out their predecessors; they just create “splintering.” TV didn't kill radio. Smart phones didn't kill cell phones. Satellite radio didn't kill AM/FM. Each game-changing technology simply creates many more choices for consumers and the same is likely to apply for different segments of your membership.
Why do companies put products out to market when they're not fully ready? Pogue has three interesting theories on his blog.
Finally, given the tremendous ease and speed of content creation on the Web, Pogue said data backup is going to be a prickly issue not easily solved by cloud computing and remote server firms. Those companies often go out of business and often outsource a great deal to third party vendors who aren't always reliable. Every five years or so, a new standard will come along t-at will make your old backup formats obsolete. Remember punch cards and 8-inch floppy disks? There is no such thing as “permanent” backup, he said. You're just going to have to convert everything over to the new standard every three to five years or else you're not going to be able to retrieve it.
Embrace an era of constant change. That's the new normal, said Pogue. Technology brings us incredible ways to learn, communicate and share information. With a few clicks of the button, anyone with a Web connection can reach a global audience. Just use your judgment about which tools to use and which information you share with the world. And for goodness sake, don't forget to back up!
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