Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Digital Information Age

This is one of those times that I struggle with blog posts. I've been thinking. Quite a lot. And these thoughts all kind of do this weird merging with each other. I want to do a blog post. But it kind of just merges into the same area as the last blog post. How do you write a stand alone piece when the last post describes a perfect example of what you're talking about?

3 deep breaths. Into the fold.

An invitation went out recently to talk about how to avoid PRISM. The invitation said things like "Meeting at Tangleball next Sunday" and then went on to describe what PRISM is. What was missing was "where is Tangleball?" and "What time should I get there if I am interested?".

So it turns out that given the digital information age, we now seem to expect people to look up that information. Tangleball's address isn't that hard to find. Finding the time for the meeting at Tangleball, ironically, required finding it on Facebook.

We say things like "Skype me". We do this knowingly. We're promoting one brand over another. The technology hasn't yet shown us how we can possibly be brand agnostic (Think courier companies. For the most part, we shouldn't have to worry about which company is doing the delivery. The contract is between the sender and the courier company thus, as the recipient, it shouldn't matter to us) so we're stuck promoting one brand over the other. For my money, I think that Google Hangouts are very compelling in terms of functionality and accessibility (though I've disabled it in Google Chat myself).

So the whole scenario has a feel of a "secret decoder ring". If you don't have the contacts who are more knowledgeable in the area to show you the way (Facebook in this case), you're out in the cold. In other words, knowledge is power.

It's exactly the same thing with TLAs (Three letter abbreviations). It's now gotten to the stage where I just won't read emails from particular people because I then end up spending 15 minutes just to search for the meanings to the various TLAs used in the email. The writers of those emails assume either:
  1. We all know exactly what they're talking about when they say their TLA (Whereas an abbreviation I've come across recently, CK, I've got associated to a person, rather, the product Content Keeper and Mr. CK are not the same things).
  2. We all have the time (and inclination) to look up the meaning of those TLAs which implies a certain arrogance. i.e. I expect you all to go out of your way in order to be able to communicate with me.
Basically, we expect others to do all the work in order to engage with us, while taking very little effort ourselves. This is a trend that's been happening for a while now. Instead of mailing a letter or sending an email, we now seem to put all of our details online and expect people to keep in touch by reading information that we've broadcast.

There's an attitude adjustment needed here. Currently, we create a barrier to entry. In order to use Skype to contact your [insert friend or family member here], you need to install Skype. Installing Skype requires that you agree to their terms and conditions etc. In the case of the almost tragic invitation described above, what are you willing to put up with? Should you need to find the address and time yourself? So the attitude has to use "barrier of entry" as a metric. Am I getting my point across and am I communicating in a way that the reader understands, or am I making it difficult for them?

Just because we've got access to the information doesn't mean that we should be forced to look up that information just because someone can't be bother to expand their communication to include the long form of an abbreviation.

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