Sure, you work in the field of technology, but that doesn't
automatically make you a creature of social media. So really, how plugged in
are you? From Facebook to Twitter to Google+ to
news.google.com to plain old email, do you often see the jokes and memes and
viral videos that go around the Internet? Or are you so insulated you not only
don't know that planking or the Harlem Shake fad is over, you never knew it was
a thing to begin with?
Of course compared to 30 or even 20 years ago, we as a society have fewer and fewer shared experiences. Not that long ago there were four television channels (the three major networks and your local UHF station). People talked about the big TV events because everyone was watching the same things at the same times. You got to see Christmas specials once a year. The Grinch? Once. Rudolph? Once. There were no videos to rent, buy or download. Most households didn't even have remotes, much less cable television and VCRs.
These days, someone might recommend a long discontinued show (Arrested Development, Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, IT Crowd, etc.) and -- thanks to online services like Netflix or Hulu -- you might binge on the entire series over one weekend.
To be sure, the way we consume mass media is changing. Even the most-watched programs now, like the Academy Awards or major sporting events, have significantly fewer viewers than what they enjoyed a generation ago. We're at least as likely to find new music we like on YouTube or Internet radio or even in TV commercials as we are on what is now known as "terrestrial" radio.
If there's a single vehicle for shared experiences today, it might be YouTube. Consider this presentation that's generated more than 2 million views between YouTube and TED.com: It's called "The Art of Asking," and the presenter is a woman named Amanda Palmer.
I encourage you to watch the whole thing, but I'll give you some highlights. Around the 9-minute mark she talks about how she got nearly $1.2 million from her Kickstarter fundraising project, and how "crowd-funding" worked for her. She talks about how her record label considered her a failure when she sold only 25,000 recordings. But it turns out that the same number of fans and supporters, around 25,000, created a successful Kickstarter project, and ultimately helped her raise $1.2 million. Selling 25,000 recordings may make you a "failure," but getting 25,000 people to support you can make you a big success.
Around the 9:30 mark, Palmer mentions how she didn't make anyone pay for her music; she only asked them to. By asking her audience, she connected with them. And she says when you connect with people, people want to help you.
Palmer concludes by saying we need to change from "how
do we make people pay for music?" to "how do we let people pay for
I think this phenomenon has always been a part of our world
as IT pros. Because what we do is complex, and no one person has all the
answers, we rely on one another. Many people -- readers, clients, friends, what
have you -- ask me for help. And I can assure you that I get help from
countless people. Sure, we give each other a hard time. We joke and fool around
and say just RTFM. But over the years I've developed a mental list of trusted
advisors, people I know who know things. I ask, they help. They ask, I help.
Oftentimes help comes in the form of simply answering a question. In your work, when you search for an answer to a technical matter, you're exercising faith that not only that someone has found the answer, but that they've taken the time to put the correct answer out there. Many of my posts are based on real-life experiences. In this blog I attempt to share questions that were answered and things that were discovered. But you don't need a blog to help others find answers. You can always share what you know in the comments section here or in any other forums you frequent. Your thoughts, ideas and experiences may one day be the answer someone else is searching for.
When people really need assistance, don't you want to help them?