Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pew: The other 41%

I've been chewing a tad more on the new Pew Internet & American Life Project report. Something has been gnawing at me. These numbers just don't seem to add up. I suspect that my discomfort will be found somewhere in the fact that this is a U.S. based population, and that it dismissed the U18s from the study. Regardless, I'm still struggling to derive some meaning. I'll let you know when I actually determine the source of my discomfort.

That said, I did find this discussion of the Pew report at Headshift of interest: What are we doing for the other 41% of people we want to reach?
The natural conclusion, I think, is that we need to give these people a lot more support, and perhaps also stop using divisive dot.com language about people who "get it" and people who don't. In terms of support, I have in mind a kind of learning, mentoring and ... linkfeeding* that aims for joyful empowerment rather than boring old training in using tools you have to use. I hear so many anecdotes about the joy people get from turning somebody on to some useful online service, site or shared space - what we call those headshift moments, which people don't forget in a hurry. Surely we should be doing the same inside companies, rather than boring them half to death with training?

I like that, "joyful empowerment". The question is what strategies can we use to help people realize what they are missing--where they too can experience that "Ahhh haaaa" moment.

Back in 1993 you could show someone Mosaic and they could immediately understand that the world as they had experienced it was fixing to change big-time. That almost never happens with Web 2.0 tools. Most of the time you get a response like John Dorner received last week, "I was trying to explain Twitter to my wife - she looks at me like I've lost my mind." I've noticed that same reaction more than once over the last few years.

Adoption of these new tools takes longer. I know I used del.iciou.us for months before I finally started using it religiously. I also know, that my use of it increased dramatically once my closest group of colleagues all started to use it. It wasn't until we had workgroup adoption that its true power kicked-in to play.

All this has gotten me to thinking about strategies to speed adoption. If we know that adoption is going to take a series of interventions over time, what does the successful strategy look like? The good people at Headshift had these thoughts:

You can't teach people about social networking and knowledge sharing using Web 1.0 online learning systems. Canned "content objects" delivered by an LMS are for McJobs, not knowledge workers...

I think they are mostly right, but I'm wondering if there doesn't need to be something even more sophisticated? This is all about social networking and knowledge sharing. I'm thinking the interventions need to be targeted at entire social networks. Is it enough to target the early adopters and assume that they will somehow "turn" the other seven people in their group? Is that not a pre 2.0 approach? If we only target the early adopters, I'm thinking those people will get the same reaction John received from his spouse. Perhaps we need to be providing those early adopters a tad more cover.

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