Thursday, July 27, 2006

Too much connectivity, on the other hand

Via George Siemens's weekly blog summary email, I found this article about "homo conexus", the connected man by James Fallows. He spent a period of time living and working entirely online. He made some interesting discoveries and experienced some frustrations along the way, which he sums up in his last two paragraphs:

In practical terms, where does this leave me? With the experiment over, I doubt that I'll use Writely again. (Yes, it does most of what I want in a word processor -- but so does Word, and I can use that when I'm sitting on an airplane. Same for Google Spreadsheets versus Excel.) Maybe I'll check out YouTube when someone sends me an interesting link. I'll look at Wikipedia pages when they come up high in a search and I have a way to double-check any crucial facts. As for MySpace -- nah!

But other applications have come to seem like natural parts of my daily life. Google Calendar is worth the effort -- for the appointments that my wife needs to know about. I find that I leave Google Earth running all day, to check aerial views of a foreign site I've just read about or a neighborhood where I'm meeting someone for lunch. The discount travel broker Kayak has gotten my attention; eBay has retained it, for all the obvious reasons. Flickr is a good way to share photo files with my family -- and keep them from jamming up my computer. I'll continue using Gmail as a backup site for important data files. As Ajax-enabled sites spread, they'll make sites that still require you to hit "refresh" or a "submit" button seem hopelessly out of date. I still don't like the label Web 2.0, I will continue to mock those who say "mash up," and I will never use Dodgeball. But I'm glad for what this experiment has forced me to see.

I don't know exactly how old Fallows is, but he has kids in their 20's, so I estimate that he must be at least knocking on 50 - more or less within my own generation. I would be interested to see the experiment repeated with a digital native. I wonder how their experiences would compare. Would their frustrations be the same? For example, would a 20-year-old be frustrated by the fact that Writely can't be used on an aeroplane, or would they use that time to catch up with a few downloaded podcasts?

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