Saturday, June 25, 2005

Technology and the Mindsets that Drive It

NYC. Manhattan. A wonderful apartment. A beautiful sunset. Lots of champagne. A roomful of techies.

And me. (Ok, Ok, one or two other non-techies, but only one other do-tanker.)

This has been a common situation for me in the past year. (Not the NY, sunset part, but the roomful of techies and me part!) Again, I am back to the do-tank, think-tank discussion.

I am useful to techies because I don’t see things in the same way as them. I see them first in the same way as an ordinary person. However, I CAN see them in the same way as them, or at least close enough to relate, so they tolerate me. And I amuse them, I’m a sort of curiosity to most of them I’ve found.

In other words, I’m a great beta tester. I’m not scared of telling them that what they’ve designed is in some cases, while theoretically beautiful, next to useless in practical terms when compared to what they wanted to come from the design. I also want their design to work, usually as much as they do. If only all of you knew every single day just how much thought is out there going into technology and the Internet, you simply can’t imagine it if you haven’t been immersed in it. Considering the spinning of wheels that goes on in many of these peoples’ heads trying to come up with the next “thing”……well, let’s just say that there’s enough power left over to solve any issues with Iraq’s electrical grids.

And you know what? The most influential thing, after ten years of this, as far as I can figure out, is pretty much, well, blogs. (Note, I said influential, not important.) Now, blogs are not to be undermined, after all, the Internet, and the phenomenon of blogs, have given me all of the work I’ve done in the past year of life, as well as my best friendships. But they haven’t.

And here’s where the mindset part of the post comes in. Because it takes a person DOING something to make that other part happen. If I hadn’t done something with Zeyad and Omar, when I wanted to help, I would never have met Jeff Jarvis. If I hadn’t met Jeff, I wouldn’t have met Marc Danziger, if I hadn’t met Marc, I wouldn’t have met Donovan Janus. If I hadn’t met all of these people, I wouldn’t be where I am today. But it was more than meeting. It was doing. It was a collective desire to be a part of a process that makes a difference. And then it was acting on that desire.

But I digress. Well, sort of………..

Because, do you know what else I have noticed? There are two distinct groups of techies. What I call the old school techies: Doc Searls, Jeff Jarvis, Tim Oren, Esther Dyson,Britt Blaser, etc, mostly baby boomer generation. And there are your new young techies: think Civicspace, Echo Ditto, etc. There are very few representations of people in their thirties and forties (my generation) in this group. My guess as to why? Well, twofold, to be honest.

First, in order to be a true techie, those that build tech, not those that fix it, you are often working just about ‘round the clock. And when you aren’t working, your brain still is. Which means, a family life rather interrupts things. (There are exceptions of course.)

Second, technology is, in large part theory. It is not in its purest form, a reality based project. It is theoretical and therefore attracts more liberal mindsets. Liberal thinking takes a more open mindset, and also a certain detachment from realistic thinking, and is modeled more on idealism.

Now, there are a few people that encompass both, and truthfully, it’s damned hard to be both. It’s hard to be realistic and keep your idealism. It’s hard to be idealistic and keep a realistic view of just how far you can take those thoughts. It’s a battle that plays out constantly in your mind. These are usually the people that fix tech, as opposed to building it or envisioning it.

But, in real life, it works pretty well, when all’s said and done. One thing’s for certain. You feel everything in life when you are in the middle. You don’t miss the suffering, but you don’t miss not having cared for the suffering. And in the end, that’s the measure of success, in any project. Have you bettered life on earth somehow by what you have accomplished? That can mean bettering life in any way. As Marc Danziger would say, “someone has to wash the dishes.”

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