Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An "old folk" answers back

Jamie Lewis led off this year's Catalyst conference by quoting Doc Searls: "email is what young people use to talk to old people." A truism, certainly, but - like most truisms - fraught with unstated baggage.

Young people aren't using texting as a replacement for email, but as a replacement for phone and face-to-face conversation. While it's true that email - and later, instant messaging - were previous substitutes for face-to-face, email was never a good substitute. It is, by its very nature, asynchronous and one-on-one (or one-to-many) neither of which is a good substitute for a group of teens "hanging out" and talking about their trials and tribulations.

But once those kids get out of college (if they ever do) they'll learn that texting someone 10,000 miles away is also asynchronous - and a lot harder to do than email as they'll learn to their chagrin the first time they send an inappropriate message before taking the time to reconsider it.

Texting will be a part of our social fabric from now on, but only as a poor substitute for face-to-face conversation (disclaimer: once we have ubiquitous texting+video, it replaces face-to-face). But just as the "PC revolution" never did lead to the paperless office, so too the "texting revolution" will never kill off email.

It would be nice if some of these people learned their geek history.

When we all BBSed in the 80s and early 90s, we certainly managed to use multiple ways of communicating. :P

When we were teenagers, we used email, *and* chat, *and* forums and so forth to talk to each other. As you point out, they have different attributes (asynchronous vs synchronous) and so forth and are therefore appropriate for different things.

It's amusing to see people who think this is all something "new".
Oh, but texting works quite well 10,000 miles away. Yaty does it all of the time. In fact Indonesia is quite addicted to it due to the low cost of SMS and high cost of a minute worth talking. All of these forms of communication have their place, and all are valid.

I will say, however, that I rarely talk on the phone. For the most part I find it irritating and a poor replacement for face-to-face conversation. Only when people are so far away, and have no ability to type fast enough on IM, or when it's related to business and the client prefers the phone do I find myself on the phone.
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