One of the more interesting conversations I had while in Sacramento was about information delivery. For those who don't know me personally I'm what can charitably be called a "Consistently Distracted Guest" in that I'm constantly checking my Cell. Phones as different buzzes inform me there is new information to be had.
I work really hard to be polite about it but the bottom line is that I like to be connected at all times.
One of the things you forget about family is that, though you've known them longer than anyone chronologically, in many ways they don't know you at all. You may e-mail, you may talk on the phone but unless you are within a few miles of each other you probably spend no more than a handful of hours per year together. So sometimes they'll notice certain behaviors in you that everyone else in your life has just come to the point of taking for granted (and because they're your family they'll be open enough to say it)
My obsessive checking of Cell. Phones was one of those occasions. Where this becomes interesting is when I began to explain to them just what I was doing looking at my cell phone every 15 minutes and what being able to do that meant for me. The real eye-opener came when showing them how to use Google Reader and getting the reaction "Why would you want to do something like that?"
I'll be the first to admit the reaction took me by surprise. I had always known that most people didn't live their life like I did but I always assumed it was because they lacked either the patience or the ability to leverage the tools in a way that would deliver what they wanted to them. Only after probing a little did I discovered just how uncomfortable people of a certain age are around the rapid delivery of information.
Quick Caveat: I'm going to break things down be age below but I realize that in many ways those are artificial generalizations. There are certainly those over 30 who have embraced technology and those under 30 who have not. But in the context of the current discussion I'm referring to what I believe to be the majority of people in each age group.
The similie I came up with to describe what I found was this: Imagine a person's youth as them growing up in a locked room. The difference between people older than 30 and people younger than 30 is that for the older people the room was empty and for the younger people the room was full of people. Now that both are adults and both are interacting on the essentially equal footing the younger ones feel uncomfortable without the noise of the other people in the room while the older people feel uncomfortable without the silence.
If you think about it the above holds fairly true to life. Younger people have grown up with E-Mail, Cell Phones, Pagers, IM, and so on which all act as a thousand little voices coming at them at all times. So they've become accustomed to that type of environment. Older people on the other hand could walk away from their land line and essentially be cut off from the world which is the environment they'd grown accustomed to. Two very different experiences that create two very different comfort zones.
I really think this has a big impact because it raises the question of how we tailor solutions that both serve the needs of the (for lack of a better term) "Web 2.0 Demo" while still drawing in the older crowd? How do we reach each demographic without alienating the other in the process?
They're questions I've just begun to ponder and I suspect I'll be talking about them more as time goes on but I wanted to share the experience for now. If Web 2.0 is about scale and harnessing the wisdom of the crowds than it will only achieve its full potential by drawing everyone into that crowd, even people who are uncomfortable with technology in the first place.