The Wall Street Journal Gets it Wrong on Mobile vs Desktop

May 27, 2015

A May 26 Wall Street Journal article is headlined “Mobile Isn’t Killing the Desktop Internet.” With such an inflammatory title it’s of course one of the top trending stories. (more…)

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The Internet Generation Prefers the Real World

August 10, 2010

How novel to imagine that youngsters aren’t novel.

The title of this entry is an English translation of the name of a German article appearing on August 6 in Spiegel Online. I don’t read Der Spiegel, the largest German newsweekly, in German or in English. Fortunately my friend Bob McArthur does, and brought this to my attention.

The article could be read quickly as merely another superficial piece on young people and the Internet. But this one is decidedly different. Rather than treating youth as a mysterious cult, the digital natives that we explorers can’t quite grok, the article focuses on establishing a simple singular point. “New research shows that the majority of children and teenagers are not the Web-savvy digital natives of legend,” states the lede. Instead they are “more interested in their real-world friends than Facebook.”

Could this be possible? You mean they don’t have secret decoder rings? The article is based mainly on some new research out of the Hans Bredow Institute entitled Growing Up With the Social Web. The presentation is available online, but only in German. Spiegel offers a single chart in English.

Source: Spiegel Online

I do recommend reading the original, but the key point appears best in these two paragraphs:

A small group of writers, consultants and therapists thrives on repeating the same old mantra, namely that our youth is shaped through and through by the online medium in which it grew up. They claim that our schools must, therefore, offer young people completely new avenues — surely traditional education cannot reach this generation any longer, they argue.

There is little evidence to back such theories up, however. Rather than conducting surveys, these would-be visionaries base their arguments on impressive individual cases of young Internet virtuosos. As other, more serious researchers have since discovered, such exceptions say very little about the generation as a whole, and they are now avidly trying to correct the mistakes of the past.

My restatement of the piece would be “Digital non-natives make the same error made by explorers throughout history: both ennobling the savage and at the same time demonizing him.” Turns out the native is human, just like you and me. And s/he doesn’t think that foraging, hunting and “native” dances are remarkable.

Of course consultants like Don Tapscott and Marc Prensky feed us the charismatic guru’s diet of what we want to believe: that digital natives(quite a good term: the secret to success for gurus is coining terms like this and making them sticky) are a superspecies, i.e. able to find technology to be somehow commonplace in a world full of frightening marvels.

They (and we) did not consider that for the natives the marvels are completely taken for granted, thereby losing all mystical powers. What remains are the day-to-day social concerns of all teens, made somewhat simpler to navigate with texting, Facebook, etc. And as always, there is the challenge of learning to use educational tools — whether textbooks or computers & wikis — as effectively as possible. Just because kids grew up with technology doesn’t mean they know how to use it well. And their elders were previously in no position to offer credible advice.

A breakthrough!

I’ll be interested to see how long it takes for this notion to penetrate the U.S. media. I think that the big media that dominate the dialog and the vendors they serve have a vested interest in clinging to Tapscott & Prensky’s anthropological myth-making. People and companies spend big bucks on the extraordinary. Everyday utensils don’t command a price premium.

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Millions Terrified by One Long Unbroken String of English Words

March 9, 2010

Courtesy of Bob McArthur I learned that in today’s online the Onion you’ll find the headline “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”

Can you blame them?


                                                                                                                               From the Onion

Boston resident Charlyne Thomson said, “Why won’t it just tell me what it’s about?” There are no bullet points, no highlighted parts. I’ve looked everywhere—there’s nothing here but words.” 500 of them in fact!

Detroit local Janet Landsman said, “I’m sure if it’s important enough, they’ll let us know some other way. After all, it can’t be that serious. If there were anything worthwhile buried deep in that block of impenetrable English, it would at least have an accompanying photo of a celebrity or a large humorous title containing a pop culture reference.”  

Added Landsman, “Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even have a point.”

In humour lies truth.

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Spoiled by Technology

June 17, 2009

A very funny clip of comedian Louis CK, appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Courtesy of my friend Bob McArthur, who in turn found it on The Digitalist, which noted that “this clip will resonate with anyone involved in digital publishing…”

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Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Source

January 2, 2009

How did I miss this one from December 23rd? Mea maxima culpa! (From the Latin: “My most grievous fault.”)

The source is most reputable: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The news about the news continues its discouraging trend. This one ranks as a milestone. According to the press release:

“The internet…has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news….For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news [40%] than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.”


If that doesn’t get you down, try this: “For young people, however, the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).”


Well I guess they was warned! And based on the continuing river of despondency and desperation from news organizations, I don’t imagine that we’re not going to see a change any time soon. And, I must now admit, perhaps never.

My naysaying, dancing-on-the grave-type friends and colleagues point out that the chicken is only coming home to roost. Newspapers, during the many heady years that preceded this shakeout, developed some deplorable business practices. But there was enough cash in the coffer that they could do just about whatever they pleased.

It was Roy Thomson, the founder of the Thomson publishing empire (now in the hands of his grandson) who first described television as “a license to print money.” A press baron also, he knew well how money was printed.

A popular Web site is the new license for printing money (although not for all). And newspaper owners failed to get on the bandwagon in time to obtain their licenses.

I feel sympathy for the owners and managers: are any of us so clever that we would have done much better? I feel great sorrow for the ever-increasing ranks of reporters, lower-level managers and production personnel who must bear the brunt of this downturn. But of course, as the newspapers remind us each day, in print and online, those workers are not alone.

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