Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Pew Research: What are we doing for the other 41% of people we want to reach?


Is the glass half full or half empty? asks Mathew Ingram about the latest Pew Internet & American Life Project research that shows about 41% of people are not yet engaging with “Web 2.0” in any meaningful sense. Elsewhere, Greg Sterling summarises the data in ‘Web 2.0’ Crowd A Small Minority

“There’s lots of great segmentation data in the report along various lines (age, income, general, technology ownership, broadband penetration, etc.). But what’s perhaps most interesting is to look at the 41 percent for whom technology has little or no value (8 percent of the “low tech” group is interested but inexperienced). While technology is pervasive in their lives, they go online (often daily, mostly from work) and use mobile phones, they are not very engaged and are only superficial users.”

The Pew report divides these into:

  • Light but Satisfied (15%)
  • Indifferents (11%)
  • Off the Network (15%)

Of course, Internet usage is still voluntary, at least for now (mwahaha!) but if I think of the corresponding situation in offices, where arguably ICT use is a required behaviour, then I feel sorry for some of these people because what they think of as IT and what we think of as IT are very different things
The natural conclusion, I think, is that we need to give these people a lot more support, and perhaps also stop using divisive language about people who “get it” and people who don’t. In terms of support, I have in mind a kind of learning, mentoring and … linkfeeding* that aims for joyful empowerment rather than boring old training in using tools you have to use. I hear so many anecdotes about the joy people get from turning somebody on to some useful online service, site or shared space – what we call those headshift moments, which people don’t forget in a hurry. Surely we should be doing the same inside companies, rather than boring them half to death with training?
The Medieval technical support video is very funny, but it actually presents a far more positive image of tech support than the current reality, at least internally within companies and, for understandable reasons of economics, ISPs. I have an email folder filling up with the numb brainlessness of a large distributed support system that produces dozens of emails for every tiny, minor action in vaguely the right direction. No names… This is what many people experience as ICT at work, not MySpace and lolcats, and it is not a pretty sight
At Headshift, our consulting and engagement approach to setting up social networking and knowledge sharing projects inside companies is already very much based on the need to create incentives and compelling use cases for people to use our stuff, rather than ‘install it and they will come’. But really we should be providing a full-on learning and mentoring service and asking our clients to give less adventurous users the time to play with it
How about combining the ideas I recently touched on in Social tools and creativity in education with Anne’s mentoring approach as seen in the MentorNet project, informed by the excellent edubloggers Ewan McIntosh, Stewart Mader, George Siemens, Sebastian Fiedler et al? Perhaps that could be the basis of just such a service? Anne and I have discussed doing just that, so watch this space
You can’t teach people about social networking and knowledge sharing using Web 1.0 online learning systems. Canned “content objects” delivered by an LMS are for McJobs, not knowledge workers, which is why I sometimes use the image above in presentations about e-learning. The goal is to give people some basic skills, connections and a sense of what is possible, and then just get them into the flow so they can learn for themselves
In a company context, I think this is what we need to see run alongside our deployments of social tools, and Chris and I shall be doing a trial run of a different kind of initiation event along these lines later this week inside a large accounting practice to try it out. Wish us luck
* I can’t believe linkfeeding was (until this post) a Googlewhackblatt term. In that case I had better explain what I mean, which is to gently drip feed somebody useful links about things they are interested in until they find their feet and develop their own feeds, flows and online social network.

3 Responses to Pew Research: What are we doing for the other 41% of people we want to reach?

  1. By alex on May 11, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    I have just stared to try and change from being one of the 41% above ( or maybe it is nearer 65% in the UK ).
    It is not easy. You have to understand what Web 2.0 means and I am still learning as i go along. Signing up and creating a blog seems a must-do activity.
    Myspace, Flickr, facebook et al. seem to be on the ” good to be able to talk about, but really I don’t understand them at all “. Then you find that blogs point you to collaborative projects and then, personally it has become of more interest.
    Contributing to what another group is doing seems like a stimulating human brain activity.
    Starting that activity by oneself would have to be a ” webpreneur ” activity that I am not quite yet comfortable with. By the way that is an open source, creative commons licence term I have used there, See, i can do some of the blagging already.

  2. By Lee on May 12, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Cool! And thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂
    One step at a time…

  3. By Harry Wood on May 30, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Yes…. All those people who never tried editing the wiki…. I think “less adventurous users” is a good way to describe them. Perhaps they dont see the web browser as a place to go on a little adventure, in the same way that I do.
    I often wonder what specific aspects of wiki editing are putting them off. The login? The edit link? The wiki syntax? But there’s something more fundamental than that.
    As keen web-adventurers how can we empathise with those who are “off the network”. Is there a way to train people to be more adventurous?