It may just be the mood I'm in tonight, or perhaps that I've had one too many drinks, but I got lost in my thoughts while perusing through my kitchen cabinet, looking for a bite to eat. I found a can of cashews, and without moving the containers, found the hostname, planters.com. My eyes drifted to a box of granulated sugar -- dominosugar.com. I glanced upon an old bottle of wine I had stashed away after a long, good weekend with a great friend of mine, and found kj.com. I looked at a box of cereal -- kelloggs.com. They were even lost in some mid 90's time warp, saying something to the effect of "Look! We're on the Internet!"
It donned on me that we're not on the fringe anymore, in fact, we're not even just an alternate. In some cases, we're the primary communication mechanism. This is a major change in just 10-15 years. There has seldom been a change of this magnitude in brand recognition or customer awareness possibly in the history of marketing. In short, they're on to us.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. After all, my previously superlative knowledge of the Internet and websites is something that allowed me to purchase my house and get financially established. It furthered my drive to learn more about the systems upon which I built these web applications for my employers and for myself and to understand at a low level what makes them tick and what people want and desire of them. It keeps me profitable today. But I'm also quite aware that I'm no longer a uniquity. There are countless kids coming out of high school even who have the skills and knowledge (if not the wisdom) that I have after 13 years of doing this for a living (if sometimes a quasi-living, but nonetheless). But it is simultaneously encouraging.
If this is the new world order, then my childhood passion and my adult decision to pursue this has definitely been the right choice. The concept of ubiquitous computing is something that endears itself to marketing schlock like this. Where ever there is a product, there is likely a need for the information behind that product -- where to find it, how it was made, who likes it. That kind of information greatly lends itself to information technologies, and although I may not be as up to date as the high school technorati, I'm at least aware that I'm on the right track.
But this is not about me. It's about the Internet -- a technology little known to the average person only 10 years ago is now found everywhere. You can't go anywhere, look at anything anymore, without finding a URL or at least a domain name on it. This of course exempts dated materials, like old books, or your dad's tools, or photo's your mom took of you in the 70's (assuming she hasn't scanned them all in and uploaded them to whatever picture-site-of-the-day is popular), but we're a throwaway society as it is, and it's, for lack of a better term, pervasive. I don't mean to say that as either positive or negative, but just that it is what it is. It's there. It's everywhere. It's unavoidable. It's sometimes annoying. It's sometimes disturbing (do I really need to know that Charmin has a website when I'm on the toilet? They seem to think so). The website has replaced the 1-800 number.
And way back, deep within some repressed part of me, it's sad. The answer isn't talking to someone, conversing my an actual person. It's reading a FAQ, or going to techsupport.emptybusiness.com. It's telling us "We can't be bothered with your request, please try to figure it out yourself". The exchange of ideas is there, but the face-to-face is gone. The picking up on facial expressions, and inflections in tone to understand more than words can express. We've evolved (devolved?) into a printed word society. And yet, I'm not immune that world. After all, you're reading this blog. You (and I) are part of the new world.
Mind you, it's not a problem, just....different. The rules aren't broken, but they're bending -- strongly. There's stress fractures on the old way of doing things, but we're coping. It is quite interesting to me when we, those so-called techno-geeks, get together to talk about things, and we are lost for words. But online, we are masters of an expression-rich environment. We express ourselves textually in a way that would make our 10th grade English teachers proud (my apologies to my English 10R prof -- I forget your name).
So what's next? We make do with what we've got, and we realize that we're only at the beginning of the Information Age. We've only begun to tap it's potential. It's both awesome and frightening in the same thought. The scene from "Minority Report" where Tom Cruise's character is being advertised to in the mall comes to mind. "We know who you are, where you are, and what you want. And gratification is but a step (click) away."
Welcome to now.