Hanging out with the other 99%

It’s really great hanging out with people who you don’t really know. Last night I hung out with my neighbors and met many of them for the first time (we had a block party). Most of the people in my neighborhood are older. In their 60s and 70s. One of my neighbors is a “drug dealer.” His words, not mine. Works in the pharma industry and has visited 102 countries. Fascinating guy.

But it was interesting trying to explain what I do. “I have an Internet video show.” No, not a porn show. Heh!

Some of my neighbors couldn’t quite rap their heads around the fact that I could send video of them around the world from my cell phone. They had heard of Facebook or MySpace but I had to explain over and over how Kyte worked. They acted like they had met someone from the future.

Some of my neighbors also didn’t know what a blog was. I didn’t have the heart to try to explain what Twitter is or that they could talk with thousands of people all over the world on it.

I shouldn’t make all my neighbors sound like Luddites. They are very educated and well traveled people who’ve done interesting things with their lives but it’s interesting to see just how far ahead those of us who live in the tech echo chamber are. One common thing? They all have heard about Facebook and are wondering what they’d do on it. It really pisses me off I can’t add them to Facebook. So, I told them to sign up for Twitter instead and I’d answer their questions there.

Interesting that the New York Times is writing about the “older crowd” on Facebook as well. I love that they call us older users of Facebook “the creepies.” Heh.

So, what you doing to teach “the creepies” more about new technology?

Me? I love going up to people and explaining “I have a TV station in my pocket.” That always gets interesting looks.

Comments

  1. Hi Robert,

    It’s refreshing to see a fellow geek using the “99 percent” reference; admitting that we’re in a rather tiny minority when compared to the general populace. I’ve encountered one too many geeks who’s insulated themselves so throughly with other geeks that they’ve managed to convince themselves the other 99 percent doesn’t exist. You know the type: “Everyone I know uses Firefox, therefore everyone uses Firefox.” Good to know you’re not of that camp, as they tend to make it that much harder for the other 99 percent to take us seriously.

    When you say it pisses you off that you can’t add them to Facebook, is that simply because you can’t convince them to sign up? I’ve been going through that with my 30-something-year-old cousin, she signed up simply because I sent her an invite but she didn’t see a point to it until a few other people she knows started finding her on there. Now she has a little playground of 25 friends, but she’ll never have the facebook experience that I do with my 400 hundred friends, or that you do with your 5000 friends. How do we convince those types to turn Facebook into something useful for themselves?

  2. Hi Robert,

    It’s refreshing to see a fellow geek using the “99 percent” reference; admitting that we’re in a rather tiny minority when compared to the general populace. I’ve encountered one too many geeks who’s insulated themselves so throughly with other geeks that they’ve managed to convince themselves the other 99 percent doesn’t exist. You know the type: “Everyone I know uses Firefox, therefore everyone uses Firefox.” Good to know you’re not of that camp, as they tend to make it that much harder for the other 99 percent to take us seriously.

    When you say it pisses you off that you can’t add them to Facebook, is that simply because you can’t convince them to sign up? I’ve been going through that with my 30-something-year-old cousin, she signed up simply because I sent her an invite but she didn’t see a point to it until a few other people she knows started finding her on there. Now she has a little playground of 25 friends, but she’ll never have the facebook experience that I do with my 400 hundred friends, or that you do with your 5000 friends. How do we convince those types to turn Facebook into something useful for themselves?

  3. Bill: Facebook can’t add more than 5,000 contacts and I’ve done that already and have 600 more waiting to get in.

    Sean: we talked about that too. I explained that I’m the #1 “Robert” on Google. Their eyes get wide when I tell them that.

  4. Bill: Facebook can’t add more than 5,000 contacts and I’ve done that already and have 600 more waiting to get in.

    Sean: we talked about that too. I explained that I’m the #1 “Robert” on Google. Their eyes get wide when I tell them that.

  5. I had a similar experience at the last large family reunion – in the end I had to boil it down to “I teach professors at the university how to use computers” because some of the great aunts and uncles really looked bewildered.

    In the ensuing years, I’ve gotten most of them to read my blog by offering to do all of the maintenance and set up if they bought computers, and only posting family gathering pictures online. Many now use Google for looking up product info and my grandpa has switched to tracking all of his stocks online, so it feels like a major victory.

    But you’re right, it’s as if we live in different worlds, and that’s without bringing my work in Second Life into the equation. Facebook and MySpace popped onto their radar screen, but answering questions about that is tricky since I’m pretty sure they really DON’T want to see what the great-grandkids are posting about themselves.

    Still, I think all of this social media technology holds a lot of promise for engaging the “silver surfer” generation who might have mobility issues or dwindling social networks as friends and loved ones pass on. If I had more time, I’d love to teach classes at assisted living facilities and the like. There’s something even more thrilling about seeing that lightbulb moment for an octogenarian than all the faculty and student classes I teach.

    And as for explaining Twitter, Twittervision is the best for that.

  6. I had a similar experience at the last large family reunion – in the end I had to boil it down to “I teach professors at the university how to use computers” because some of the great aunts and uncles really looked bewildered.

    In the ensuing years, I’ve gotten most of them to read my blog by offering to do all of the maintenance and set up if they bought computers, and only posting family gathering pictures online. Many now use Google for looking up product info and my grandpa has switched to tracking all of his stocks online, so it feels like a major victory.

    But you’re right, it’s as if we live in different worlds, and that’s without bringing my work in Second Life into the equation. Facebook and MySpace popped onto their radar screen, but answering questions about that is tricky since I’m pretty sure they really DON’T want to see what the great-grandkids are posting about themselves.

    Still, I think all of this social media technology holds a lot of promise for engaging the “silver surfer” generation who might have mobility issues or dwindling social networks as friends and loved ones pass on. If I had more time, I’d love to teach classes at assisted living facilities and the like. There’s something even more thrilling about seeing that lightbulb moment for an octogenarian than all the faculty and student classes I teach.

    And as for explaining Twitter, Twittervision is the best for that.

  7. I always make sure that I never say “new technology.” Or blog. Or twitter. It’s all communication tools. And if you can somehow connect it back to a Blackberry or a smart phone – they get it. (For example, I don’t say “We have RSS feeds on our news sites.” I say, “If you enter your e-mail here, you can get alerts sent directly to your Blackberry.”)

  8. I always make sure that I never say “new technology.” Or blog. Or twitter. It’s all communication tools. And if you can somehow connect it back to a Blackberry or a smart phone – they get it. (For example, I don’t say “We have RSS feeds on our news sites.” I say, “If you enter your e-mail here, you can get alerts sent directly to your Blackberry.”)

  9. Often the seniors need a simple explanation of how the technology is useful to them in everyday life. My 83-year-old mother is on Facebook. She loves to play Scrabulous (usually beats me!) and keep in touch with extended family. Her grandnieces, for example, rarely e-mail, but they post photos and make wall comments on Facebook to stay in touch with her.

  10. Often the seniors need a simple explanation of how the technology is useful to them in everyday life. My 83-year-old mother is on Facebook. She loves to play Scrabulous (usually beats me!) and keep in touch with extended family. Her grandnieces, for example, rarely e-mail, but they post photos and make wall comments on Facebook to stay in touch with her.

  11. “it’s interesting to see just how far ahead those of us who live in the tech echo chamber are.”

    That’s an elitist comment. We may be in a different place in terms of emerging (or emerged) technologies but we’re not ahead of them. We use different tools to do different things. That doesn’t mean we’re ahead.

  12. “it’s interesting to see just how far ahead those of us who live in the tech echo chamber are.”

    That’s an elitist comment. We may be in a different place in terms of emerging (or emerged) technologies but we’re not ahead of them. We use different tools to do different things. That doesn’t mean we’re ahead.

  13. Geek like me

    While I’m a huge fan of personal technology, I’m often irritated by the geekerati who presume that everyone lives their lives online and on the bleeding edge. The Web 2.0 crowd is particularly guilty of this, assuming that everyone lifecasts,…

  14. Admitted to my OLLI writing workshop folk that I blog many of our exercises. they still think blogs are for news, politics or techies only. The idea of individuals using the technology for every day things was hard to grasp.

    Still can’t get anyone to understand Twitter so it makes sense.

  15. Admitted to my OLLI writing workshop folk that I blog many of our exercises. they still think blogs are for news, politics or techies only. The idea of individuals using the technology for every day things was hard to grasp.

    Still can’t get anyone to understand Twitter so it makes sense.

  16. I’ve been discovering lately that ‘older’ people (60-90) are far more interested in how open source works, how blogging enables free speech and disrupts traditional media, and other such concepts that are more real to them than tech toys. They actually stop and think and keep asking relevant questions.

    Vera

  17. I’ve been discovering lately that ‘older’ people (60-90) are far more interested in how open source works, how blogging enables free speech and disrupts traditional media, and other such concepts that are more real to them than tech toys. They actually stop and think and keep asking relevant questions.

    Vera

  18. I find that with older people it’s a matter of giving them a solid reason WHY the technology will make their life easier. Always give examples and translate everything into the simplest possible concepts.

    My mum is 60 and has chronic fatigue syndrome. On days when she can’t leave the house due to tiredness, her computer brings the world to her instead. While she doesn’t yet Twitter or Jaiku, she is on Facebook (although like myself she isn’t keen on it) and she blogs and podcasts regularly (http://grannymar.com/blog)

    At each stage of the learning process, I was greeted with “but why do I need/want that?”.

    I persisted and proved that Firefox was better as she had one app open with multiple tabs, rather than multiple windows.

    Skype brings her brother in Australia closer and they talk at least once a week, instead of 3 times a year as they used to on the prohibitively expensive landline. Using an RSS reader makes it easier to check all those blogs… the list goes on and on…

    I couldn’t have been prouder of her when she asked to attend Ireland’s inaugural PodCamp last month and showed up with her own Moo cards – she had, without any input from me, created her own Flickr account and purchased the Moo cards – I nearly cried when I realised how far she has come in the last 5 years…

  19. I find that with older people it’s a matter of giving them a solid reason WHY the technology will make their life easier. Always give examples and translate everything into the simplest possible concepts.

    My mum is 60 and has chronic fatigue syndrome. On days when she can’t leave the house due to tiredness, her computer brings the world to her instead. While she doesn’t yet Twitter or Jaiku, she is on Facebook (although like myself she isn’t keen on it) and she blogs and podcasts regularly (http://grannymar.com/blog)

    At each stage of the learning process, I was greeted with “but why do I need/want that?”.

    I persisted and proved that Firefox was better as she had one app open with multiple tabs, rather than multiple windows.

    Skype brings her brother in Australia closer and they talk at least once a week, instead of 3 times a year as they used to on the prohibitively expensive landline. Using an RSS reader makes it easier to check all those blogs… the list goes on and on…

    I couldn’t have been prouder of her when she asked to attend Ireland’s inaugural PodCamp last month and showed up with her own Moo cards – she had, without any input from me, created her own Flickr account and purchased the Moo cards – I nearly cried when I realised how far she has come in the last 5 years…

  20. In the past six months I’ve convinced my company to start blogging and started giving advice about ‘social media’ to our clients. What qualifies me to do this? I started reading your blog about six months ago. Then Jeremiah Owyang’s. Then I discovered Google Reader.

    I’ve learnt more in the past six months than in the previous six years I think! I still want to be able to pin down why companies should embrace this new world. I get glazed looks from marketers here (Denmark) when I say stuff like, ‘you can’t push your message any more, people pull the messages they want’.

    But I’ll keep reading you guys and I’ll get the answer soon enough!

    Rereading this comment I realise it’s not exactly relevant to your post but what the heck, just thought I’d share!

  21. In the past six months I’ve convinced my company to start blogging and started giving advice about ‘social media’ to our clients. What qualifies me to do this? I started reading your blog about six months ago. Then Jeremiah Owyang’s. Then I discovered Google Reader.

    I’ve learnt more in the past six months than in the previous six years I think! I still want to be able to pin down why companies should embrace this new world. I get glazed looks from marketers here (Denmark) when I say stuff like, ‘you can’t push your message any more, people pull the messages they want’.

    But I’ll keep reading you guys and I’ll get the answer soon enough!

    Rereading this comment I realise it’s not exactly relevant to your post but what the heck, just thought I’d share!

  22. This post was a really nice read. I read your blog regularly and follow tech news although I don’t work in the industry or have any friends that share my interests. It can sometimes be frustrating to read about all these fantastic new technologies and be unable to use them either because they’re just not available to people outside USA or because no one I know in real life can be convinced to try them.

    Once in a while there comes something which I can really recommend to my family and they get as interested in it as I am, such as the geocoded YouTube videos in Google Earth which provided a lot of entertainment this weekend.

    By the way I’m a Finnish 26-year old woman so definitely not your average reader.

  23. This post was a really nice read. I read your blog regularly and follow tech news although I don’t work in the industry or have any friends that share my interests. It can sometimes be frustrating to read about all these fantastic new technologies and be unable to use them either because they’re just not available to people outside USA or because no one I know in real life can be convinced to try them.

    Once in a while there comes something which I can really recommend to my family and they get as interested in it as I am, such as the geocoded YouTube videos in Google Earth which provided a lot of entertainment this weekend.

    By the way I’m a Finnish 26-year old woman so definitely not your average reader.

  24. Reminder: I am old. Most of the people who live on your block are in my Pilates classes during the summer, and they all looked at my iPhone last summer with great interest. I think tech is marketed poorly to older people (and to everyone else, but that’s another story). I have no trouble getting older friends of mine (otherwise known as people my own age) to adopt technology once they find out it exists and why to use it. Once I started my Hip replacement blog and my Puppy blog, all my friends began reading blogs :-)

  25. Reminder: I am old. Most of the people who live on your block are in my Pilates classes during the summer, and they all looked at my iPhone last summer with great interest. I think tech is marketed poorly to older people (and to everyone else, but that’s another story). I have no trouble getting older friends of mine (otherwise known as people my own age) to adopt technology once they find out it exists and why to use it. Once I started my Hip replacement blog and my Puppy blog, all my friends began reading blogs :-)

  26. “Some of my neighbors couldn’t quite rap their heads around the fact that I could send video of them around the world from my cell phone.”

    But could they wrap their heads around it?

  27. “Some of my neighbors couldn’t quite rap their heads around the fact that I could send video of them around the world from my cell phone.”

    But could they wrap their heads around it?

  28. I agree with dawn, there is so much in life that isn’t internet based. Perhaps those who don’t live their lives online are actually ahead of those who do? I have found myself doing less and less with my blogging and other online activities, but the time I gain has a lot more value to me. I don’t completely ignore it (hey, I’m commenting here), but it’s become less of a priority. At the same time, I’ve helped a friend in her mid-80′s set up a computer and start using Skype. She regularly speaks with her friends around the world, something she could have never imagined a year ago!

  29. I agree with dawn, there is so much in life that isn’t internet based. Perhaps those who don’t live their lives online are actually ahead of those who do? I have found myself doing less and less with my blogging and other online activities, but the time I gain has a lot more value to me. I don’t completely ignore it (hey, I’m commenting here), but it’s become less of a priority. At the same time, I’ve helped a friend in her mid-80′s set up a computer and start using Skype. She regularly speaks with her friends around the world, something she could have never imagined a year ago!

  30. What’s the material value? Give something of value and people will use it, no matter what age. The problem is that social networks, Web 2.0 based or otherwise, are good for people who actually socialize. If the only person you really socialize with is your spouse and they’re across the room, or somewhere in the house, what’s the value in twittering when yelling works quite well? In this case, it’s simply extra steps. Hook it up to an electric shock, now that’s material, and I’m sure many often ignored spouses would instantly start tweeting. Take Web 2.0 up a notch, put audio ads on the thing, start shocking people and earning money at that same time. http://www.tweettaze.com

  31. What’s the material value? Give something of value and people will use it, no matter what age. The problem is that social networks, Web 2.0 based or otherwise, are good for people who actually socialize. If the only person you really socialize with is your spouse and they’re across the room, or somewhere in the house, what’s the value in twittering when yelling works quite well? In this case, it’s simply extra steps. Hook it up to an electric shock, now that’s material, and I’m sure many often ignored spouses would instantly start tweeting. Take Web 2.0 up a notch, put audio ads on the thing, start shocking people and earning money at that same time. http://www.tweettaze.com

  32. I am finding that once you get a 60+ person who was scared of technology turned onto it, there is no stopping them. 60+ are the fastest growing demographic of new computer users. But I hope they use Facebook instead of sites like Eons so that they can interact with people of all ages, not just their own age.

  33. I am finding that once you get a 60+ person who was scared of technology turned onto it, there is no stopping them. 60+ are the fastest growing demographic of new computer users. But I hope they use Facebook instead of sites like Eons so that they can interact with people of all ages, not just their own age.

  34. Well glad that His Highness had a chance to mingle with the peasants. I hope you got all your immunizations squared away before… ;)

    Good people tho, met the ones near the parking lot, and across the way, with an Illinois plate, figured better intro myself before they’d call cops. ;)

  35. Well glad that His Highness had a chance to mingle with the peasants. I hope you got all your immunizations squared away before… ;)

    Good people tho, met the ones near the parking lot, and across the way, with an Illinois plate, figured better intro myself before they’d call cops. ;)

  36. Wow, imagine that going outside and meeting people ‘face to face’. Who knows, maybe the will actually become ‘Friends’. And guess what? There is no 5000 limit : )

  37. Wow, imagine that going outside and meeting people ‘face to face’. Who knows, maybe the will actually become ‘Friends’. And guess what? There is no 5000 limit : )

  38. I was one of the people at the gathering. One couple present was in their 60′s, the rest were younger. Robert’s ability to estimate age could use some work.

    I wonder what measure you are using, Robert, when you say you are “far ahead” of those who don’t share your interests? Far ahead how? A better person? Cooler? More “in”? More knowledgeable about your area of interest, certainly, but that can be said of many people.

  39. I was one of the people at the gathering. One couple present was in their 60′s, the rest were younger. Robert’s ability to estimate age could use some work.

    I wonder what measure you are using, Robert, when you say you are “far ahead” of those who don’t share your interests? Far ahead how? A better person? Cooler? More “in”? More knowledgeable about your area of interest, certainly, but that can be said of many people.

  40. Gosh, were we at the same party?? There was a very interesting couple in the 70′s (German and French – that should tell you a little about their past), a few couples in their 60′s and most of the rest of us are very interesting 40 and 50 year olds. “The other 99%” of us who are not techno geeks probably would not agree that you are so “far ahead” of us. Could you carry on an intelligent conversation with me about canine IMHA? I doubt it. But I would not insult you for not knowing anything about veterinary medicine. Before you start denigrating your entire neighborhood, you might want to consider that there are plenty of us who know enough about technology to read your blog.

  41. Gosh, were we at the same party?? There was a very interesting couple in the 70′s (German and French – that should tell you a little about their past), a few couples in their 60′s and most of the rest of us are very interesting 40 and 50 year olds. “The other 99%” of us who are not techno geeks probably would not agree that you are so “far ahead” of us. Could you carry on an intelligent conversation with me about canine IMHA? I doubt it. But I would not insult you for not knowing anything about veterinary medicine. Before you start denigrating your entire neighborhood, you might want to consider that there are plenty of us who know enough about technology to read your blog.

  42. When I said “far ahead” I meant in the use of technology.

    If you said you were “far ahead” of me in veterinary medicine you’d be absolutely correct. I don’t have any knowledge in that area. So, if you were comparing notes with your coworkers or other vets you might talk about that.

    Like I said, some of my neighbors are extremely advanced in their use of technology. Look back at what I wrote about Paul Wreubel: http://scobleizer.com/2007/10/13/got-a-kid-headed-to-college-you-need-paul/

    But I did get some very rudimentary questions from other people at the party which I thought were worth noting.

  43. When I said “far ahead” I meant in the use of technology.

    If you said you were “far ahead” of me in veterinary medicine you’d be absolutely correct. I don’t have any knowledge in that area. So, if you were comparing notes with your coworkers or other vets you might talk about that.

    Like I said, some of my neighbors are extremely advanced in their use of technology. Look back at what I wrote about Paul Wreubel: http://scobleizer.com/2007/10/13/got-a-kid-headed-to-college-you-need-paul/

    But I did get some very rudimentary questions from other people at the party which I thought were worth noting.

  44. “it’s interesting to see just how far ahead those of us who live in the tech echo chamber are.”

    Obviously, though far ahead in the use of technology, you are not very advanced in the use of the written word. Next time, if you mean “far ahead in the use of technology,” then say that. That way, you won’t piss off your neighbors and come across as a jerk. Once you enter your thoughts in a blog, you are no longer comparing notes with your peers. You might want to keep that in mind.

  45. “it’s interesting to see just how far ahead those of us who live in the tech echo chamber are.”

    Obviously, though far ahead in the use of technology, you are not very advanced in the use of the written word. Next time, if you mean “far ahead in the use of technology,” then say that. That way, you won’t piss off your neighbors and come across as a jerk. Once you enter your thoughts in a blog, you are no longer comparing notes with your peers. You might want to keep that in mind.

  46. Robert, I think you might be missing an important point that can be drawn from Elneda’s comment. You see, there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people to whom your dalliance with tech appears lightweight at best, although they are perhaps too polite to mention it. There are scientists and engineers, writers, and editors, retired people and remittance men who not only use this stuff, but who invent new pieces of it every day in an effort to do what they need to do. Think of all the engineers at FMC building better stuff for better wars in a bright new age! EVERYONE has access to consumer tech. Vast numbers of people use it with a facility that exceeds even your own! Only a small percentage of these share the boomtown mentality of the Silicon Valley prospecting entrepreneurs. There are thirty-thousand faculty members who program and design systems (average age: could be older than you) within an hour and a half of your neighborhood. Most of these systems are more evolved, more complex, than the simple info capture/data transfer/storage/messaging junk that you and I get off on. Part of your charm is your naivete, but it can be a drawback when a firm grasp of reality is required.

  47. Robert, I think you might be missing an important point that can be drawn from Elneda’s comment. You see, there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people to whom your dalliance with tech appears lightweight at best, although they are perhaps too polite to mention it. There are scientists and engineers, writers, and editors, retired people and remittance men who not only use this stuff, but who invent new pieces of it every day in an effort to do what they need to do. Think of all the engineers at FMC building better stuff for better wars in a bright new age! EVERYONE has access to consumer tech. Vast numbers of people use it with a facility that exceeds even your own! Only a small percentage of these share the boomtown mentality of the Silicon Valley prospecting entrepreneurs. There are thirty-thousand faculty members who program and design systems (average age: could be older than you) within an hour and a half of your neighborhood. Most of these systems are more evolved, more complex, than the simple info capture/data transfer/storage/messaging junk that you and I get off on. Part of your charm is your naivete, but it can be a drawback when a firm grasp of reality is required.

  48. [...] Scoble had an interesting post the other day about when there was a block party in his neighborhood and he was able to meet many of his neighbors.  The fact is, Scoble is a lot more out there than many of us geek types anyway, let alone the average non-tech person.  He mentions: Some of my neighbors couldn’t quite rap their heads around the fact that I could send video of them around the world from my cell phone. They had heard of Facebook or MySpace but I had to explain over and over how Kyte worked. They acted like they had met someone from the future. [...]