Eryan Cobham

Thinker-tinker. Web Developer.

Your Personal Google

I’ve always been the “technology guy” around my family and, to a much lesser extent, my friends as well. Like when it comes to almost anything that has wires and needs electricity, I’ve always been the person that was able to just fire it up and figure out how to use it. Nowadays, my affinity for technology manifests itself whenever somebody mentions a problem they are having, or an interest they have in something.

I’m usually the guy that says, “Oh word, you should check out [insert random website that relates to what they were talking about].” The problem is, people seldom listen anymore (if they ever did). It’s actually starting to get a little dispiriting. I’m not quite sure whether it’s because I’m always talking about some new website, so after a while people start to tune out, or if they just don’t feel like being bothered trying something new.

I fully understand that I have a much lower threshold for finding out about and signing up for these web services, so I mostly understand where my peoples are coming from. For me to sign up for something new, it only needs to have the potential of helping me do something easier in the near future (maybe a year or two – I’d like to know how to use it well by the time I need it). I think most other people will not bother signing up for something unless a few important conditions are met:

  1. They have some immediate problem, and the website/service/whatever will solve that problem.

  2. It is clear that the amount of time spent learning how to use the new thing well enough for it to replace whatever the old thing they were using will be more than made up by the time they will save by using the new thing.

  3. It will not cause a major disruption to their routine in many other aspects of their life.

The last two factors may end up being more important or less important, depending on the severity of the problem, but that seems to basically be the formula.

There’s nothing wrong with the utilitarian approach, most people don’t have time for any more than that, but I do think you miss out. Part of the reason I want people to sign up for some of the same things I do is “The Network Effect” – the more people that use something, the more useful it becomes. An obvious example of this is email. If you’re the only one with an email account, you have nobody to write to and it’s pretty much worthless. But as your friends and family get email accounts too, then you have people to write, and people to receive messages from, and everybody else gets those same benefits. The network effect applies to almost everything on the internet, and many things off of it. Unfortunately, very few of the people in my social network have the time or interest to do anything past email. I’m shocked I got a couple of people to sign up for Twitter and last.Fm. I think I might have just caught them at a good moment in their busy schedules though.

The funny part about it to me, though, is that my friends and I do a lot of the same things that these services are made for. We send out text messages with random thoughts of ours to like 5 people at once all the time (most of which are relatively innocuous) so why not sign up to twitter so we can always see what’s on each other’s minds? We talk about new music and songs we’ve found, so why not sign up for so each of us can see what the others have been listening to lately? We send out long emails analyzing and complaining about stuff and reading the responses others send, so why not start a blog? I can see how they wouldn’t want to add another account to check, another password to remember, and another website to bookmark, to their daily routine. And not everybody wants everybody else in the world to be able to see something they write/do. But on the other hand, I think we’d get a lot out of it, and a lot more out of each other.

So I don’t know whether the problem is my failure to communicate the value of some things, their failure to see the value, or simply the lack of value in some services I frequent. But, I think my solution is going to be to both start recommending less, and to make a clearer and better case for why people should use some of the same things I do. It should help in a professional sense, because I think I’d like to recommend stuff to people for a living (that’s all a consultant really is, right?), and it’ll help in a personal sense, since maybe going more in-depth with fewer things will actually turn one or two more people to seeing things my way. Plus I can just talk about everything else here. We’ll see how it turns out.

P.S. – Make sure you check out So The Days Go and The Thracian Drive. Good stuff.