July 07, 2011
The Alpha Geek Echo Chamber

I posted a tweet on a whim and got a few good replies. My full response if longer than 140 characters, so I'm going old-school with a blog post.

Cruftbox: Eating lunch at Jack in the Box helps remind me that most people don't care about Google Plus, IPOs, retweets, or Klout.

tara @Cruftbox don't you think the nextgen will though?

Cruftbox: @tara No. Most people aren't innovators or early adopters. My teens aren't. People need to be aware if they are in an echo chamber.

tara: @Cruftbox I disagree. 72% of American households play video games. Points, rewards, etc. are a known quantity. It's an easy transition.

derekdemoro: @Cruftbox They care about their phones.

It's no doubt that I'm a geek. I've been one since I was a child rewiring telephones and playing with chemistry sets.

In my career as a technologist, I've been lucky enough to meet many of the brightest people in big companies such as Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, etc. and true innovators that helped build the web and invent many of the social technologies that seem commonplace now.

As a result, some of my social circles are the alpha geeks that invent what the world will be seeing as commonplace in the next 10 years.

My tweet was a poke at the intense focus and emotion these circles can have about topics and new concepts that have no relevance or significance to the rest of the world.

The valuation of startups is interesting to a tiny population. Most people don't know what the startups do, let alone if the valuation is wrong. And to be honest, why should they care?

Google Plus is nice, but the whinging over invites is a bit over the top when you take the long view. The demand for immediate satisfaction and full understanding is a sense of entitlement I dislike in others and myself. People demanding things over Twitter/Facebook and creating boycotts based on a single link of information is the norm these days, and I believe it's not helpful.

In other words, calm the fuck down, relax, and take a deep breath. Don't complain so much.

As far as the future, the next generation will be more technically adept than previous ones, but they won't fundamentally change into a generation of early adopters.

Tara and Derek are right that today's youth play videogames and love mobile phones. Both of those technologies are 30+ years old. The penetration levels of video games and mobile phones 30 years ago was tiny compared to today. In those days, both were the domain of the alpha geeks of the time.

For people today to get so seriously wound up about new ideas and make grandiose predictions is silly, IMHO. Pundits, especially social media pundits, are so profoundly wrong about everything it is amazing that anyone still listens. If they were right, they'd be rich. Ever seen a rich pundit?

I've been to many conferences where the future was explained to me. Let's see, at first, individual blogs would kill media companies. Around then auctions were announced as the way all companies would buy supplies. Then Creative Commons would kill copyright. Next, Open Source would kill Apple & Microsoft. One year the future of music was Myspace. Next year, Facebook apps were the future of the internet. The next year, apps on the mobile phone were the future. Recently, location based apps were declared the future of commerce. Oh wait, now social buying is the future of commerce.

The only thing that has proven correct is that speed of change is increasing and not much withstands change.

Hate the new version of software that just came out, don't worry, the next next patch will make it better or their competitor will come out with a better one. Sternly worded tweets don't do anything.

Google Plus hasn't even been out a week and already the alpha geek echo chamber is whining, ranting, pontificating, and snarking about every aspect. All I'm saying, it STFU for a bit. Use what's new, talk with friends about their ideas on it, pause to think a bit, and run that cycle a few times before making up your mind.

I'm not saying shut up and don't ever complain. I'm saying think, consider other points of view outside your echo chamber, offer suggestions and compromises, and try to be helpful rather than hurtful.

As far as the next generation, I don't know what they will be using and thinking is cool, if I did, I'd be rich.

But I can tell you what they won't think is cool.

They will think of Facebook and Twitter the way many today think of AOL and Compuserve, relics of a previous age that only stubborn old people use.

They will think of email the way many think of faxing, an antique method used by rule and tradition bound industries like medicine and law.

They will think of debates about digital music and video and copyright the way many think about the arguments about CDs and DVDs killing the music and film industries, silly debate over an obviously better way.

But 20 years from now, there will still be a small group of alpha geeks, inventing super cool stuff, that most people won't understand or worse think stupid. And I have no doubt there will be people complaining about stuff because it doesn't fit their exact desires.

Posted by michael at July 07, 2011 02:31 PM