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Saturday, May 24, 2008

This whole internet thing hasn't caught on as much as we think

Lee LeFever, he who makes those wonderful 'in Plain English' videos, posted a reality check recently about how those of us who spend a lot of time online forget that most people don't.

"We make videos, we put them on the Web, people watch them. We track our views, our Technorati links, our mentions in Twitter, our blog comments. A good percentage of people we see in social situations in Seattle are aware of our work.

"Viewed from the comfort of our living room, bookmarked pages and social circles, the Web looks pretty small and awareness looks pretty big. It's too easy to assume that people have heard about the tools and sites we use everyday. But they haven't.

"I sat back [at a conference] and asked myself - forgetting Common Craft - do these people know about Twitter? Has Flickr become part of their world? What about wikis, do they care? Are they using RSS readers? My completely anecdotal evidence says the answer is no. In our own little online world, it's too easy to assume they do."
I agree. Another assumption is that young people 'get' the web and know all about it. But I've been consistently surprised this year when I've asked students about their online lives.

Very few blog, most don't know what RSS is, almost none have heard of Twitter and few are using Flickr. Say Seesmic, Pownce, Twine, Friendfeed to them and you get a blank stare back. This is as true of degree-level students as it is of of the Waikato 15- to-17-year-olds I spent the day with yesterday (giving them a taste of journalism). It's also true of adults; I'm pretty sure some of my friends think I'm making this stuff up.

Their experience mostly boils down to Bebo, MySpace or Facebook, Google, Yahoo and YouTube. Aside from that, the only difference between these kids and me growing up is that boys these days can type.