Trends and Forecasts
It’s as predictable as the Winter Solstice: the ongoing trickle of articles on trends turns into a flood around the turn of each year, coupled with a healthy rush of forecasts—and a much smaller freshet of ‘fessing up, as forecasters let us know how things worked out.
What is a trend—and how does it differ from a forecast? The dictionary’s not much help here. Two senses of “trend” seem relevant: “a prevailing tendency or inclination” and “a current style or preference” (with “vogue” as a synonym). My sense is that most so-called trends these days are claims of near-future importance—assertions that Trend X is becoming more significant, than, say, Former Trend Y, and needs to be paid attention to.
“Forecast” is comparatively simple: “a prophecy, estimate, or prediction of a future happening or condition.” (All definitions from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate.) To me—if perhaps not to others—the distinction may be falsifiability. If I say “Open source matters in 2009,” that’s a trend. If I say “25% of libraries will switch to open source library systems by 2012,” that’s a forecast. You could argue that I was wrong about open source as a trend, but you couldn’t prove me wrong—but in 2013, you could prove me wrong about the forecast. That’s too neat, of course—some forecasts are mostly trend statements. But trend gurus tend to avoid specificity, rarely even saying X is the most important trend.
Let’s look at a few of the many trend statements for 2010. We’ll also look at the flipside of trendiness: Deathspotting—assertions that X or Y is (or is about to be) obsolete or defunct. I was originally planning to include some of the “top 10 for 2009” stories, but enough is enough—and, especially at the end of a decade, there are too many of the things to even think about. Note that the material here all comes from 2009; if there’s enough interesting stuff in early 2010, including the LITA Top Tech Trends Midwinter session, I might do a followup.
First, let’s look back at some of last year’s trends, forecasts and predictions—as reviewed in Perspective: Tech Trends, Trends and Forecasts in the February 2009 Cites & Insights (9:3). I’ll intersperse current notes as needed, and I’m leaving out most of the discussion to leave space for this year’s trends and forecasts.
Last year’s roundup was divided into three sections: Tech trends, trends in general and forecasts. I began with my own take on tech trends, prepared for the OLA SuperConference in Toronto. I saw these trends as vital for thinking about libraries, technology and the like:
Limits: They exist. Your financial resources are limited; you can’t keep borrowing against tomorrow indefinitely. Deny them as we might, limits—natural resources, time, attention—don’t simply disappear…
Business models: They matter. When you’re considering how various services for your own work and your library’s work will work, think about business models. To what extent are you relying on free services that don’t appear to have any source of revenue? What happens to your service if those services disappear? Do you have any rational basis to believe they’ll continue to exist, grow and be developed without clear revenue sources? Your library has a business model, typically that of a community service: People pay in advance in order to fund a common good.
Trusting the cloud: Set aside the jargon—the cloud’s just software and services on someone else’s servers. “Trusting the cloud” has three key aspects, one particularly important where library functions are concerned: Trusting that the services will remain (see “business models”); trusting that your data will be safe; and trusting that confidentiality will be preserved. I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t use the cloud; I am arguing that you should think several times before relying entirely on the cloud.
Valuing existing users and services: Yes, you need to see how you can serve emerging needs of your community (your community)—but times of limits make your existing services more valuable than ever. Don’t ignore your existing users in order to court a minority of people living the digital lifestyle; find a balance. And if you find that some of the digerati really do have all the money to satisfy their instant-everything demands and have no intention of using your services—well, in fact, you can’t please everybody, and there’s a limit to how hard you should try.
Real communities: What technologies and balances serve your users in your community? The answer’s considerably different for a town in which 99% of residents are wealthy and have high-speed broadband and smart phones (if such a town exists) than it is for a city where many people aren’t online at all (except at the library), many more have only dialup at home, and $100 a month for a smart phone data service is an outrageous expense…
Taking back the language: That’s a group heading for a number of language-related issues. It means understanding that “Essentially free” means somebody somewhere is paying a lot of money. It means thinking to yourself “what you mean we?” when someone pronounces something that “we” or “we all” do or think… It means flagging “inevitable” as a typically nonsensical substitute for argument. It means honoring skepticism while trying to avoid cynicism.
I’ll stick with those as vitally important underlying trends for librarians to consider. There’s a lot of back-and-forth as to whether Americans are willing to accept limits, or whether we’ll all start spending beyond our means once again. I hope it’s the former, even if that slows the recovery, but I’m not making projections.
Steve Lawson posted “Social software deathwatch” at See also… as his own “top tech trend to watch.” It’s along the lines of my thoughts on business models and trusting the clouds. He cited a bunch of social-networking sites that disappeared in 2008; we’ve lost quite a few in 2009 as well.
It’s great to put stuff on these sites to increase your media’s visibility or to find a more convenient way to share documents or something. But what happens if your free hosted wiki site suddenly goes bankrupt or your document sharing site’s servers are accidentally sold for scrap, or the video hosting site you use objects to the hot book-on-book action you have posted?...
Libraries and librarians and archivists who care about preserving the world’s cultural output: where are we now? Do we have anything to add to an effort to help keep online culture from going down the drain? I fear that most libraries can barely deal with the digital content we are directly responsible for, leaving the wilds of the Internet to people like Jason Scott and Brewster Kahle to deal with, but I’d love to hear examples of libraries taking on this kind of responsibility…
[To] quote from [Jason Scott’s] “Cloud” post:
If you want to take advantage of the froth, like with YouTube or Google Video (oh wait! Google Video is [not accepting new content]) then do so, but recognize that these are not Services. These are not dependable enterprises. These are parties. And parties are fun and parties are cool and you meet neat people at parties but parties are not a home…
So that’s my top tech trend for 2009. There’s a reason it’s called “cloud” computing. It looks beautiful now, but could be gone in a moment.
Might I suggest that this trend is just as important in 2010?
Eric Lease Morgan’s trends:
Indexing with Solr/Lucene works well. Linked data is a new name for the Semantic Web. Blogging is peaking. Word/tag clouds abound. “Next Generation” library catalogs seem to be defined. The Digital Dark Age continues—that is, digital preservation of internet resources stinks.
I added notes about several of these—e.g., do word clouds mean anything, is linked data actually happening? A year later, I still wonder whether word and tag clouds mean much of anything, whether linked data is showing broad applicability (and application) and whether blogging having peaked is meaningful.
Sarah Houghton-Jan’s trends, with her own wording in bold:
The art of web presence maintenance:… Managing a library’s extended web presence truly has become an art, and an art that each library needs to (and seems to want to) learn about.
Overgeneralized, since there are many libraries that lack the resources to have extended web presences at all, but still an important (general) trend.
Plug-ins, widgets and hacks, oh my! Websites are no longer stand-alone entities. They are segmented bits of code…all grouped together to make dynamic and interactive pages… The number of libraries taking advantage of these will continue to grow, especially in times of difficult budgets when “free” is the only choice.
Also overgeneralized, and for many websites standalone still makes sense—but the last sentence continues to be true. (Still: “free” continues to be a tricky choice to make.)
My kumpyootur kan has a kloud:… When cloud computing becomes the norm (which I and others think it will in the next few years), this will be a boon for library users…
Apart from the cute title, this leaves out the whole issue of trusting the cloud for data security and confidentiality. I’m not among those who expect full cloud computing to become the norm.
Online training has its debutante ball: To date, most libraries (and by libraries I mean library managers and supervisors) treat online learning like it isn’t valid… [But] in the last year I have seen more libraries opening up to online training as a valid training delivery method…
Probably an ongoing trend.
Less $ = Less eResources (a disturbing trend): It seems that eResources (databases and eBooks) budgets are being cut more than the traditional collection budgets are… Times are tough—which is precisely why eResources make more sense. They have a higher return on investment, examining cost vs. use, (up to 5 times as much in my studies)… Especially for periodicals, eResources make more sense than physical ones. And yet, this year, periodical budgets aren’t being cut but periodical database budgets are…
As a patron, I get nervous when “eResources make more sense” is applied broadly for public libraries. Patron preference should definitely play a part here.
Karen Coombs’ trends:
My personal A-HA trend: Web applications that are extremely flexible, versatile and extendable… (Specific example: Drupal.)
The everyone’s going to say it but it needs to be said trend: Mobile technologies are changing society. They are here to stay, they are only going to get better with time, and we need to expect mobile devices to be a significant portion of our usage.
As soon as you say “significant portion” rather than “ubiquitous” or “all,” I agree.
The one that scares the sh!t out of me: The waking digital preservation nightmare. Whether it is books digitized by Google, videos posted on the web, or Flickr photos the explosion of digital content for which there isn’t a clear curation plan has created a void which few libraries seem to be willing to step up and fill…
Still significant (maybe more so)—but is there any way to even begin to cope?
The trend I think may empower smaller libraries the most: Hosted supported open source software. There are an increasing number of companies both in the library and non-library world providing hosting and support for open source software…
One such company has gone in a semi-proprietary direction, but that’s another story.
Greg Landgraf’s AL Inside Scoop report on the actual meeting includes open source as above, economic considerations, geolocation in library services—and linked data, with some questioning of real examples. Roy Tennant noted an LC site using linked data that was supposed to be up 4-6 weeks after Midwinter; that project appears to be “Authorities & Vocabularies” at id.loc.gov, which came up in May 2009.
Michael Stephens posted a massive 7,800-word “Ten trends & technologies for 2009” on January 12 at Tame the web. I’ll refer you back to either that buzzword-filled essay or my February 2009 excerpts; I see little point in repeating them, and can’t get beyond “tribes” and “ubiquity” and “digital lifestyle” to provide a coherent critique…not even of the notion that library schools should no longer prepare people for reference librarianship or children’s services.
The magazine claimed these breakthroughs “will change your [world] in 2009.” That makes them forecasts of a sort. The list is in “last to first” order, presumably making the last one most important. My notes about actual “change your world” impact in 2009 are interspersed with the bold-faced breakthroughs.
▪ Flexible displays. Impact on “your world” in 2009: Nonexistent, I’d guess.
▪ Edible chips (silicon chips, that is, monitoring vitals etc.). Since they weren’t in clinical trials in early 2009, it’s fair to say few of you have found them changing your world.
▪ Speedo LZR. Really, truly, Wired thought this was one of the ten most important technology breakthroughs in 2008. Outlawed for international competition starting in 2010, if I’m not mistaken. Your world? Probably unchanged.
▪ Flash memory. As I said last year, this isn’t a breakthrough, it’s a commodity—and while pricing keeps going down, nothing fundamental has changed.
▪ GPS (really geoservices). If you’re a smartphone user, it’s possible that geoservices really did “change your world” in 2009; I’ll give Wired this one.
▪ Memristor: Only Wired could claim something it admits was at least five years away from production would “change your world” that same year.
▪ Video-capable SLRs: Yep, they’re there, even hi-def. Have they changed your world?
▪ USB 3.0: Are you using this? Are you aware that it exists? Seen any products? Probably not—as of late 2008, the first products weren’t expected until 2010.
▪ Android: I’ll give Wired this one too—but it hasn’t changed most people’s worlds.
▪ Apple’s App Store: The most important breakthrough. Maybe so, for those who have iPhones and ample funds.
If I’m feeling charitable, Wired scores four out of ten for the most technophilic readers (those who own both Android smartphones and iPhones, and who find that owning a vide0-capable SLR has changed their world).
These are some of Hane’s trends relevant to libraries, from a piece posted January 8, 2009 at ITI NewsLink—but unlike some other trends lists, these are trends Hane considers worth watching in 2009, not necessarily massive adoptions:
Growth in the mobile web (increasingly location-aware services)
Open source solutions looking increasingly attractive…
Web apps…gaining traction over expensive software solutions
Increasing traction for open access journals
Increasing use of social networking services for communication (rather than email)
More innovative web mashups
Further developments in semantic technologies and applications, increasing context of content
Increasing movement to enhanced library catalogs (reviews, ratings, tags, etc.)
Ongoing book digitization projects—some partnering with Google, others making it on their own
More options and improvements in ebook readers, increased adoption, and, hopefully, lower prices (Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, iRex suite, Foxit eSlick, Bookeen Cybook, etc.)
Security and privacy remaining major concerns [a permanent trend].
At the time, I called it a solid list. I’ll stand by that comment.
These items came from a JWT (ad agency) report and appeared in the January 2009 LinkUp Digital. I’ve left out most of my comments. New quick notes [in brackets].
Use of email will decline. [Not so’s I’ve noticed, and the logic was of the “nobody goes to that club anymore because it’s too popular” variety—we’re shunning email because there’s too much of it!]
Computing will increasingly become untethered. [Cloud computing, that is. To some extent, true.]
Use of mobile devices will continue to increase. [“Well, yes…” is what I said a year ago.]
Personal computers and TV will “continue to merge.” [I said “not really” in 2009, and still do—streaming video on a TV does not constitute a merger with computing.]
Trendwatching.com is devoted to cutesy neologisms but also, seemingly, to the ability of clever marketing to overcome any consumer resistance to ever-increasing expenditures. The half-dozen trends (consumer trends, note) for 2009 included “nichetributes” (“recession-proof” gimmicks for your “niche lifestyle” such as gloves with metal dots on the fingertips, the better to use your iStuff), “luxyoury” (finding ways to get you to spend more money by “defining luxury” differently), “feedback 3.0” (businesses responding directly within review sites), “econcierge” (getting people to pay to find out how to “go green”) and “mapmania” (“one orgasmic celebration of map-based tracking, finding, knowing and connecting”—the site’s words, not mine!). The sixth, the only trend with a name that’s not a neologism, basically said there will always be ways to sell, sell, sell, no matter that we were in a recession.
Dawson, at Trends in the living networks, is a self-identified Very Big Deal, “globally recognized as a leading keynote speaker and authority on business strategy.” The six “forces”:
Constant partial attention. People “consuming 20 hours or more of media a day.” “To be successful, we need to thrive on constant interruption.”
As absurd as media “consumption” has gotten, Dawson overstates the reality—and saying fragmented attention is “inevitable” continues to be silly.
Half of us expose ourselves; the other half watches. Dawson actually claimed “half of us” would be “sending video updates of our every move” in 2009, with the rest of us becoming voyeurs.
Wrong, wrong, wrong…thank heavens. I don’t believe there are all that many folks videocasting their lives; I’m certain it’s nowhere near 5%, much less “half of us.” And how much time do you spend as a voyeur?
Gen Y wakes up to Gen Z. Dawson defines Gen Y as born 1979-1990 and calls it the “me generation” where “Gen Z” is “sophisticated and with a social conscience.”
Last year I said “I think it’s all gen-gen and increasingly divisive nonsense.” I’ll stick with that.
Outsourcing for the masses. We’ll be using “assistants in India or Hungary to make travel bookings, set up a personal website, or design a flyer for the school fete.” He does mean we—not companies but individuals in America and Australia.
Sure we are. Have you hired a Hungarian to design your personal website?
Companies become social. “In 2009, companies will truly embrace social networks, blogs, and other Web 2.0 tools…” Dawson believes that corporate Facebook profiles and blogs will lead to “a transformation of how we work.”
If it wasn’t for that “transformation” I’d let this go. Just a bit overstated in terms of transformational impact, I’m guessing—but then I’m semiretired.
Media industry shatters. Ah, but “journalists themselves will prosper.”
Media didn’t “shatter” in 2009, although there were some losses—and nobody has yet figured out how journalists “prosper” without salaried outlets.
Just a few of them—noting that some trends above are specific enough to count as forecasts and were judged as such.
This blog included 56 forecasts. Some of the interesting ones and how they played out:
iTunes will add social networking features.
I have no idea. Did it?
Yahoo will get bought by some big media company, not Microsoft.
Microsoft will release a “cool online version of Office” and Google will release an “amazing new version” of Google Docs.
Wrong in 2009.
Twitter and Technorati won’t get acquired but FriendFeed will (probably by Google).
Mostly right, but FriendFeed was acquired by Facebook.
Twitter will be acquired.
Wrong. (Yes, RWW’s forecasts can be mutually contradictory—they come from several people.)
Lifestreams (sigh) will continue to evolve. (Alternatively, “lifestreaming” products—this person mentions FriendFeed—will remain niche products serving early adopters. I’m on FriendFeed: so much for that prediction!)
Too vague to be falsifiable.
Twitter will figure out a way to make money.
Wrong, as far as I know.
An iPhone will appear with video recording capabilities.
Wrong device: an iPod has video, not an iPhone.
“Google backlash begins, Apple backlash does not.”
Yahoo gains goodwill (and Google loses it).
I don’t see that Yahoo’s gained a lot of goodwill.
Twitter will start to embed ads into user streams.
“Pro Twitterer” will be a real job.
I don’t believe this is true.
Microsoft buys Netflix and resurrects WebTV.
Facebook Connect will become the de facto universal logon—or Gmail will be, once Google makes Gmail logons OpenID-compatible.
eBay will be acquired by Amazon.
Douglas, head of digital production for The Telegraph, did have the sense to say no sensible commentator would go anywhere near predictions for 2009—but gave his anyway. Some of them, paraphrased:
Computer sales will be down, but “the few computers sold will be higher quality items, intended to last a couple of years at least. Think Sony and Apple rather than Dell or Packard Bell.”
HP and Dell both seem to be doing just fine.
Microsoft will suffer as people skip the “ridiculously overpriced Office suite” and turn instead to free online word processors…and piracy of the software will increase.
Office (“ridiculously overpriced” at around $120 for three computers, for the home/student version) has 94% of the market.
Sales of “larger but essentially useless items” will dwindle, while “small but life-affirming purchases” will rise. What’s fascinating here: Douglas calls HD camcorders and netbooks “larger but essentially useless” items and iPhone apps, Wiis, iTune songs, DVDs and digital film downloads “small but life-affirming.”
As I noted, the idea that a $160 camcorder or $250 netbook is “larger but essentially useless” while a $300 Wii is “small but life-affirming” is charming. Netbooks didn’t exactly fall off the charts…
“Blu-ray will die as HD downloads and super-fast broadband spread.”
Remember, this is for 2009. Maybe the UK has super-fast broadband, but in the U.S. Blu-ray’s starting to become commonplace.
“Your mother will follow you on Twitter, so you’ll have to find another community.”
More Facebook than Twitter…and there’s no place left to hide.
Battery life will take over from processor speed as the big number on billboards.
CPU speed hasn’t been a big number for years—and claimed battery life is being featured in ads.
At least one of the big three American car companies will become bankrupt.
He got that one right. Twice.
Electric cars will begin to replace hybrids as the environmentalists’ choice.
As I said then: “In 2009? With the unlimited venture capital funds now available to make true electric cars factory items? Talk to Tesla about that particular short-term projection.” Wildly offbase.
FTT does do scorecards, and I only mentioned nine of the 36 predictions from last year. The first, DRM technologies failing to prevent widespread infringement, is a standing and always-correct prediction. Some of the others (leaving out two where I don’t know enough to comment at all):
3. As lawful downloading of music and movies continues to grow, consumer satisfaction with lossy formats will decline, and higher-priced options that offer higher fidelity will begin to predominate.
Unclear, but 256K MP3 (still lossy, but much better-sounding) has pretty much taken over from 128K AAC and MP3. (FTT marked this as wrong.)
24. Shortly after the start of the new administration, the TSA will quietly phase out the ban on flying with liquids or stop enforcing it in practice.
Didn’t happen, although it seemed like a good projection. Instead, things are getting worse.
27. An embarrassing leak of personal data will emerge from one or more of the social networking firms (e.g., Facebook), leading Congress to consider legislation that probably won't solve the problem and will never actually reach the floor for a vote
Did the first happen? I’m sure there was never such a vote.
30. The Blu-ray format will increasingly be seen as a failure as customers rely more on online streaming.
“Be seen as” is the tricky phrase, and might be true, but Blu-ray’s not failing.
33. A hot Christmas item will be a cheap set-top box that allows normal people to download, organize, and view video and audio podcasts in their own living rooms.
Podcasts? Not so much.
34. Internet Explorer's usage share will fall below 50 percent for the first time in a decade, spurred by continued growth of Firefox and Safari and deals with OEMs to pre-load Google Chrome.
I’ve never tracked this assured annual “time to adoption” series of education-related trends, but here’s what’s on the horizon for 2010:
▪ One year or less: Mobile computing, open content.
▪ Two to three years: Ebooks, simple augmented reality
▪ Four to five years: Gesture-based computing, visual data analysis.
That’s from the preview at www.mmc.org/pdf/2010-Horizon-Report-Preview.pdf. The details include a lot of generalizations (“we” all find mobile computing indispensable, the role of teachers is shifting from guardian and dispenser to guide and coach); if you strip those out as typical of trendspotters, it’s hard to argue that all of these won’t play some roles in education.
This one’s a mid-year report on “emerging technologies 2009,” and I love Gartner’s five stages—with one enormous caveat. If you’re not aware of the stages, they are Technology Trigger (launch or demo), Peak of Inflated Expectations (loads of hype), Trough of Disillusionment (when failures become evident), Slope of Enlightenment (when some businesses and users find the tool in the toy), and Plateau of Productivity (when the technology becomes useful and accepted).
The caveat? Most technologies fail—within that cycle, or shortly thereafter. My usual line is 96%: That is, 80% of new developments never make it to the marketplace—and, historically, 80% of new products and services fail within a few years. Multiply those and you get 96%. The truth may not be that awful, and “technologies” may not fail as often as products in general—but the landscape is littered with failed social networks, failed hot new technologies and other failures.
I picked up a comment on the Gartner report from a July 27, 2009 post by Hutch Carpenter at I’m Not Actually a Geek (bhc3.wordpress.com). The 51-page report itself sells for $1,995, so I certainly haven’t read it in full. Carpenter’s post reproduces the master “hype cycle” chart, showing an astonishing number of “emerging technologies” and both their claimed positions on the hype cycle and Gartner’s estimate of “years to mainstream adoption.” The chart ignores the Plateau of Productivity—presumably, things are already “mainstream” at that point.
For 2010, there’s not much trendy here—because Gartner only flags two items as “less than two years” away from mainstream adoption: corporate blogging and web 2.0 (but “web 2.0” is still in the Trough of Disillusionment!). The set of technologies marked as being on the slope of enlightenment, but with longer targets for mainstream adoption, includes:
Two to five years: SOA, location-aware applications, wikis, electronic paper and tablet PCs.
▪ Five to ten years: Speech recognition.
Is it really likely that wikis will reach mainstream adoption in 2-5 years if they haven’t already? Are businesses suddenly going to fall in love with eccentric markup and mass editability?
As noted, there are a lot of other technologies on that chart. Carpenter comments on a few (“social software suites,” which he sees as part of “Enterprise 2.0”—whatever that might be; “Idea management”; Microblogging (another “Enterprise 2.0” piece); Cloud computing; and E-book readers). All of these are flagged as two to five years from the mainstream, with all but “idea management” in the Peak of Inflated Expectations segment—indeed, if you add Internet TV and Wireless power, you’ve got the whole inflated-expectations group.
Where I think Gartner makes a good point (but I haven’t read the report): Cloud computing and ebook readers can and probably will enter the mainstream, but are likely to fall far short of some of the hype Wired and others are throwing at them. Ebooks can become a multi-billion dollar business without “the death of print books” and cloud computing (which is doubtless already a multi-billion dollar business) can get much larger without “dethroning” personal computing and server-based applications. I have no idea what idea management is, so won’t comment.
That’s the title for Nuri Djavit and Paul Newnes’ December 3, 2009 post at digital media buzz (www.digitalmediabuzz.com). The trends in bold, followed by my paraphrase and comments:
▪ Facebook replaces personal email. The commentary here is a little bizarre, but apparently the lack of a tradename for emailing (similar to “Googling” or “Xeroxing”) is a Bad Thing: “No brand ever became synonymous with email.” So? Maybe you-all use private Facebook messages instead of email, but “Facebooking” as a general “displacement of personal email as a communication tool” is, to my mind, a wild overstatement. Partial displacement? Sure, just as “microblogging” partially replaces blogging.
▪ Open source software starts making money (thanks to the cloud). Somehow, we’re now just seeing open-source projects “available to the masses”—but the example given is Beanstalk (a Subversion programming code repository, just the thing “the masses” have been looking for). This trend is all about commercializing free software. I dunno; I would have thought Firefox was a reasonably established example of open source software “available to the masses,” and seems to me Red Hat and others have made money off Linux for years now.
▪ Mobile commerce—The promise that has never delivered, yet. But it’s finally going to. Maybe.
▪ Fewer registrations—one sign-in fits all. With the qualifier “fewer,” I think this is right on the money, but I’m guessing banks and financial institutions will and should be exceptions. I’m not sure I want my OpenID to grant credit card access in general, actually, but it’s fine with me if it logs me into every blog commenting feature.
▪ The continuing evolution of Web-driven, open source DIY culture. You’d have to read this one yourself. If they mean “crowdsourcing,” I’m doubtful. If they mean web-based collaboration among generally-small teams, they may be right.
▪ Info-art. Yes, there will be “greater innovation spurred by more elegant ways of capturing and visualizing information”—and it will continue to make me and some others nervous, because “data visualization” can do such a wonderful job of biasing and distorting data…particularly if you scrap a few outliers because they mess up the visualization.
▪ Crowd sourcing. Here it is directly, “a growing tool as part of outsourcing strategies.” Huge growth in crowd-sourcing models. “Organizations will mobilize the passionate special interest groups to not only carry a message but, even more importantly perhaps, to lead and take part in activities on their behalf.” I don’t doubt that companies and others will do their best to get people to do something for nothing; “digital sharecropping” seems unlikely to fade away.
▪ More Flash, not less. Sigh.
It’s worth noting that these “digital trends” are all about marketing and business. “Social media” is only interesting as it’s coupled into “social media marketing.” The two writers are partners in a digital marketing and design company.
That’s the title for a December 15, 2009 post at Krafty Librarian. Krafty references another post, Max Anderson’s “Top digital trends for 2010 (and other tech news)” (posted December 10, 2009 at The Cornflower, nnlm.gov/gmr/blog).
Anderson quotes the same post and list you see above, cites the last point (“More Flash, not less”) as one he needs to pay attention to (in part thanks to Flash’s opportunities for abuse), and asks what others see as digital trends in their organizations.
Krafty breaks things down into “Hot in 2009,” “Not in 2009,” “Hot in 2010?” and “Not in 2010?” Some of the trends are medicine-specific and I’m omitting those, but the others are in some cases provocative:
▪ Hot in 2009: App phones (and two medicine-specific trends). “Say goodbye to ‘smart phones’ and hello app phones.”
▪ Not in 2009: Blogs (“everybody is tweeting now”) and medicine-specific items. “Everybody is tweeting now”: Wow. So much for blogs…like Krafty Librarian.
▪ Hot in 2010?: Flash, Twitter and Mobile optimization with a followup universal statement, quoted verbatim: “Everybody is using app phones.”
▪ Not in 2010?: Google Wave, E-readers in medical libraries.
If by “everybody” Krafty really means “everybody in the medical field,” I don’t know enough to cry bs, although I’m doubtful. In a more general sense, it’s a good example of the dangers of generalization.
What’s Next: Top Trends is “a blog about current and future trends,” also subtitled “the diary of a futurist.” It’s by Richard Watson, a “futurist writer, speaker and consultant” based in Sydney and London, who is nothing if not self-assured. You can explore his observations at toptrends.nowandnext.com. The heart of this November 17, 2009 post is his list of “things that I’m starting to see or expect to emerge over the next 12-18 months”:
Globalization unraveling; Re-sourcing (industrial repatriation); Expecting less; Conspicuous non-consumption; Unsupervised adults (UK only); Constant partial stupidity; Digital isolation; Flight to the physical; Hunger for shared experiences; Fear fatigue.
Watson also provides his lists of trends for 2008 and before, with his assertions as to whether the trends are working out. You could have lots of fun arguing over his judgments—particularly given timing. (Was “simplicity” really trending upward in 2008?
I’d like to think or hope that Watson’s right about several of these, but you’d need more details to make sense of some of them. In this case, I’ll just say that the list is refreshingly free of the usual “high technology always succeeds, digital always conquers everything else” bias of most trends lists. Whether that makes it better or worse…not my call.
ReadWriteWeb loves lists and particularly assured projections. This particular list appeared on December 11, 2009, posted by Ravit Lichtenberg. Some brief highlights—Lichtenberg’s assertion in boldface, my notes following:
▪ Social media will become a single, cohesive experience embedded in our activities and technologies. Wow. For all of us, social media becomes by December 2010 “an integrated, unquestionable component of your online and offline experiences.” This will “cut across all of our activities” and “everything we do will be gathered and streamed together.” Count me out, and this may be the single most dystopian vision I’ve seen for 2010: One Great Social Network to Rule Us All.
▪ Social media innovation will no longer be limited by technology. Since there will be no closed platforms or discrete logins, companies will “leverage existing assets” in new and wonderful ways. No comment.
▪ Mobile will take center stage. For all of us? Maybe not quite so fast.
▪ Expect an intense battle as people and companies look to own their own content. Which would seem to conflict with some of the others, but never mind. Intense battle? I doubt it. (Rupert Murdoch is no more the universal constant than Steve Jobs is.)
▪ Enterprises will shape the next generation of what we’ve called “social media.” Not just that social networking all takes place on corporate platforms, but that companies will determine how social experiences work. Oh, what a wonderful projection.
▪ ROI will be measured—and it will matter. It doesn’t hurt to remember that RWW is really all about money.
▪ Finally: Real, cool and very bizarre online-offline integration. Among other things—and remember, these are short-term projections, “you’ll never need to ask for a business card again” at events and we (all of us?) will be using our mobile devices to make our real-world decisions.
▪ Many “old” skills will be needed again. The skills all seem to be marketing-related. Why am I not surprised?
▪ Women will rule social media. Oddly, take away the silly “rule” and this is a useful comment: Companies who don’t pay attention to women are in trouble—but that’s nothing new.
▪ Social media will move into new domains. What domains? “Verticals such as nonprofit” (wow! the whole nonprofit sector is now just a “vertical” like job training and health care). This long essay repeats the assurance that social media will be “fully integrated into everything we do online and offline” (emphasis added--does that include the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom?) and seems to say companies will give up boring old philanthropy for wonderful new “learning or teaching.”
Since all of this is apparently inevitable, there’s little point in saying “not so much.”
On one hand, this is an interesting divergence—from the Wired for things that actually exist, that is, Popular Mechanics. It’s from the January 2010 issue and available on the magazine’s website (www.popularmechanics.com). On the other, given that this is things we need to know this year, well…here’s the list and my notes with snarky opinions [in brackets].
▪ Anthropomimetic machines. Robots that mimic human form. There’s a European prototype. [And we “need to know” this in 2010?]
▪ Direct carbon fuel cells. A California company hopes to have a 10kW prototype, using biomass, running in 2010. Another company “hopes soon to use the tech to power a small light bulb.” [Could eventually be interesting—but we need to know this in 2010?]
▪ Metabolomics. You know DNA tests and how well DNA-specific medicine has worked out so far? Well, this one uses “8000 naturally occurring metaboloites,” small molecules involved in bodily chemical reactions, and another test for a “metabolomic profile”—so here’s another sure-fire set of “quick and easy tests for personalized health and medical guidance.”
▪ DNA Origami. A suggestion that Caltech and IBM can “strategically position” folded DNA strands as anchor points for tiny computer-chip components. [Yep, this is really going to matter in 2010.]
▪ Piezoelectric display. Nothing new about piezoelectrics, but “screens that can change shape or texture”—mobile devices that “can harden protectively when turned off, and soften into a depressible touchscreen when turned on”—would be new. [Significant in 2010? We’ll see.]
▪ Osseointegration. Prosthetics that fuse with living bone. It’s been done on a German Shepherd. Six more operations on dogs are planned for 2010. [Implications as approved procedures for humans in 2010?]
▪ Horizontal drilling. Tapping “trillions of cubic feet of natural gas” in the U.S. by drilling to shale beds and turning the drills 90 degrees. [This one seems to depend on high prices for natural gas, and that could be a problem.]
▪ Kinetic hydropower. That is, underwater turbines gaining power from natural flow. [A great idea for years, unfortunately flawed by some failures in prototypes. Let’s hope 2010 will see serious full-scale operation.]
▪ Nanoyarn. Carbon nanotubes woven into yarn for commercial applications. [Seems plausible—but the applications are fairly specialized.]
▪ Ultracapacitors. Possible alternatives to batteries for electric cars. One company claims they’ll have an ultracapacitor-powered car in 2010…but that company’s stopping production. [Ideally, yes; realistically—well, we’ll see.]
This is an interesting list of future technologies—but for the average citizen, even a well-informed one, there are at most one or two that we “need to know” about in 2010, and that may be a high estimate.
It may be interesting to look back at the list of concepts we needed to know in 2009: T-rays (terahertz radiation, which is why airport security works perfectly now), hydrogel tissue engineering, picotechnology (like nanotechnology, but smaller), high-altitude long-endurance UAVs (unmanned planes), “secure super grids” (superconductor power transmission grids), autostereoscopy (“3D without the glasses”), collaborative search (surely you use Microsoft’s SearchTogether for all your searching?), low rolling resistance tires, energy scavenging (reclaiming some heat as electricity) and compressed-air energy storage. How many of those rocked your world in 2009?
You can keep going back. Here’s the 2008 list—things you needed to know about in 2008: EEG game controllers, self-healing materials (for car paint and fuselages, for example—oh, and bridges!), high-k transistors (hafnium-based chips with lower leakage), the real-world web (specifically, the triumph of Android in 2008), clear-pixel cameras (more sensitive in lower light), pay-per-glance ads (“billboards that watch you watch them”), flexible displays (wasn’t it great that we all got flexible displays in 2008?), embedded voice recognition, self-defending bots (the bad kind of bots, zombie networks) and nano cancer therapy. Some of those actually did matter—in 2009, not 2008—and some are still ahead of real-world implications.
Given all that, it may make sense to include Popular Mechanics’ far more realistic list of seven “top technology trends that ruled 2009” (emphasis added): Netbooks, phones that navigate, 3D cinema, inductive power, slimmed-down operating systems, app stores and “Android in everything.” “Ruled” is an exaggeration, but at least these are all real-world trends. (I know, I know: This belongs in “Trends past,” but I’m not sure it deserves a full writeup there.)
This set of predictions—these are forecasts, not trends—comes from paidContent (paidcontent.org) on December 1, 2009, courtesy of Sarah Rotman Epps and James McQuivey, both of Forrester Research. Here’s the list, with their boldface forecasts and my commentary.
▪ E Ink will lose its claim to near-100% market share for e-reader displays. They expect to see cheaper electrophoretic displays but also dual-screen devices (e.g., the Nook) and OLED or transflective LCD. This seems like a slam-dunk projection: Almost certainly true.
▪ Dual-screen mobile phones and netbooks will eat into e-reader demand. “Most consumers don’t read enough to justify buying a single-function reading device, and according to Forrester’s data, more consumers already read e-books on mobile phones and PCs than on e-readers.” Also seems likely, although it’s possible that such devices will expand the market rather than “eating into” demand.
▪ Apps will make non-reading devices more e-book friendly. Another slam-dunk. Did I mention that Forrester tends to be conservative and realistic within the realm of forecasting agencies?
▪ eReaders will get apps, too. Maybe—which will continue to raise issues as to just what an ebook reader really is.
▪ Amazon will launch a suite of new touchscreen e-readers. The writers expect to see touchscreens, color (with great battery life? really?) and flexible displays. I don’t know enough to comment.
▪ B&N will steal market share from Amazon and Sony. “Steal” is the wrong word here, but wouldn’t it be nice to have serious competition in this marketplace?
▪ E-book content sales will top $500 million in the U.S. Now, don’t anybody get all excited here, but this strikes me as an entirely plausible forecast. Not certain, but plausible.
▪ E-textbooks will become more accessible, but sales will be modest. And, unfortunately, the analysts say why there won’t be great sales. Since I’ve long touted e-textbooks as a big market for the right ereaders, this is sad but probably true.
▪ Magazine and newspaper publishers will launch their own apps and devices. That one is 100% certain, I would say.
▪ China, India, Brazil, and the EU will propel global growth, but the U.S. will still be the biggest market. Outside my expertise, but sounds likely.
Notice all the “ain’t gonna happen!” snark here? Missed it? Go back and read again… That’s right: I believe this one’s mostly likely to be right.
In this case, I’m mostly going to point you to the post itself, way back on August 3, 2009, by Steven Bell on ACRLog. It’s not terribly long and, if you understand what he’s doing, it’s amusing. He’s riffing off “25 predictions for the university of the future” on—well, it’s on one of those online-degree sites, and I’m not going to give it any more publicity than that.
Bell’s assuming that “predictions for the university of the future” involves the future—let’s say at least five or ten years out. Given that, consider some of the wild-eyed predictions: “There will be more of an emphasis on distance learning,” “Technology innovation will be a priority,” “Libraries will continue to become more tech-focused,” “Universities will have a more global perspective,” “Academic librarians will communicate with their users via mobile devices,” “Academic libraries will become social centers on campus,” “Academic librarians will be more involved in teaching,” and “Students will increasingly start their research using Google and Wikipedia.”
I double-checked. That foresighted look into the university of the distant future appeared on July 29, 2009. I mean, this is hot stuff! Just think—in another 10-20 years, some of those crazy ideas could come true. (Need I mention that some comments on Bell’s post seem to take him seriously?) Here’s the final paragraph:
I hope my daring predictions left you stunned and amazed. It sure was a challenge to step out on a limb and do some truly visionary thinking about the future of academic librarianship. For those of you who will soon be planning your spring 2010 programs, I’m available for presentations about the future of academic librarianship. You never know what I’ll be predicting next.
Heck, Steven, I can guess: In the future, some advanced libraries might buy access to journals, in electronic form, in bulk! Nah…never happen.
I wouldn’t include this—another of Wired’s love songs to digital technology—except for the followup article. The piece appeared August 3, 2009; it’s by Brian X. Chen. Oddly, the story’s nowhere near as definite as the headline, as “will” becomes “may” in the first paragraph. That is, “2010 may finally be the year that the tablet PC evolves from being a niche device to becoming a mainstream portable computer.” Why? Not, oddly enough, because of Apple—but because, according to Wired’s insider sources, “mainstream heavyweights Dell and Intel are collaborating on a touchscreen tablet due for release next year.” It’s apparent that it will serve as “a subscription-based e-reader for displaying newspapers, magazines and other media.” Which wouldn’t make it a mainstream computer at all, but never mind.
Chen claims the device itself will be free (with a suitable contract), and the source says the companies were aiming for six months (putting it at February 2010). Naturally, there’s a market “research” report claiming that the touchscreen market will triple in “the next few years” from $3.6 billion to $9 billion. (If you look at the actual forecast, that’s nearly triple and it’s in seven years—that is, 2015.) So what will this free device be, other than a Kindle-killer? Supposedly a 5” screen (that should be great for magazines and especially newspapers!), running Android or a mobile version of Windows 7.
Ah, but that was the post. On its own, it’s just another case of Wired swooning over something they think might emerge, postulating all sorts of glorious futures, and generally being, well, Wired. Some bloggers pointed out some reasons 2010 might not be “the year of the tablet” and why the tablet, as a form factor, is unlikely to become ubiquitous (too big for a pocket, too small for full-size computing…)
Brian X. Chen was having none of that. One day later, he wrote what may be the classic Wired post on August 3, 2009: “Dear tablet naysayers: stop looking back when we’re thinking ahead.”
Why, why, why, may I respectfully ask, are you all focusing on the past when we’re discussing the future? Our article rests on the premise that 1.) New technologies are improving touchscreen functionality, as depicted by the iPhone; 2.) New software including touchscreen support (e.g., Windows 7) is in the works, presumably delivering more tablet-friendly user interfaces than in the past; 3.) Several manufacturers, including Dell, Intel, HTC and Nokia are concentrating on efforts to construct new tablets with these new technologies, according to our sources.
The article does very little of that—and none of those premises (which should be plural, but Wired blogs probably don’t have copy-editors) changes most of the objections to tablets. Somehow, the followup story turns into a discussion of the supposed Apple tablet (which gets all of one sentence in the original article, although it’s a sentence that universalizes: “Nearly everyone has now confidently reported that Apple is launching a tablet by early next year”).
The followup post is classic: This Time It’s Different—but with a twist, namely calling out anybody who expresses skepticism. Apparently, it’s inappropriate to approach proposed ideas with anything but naïve enthusiasm. The post ends: “We’re excited to see what happens, aren’t you?” Maybe others are willing to stir in some reality along with their enthusiasm, but that’s not the Wired Way.
I’m not saying tablets won’t be more successful in 2010 (they could hardly be less successful!). I have no idea whether Apple or Dell will produce tablets that are so wondrous that “everybody” (e.g., as many people as buy iPhones—you know, everyone who matters) will convert to them. I am saying that beating up on your critics is unusual and sad behavior for a print publication, even on its blog side.
Last year saw the end of my “disContent” column in EContent Magazine, a column that began in 2001. The column offered a skeptical outsider’s view of some things within the econtent industry. I’m proud of the column.
The title of the final column (which I haven’t seen in print as of this writing) is “Is Dead Isn’t Dead—But Maybe It Should Be.” I take issue with all the “X is dead” or “X is dying” proclamations as lacking nuance and generally being foolish. I’d love to repeat the column here, but can’t do so until April at the earliest. (Three months really isn’t an unreasonable exclusivity clause!)
Meanwhile, deathspotting continues at an unhealthy pace, particularly when coupled with listmaking. (Yes, I did a column on listmaking as well—the only disContent column that’s a set of numbered paragraphs.) Herewith, a few of many sets of things that are dead, are being killed, are or will be obsolete and the like—and a couple of commentaries by people who aren’t wild about all this “death of” stuff. I do believe there’s a distinction between lists that dance on the graves of undead media and technologies—and lists, such as one I almost included but finally left out, that seem to be more nostalgia than anything else, even if they tend to go too far in writing off older technologies.
I’m starting with Elaine Nelson’s December 29, 2009 post at emergency weblog (www.elainenelson. org)—the most recent of these items—because I’m taken with what she says at the end of the post. She points to Mike Elgan’s set of “10 obsolete technologies to kill in 2010,” which I discuss later in this section, and argues with several of them. It’s a good post in its own right, and not that long, so I’ll just quote the last three paragraphs:
In general, his list of “obsolete” basically means, “can be replaced with the newest high-end stuff.” It doesn’t much take into account families, people with tight budgets, people outside of major metropolitan areas or people who don’t like cell phones. And it puts a surprising amount of trust in the “cloud” one way or another, which doesn’t seem entirely warranted.
So: obsolete? Not so much, at least not in the world I’m living in.
I probably didn’t need to respond to such a thin troll of an article, but it was getting on my nerves. There, now I can let it go
How many gurus and tech writers consider anything that “can be replaced with the newest high-end stuff,” with budget not an issue, as being obsolete? More than a few, I think—and that observation may be useful as you consider some of the items that follow.
Maybe it’s unfair to poke at the English-language posts of a Danish guru like Thomas Baekdal, but when you get something like this April 27, 2009 piece from baekdel.com it’s hard not to. Baekdal says “we are currently in the middle of the most drastic change since the invention of the newspaper”:
We are seeing an entirely new way for people to interact. One that makes all traditional ways seem silly. It is a fundamental shift, and it will completely change the world as we know it. And the best thing about it is that you get to help make it happen.
There’s a dramatic timeline on “influence over time”—one that seems to show that local marketplaces ceased to matter around 1998 and that “newspapers/magazines” (apparently there’s no distinction) will entirely cease to matter around 2020 and TV not much later; basically, after that, it’s all “social” all the time.
There’s a lot of detail here, and it might be more interesting if Baekdal wasn’t so intent on killing things off. (There’s also some loopy history here, but never mind.) Baekdal has TV basically killing off radio and making newspapers irrelevant by 1998. Come 2007, there’s no doubt. He says, in so many words, “Just as TV had eliminated radio (because it was better and richer way to give people LIVE information) so are social networks eliminating blogs.” (Emphasis added.) So radio’s been eliminated—who knew? And blogs are on the way out—because they can’t “keep up” with social networks.
We get the subhead for 2009, one admitting no doubt at all: “2009—Everything is Social.” Newspapers are “dead in the water.” “People are watching less TV than ever” (absolutely not true based on all media studies, but never let the facts get in the way of history!) Instead, “everyone” is using social networking tools to connect. Ah, but here’s The Future: “social news”—direct from the source, without synthesis, analysis or coherence. Here’s the key deathwatch summary:
In the next 5-10 years, the world of information will change quite a bit. All the traditional forms of information are essentially dead. The traditional printed newspapers no longer exists, television in the form of preset channels is replaced by single shows that you can watch whenever you like. Radio shows is replaced podcasts and vodcasts.
Emphasis added. (Syntax not corrected.) Books seem to be too obsolete to even be worth mentioning. “The information stream will be a natural part of every second of your life.” Apparently totally customized, so you never need to hear anything that doesn’t please you. “Instead of reading 5 different articles on the same topic, you will be presented with one, highlighting the vital point of interest”—but since there are no journalists (he sees editors despite his “direct from the source” claim, but with no signs of who would pay for editing), who would establish a vital point of interest?
The first comment offers a thoughtful real-world alternative, but Baekdal’s having none of it: “There will always be laggards who refuse to change, and cling on to the old ways. But, as a strategy, those are not the people or the markets you should focus on.” It’s all about marketing, after all. He touts another article on “why the traditional media will all be replaced.” It’s also clear that “information” is the only thing that matters to Baekdal. (He starts out from an odd position—he reads the bell-shaped curve of adoption to say that, once the late majority and laggards start signing on, it’s all over—once laggards do something, everyone who matters has already stopped.)
There are a lot of comments, including cheers and insightful ripostes, such as one noting “You assume that everyone is just like you.” But isn’t that true of almost every hotshot futurist guru? (In one of his many comment replies, he explains that he left books out entirely because “they are not ways to communication, but rather ways to inform,” and it’s only communication that matters, despite his apparent focus on information.) Oh, and when someone asks how you’d verify that the “news” you get directly from the source—the only way we’ll get information in this future—is true, Baekdal basically says “well, you ask them.” It becomes clear that, while Baekdal claims this is all based on loads of interviews and other background, it’s just his notions—he won’t name sources or verifiable facts. Since he has TV as starting in 1900 and already significant in 1920 (amazing, given that the first broadcast electronic TV in the U.S. was in 1936, and the first licensed commercial TV stations emerged at the end of World War II), one can only wonder.
That’s the title for a Nathan Barry piece at Wired’s “GeekDad” on July 22, 2009. It’s a long list, but it refers to “your kids”—not “some future generation not born yet”—so it’s reasonable to assume these are things nobody would encounter after, say, 2005.
Barry had me at #1: “Inserting a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie or to record something.” Really? that’s gone already? But we did it last Wednesday. There are better ones:
9. Vinyl records. Even today’s DJs are going laptop or CD.
13. Scanning the radio dial and hearing static between stations.
14. Shortwave radio.
16. Watching TV when the networks say you should.
18. Wires. “OK, so they’re not gone yet, but it won’t be long.”
35. Recording a song in a studio.
37. Finding out information from an encyclopedia.
39. Doing bank business only when the bank is open.
41. Phone books and Yellow Pages.
42. Newspapers and magazines made from dead trees.
45. Not knowing exactly what all of your friends are doing and thinking at every moment.
58. Putting film in your camera.
71. Remembering someone’s phone number.
93. Looking out the window during a long drive.
96. Libraries as a place to get books rather than a place to use the internet.
There are more—but the concept that all of these are so dead that “your kids”—ones alive today—“may never know about them” is, well, it’s Wired. 18, 42 and 96 are particularly silly, I think, but so are many of the others—except, of course, for writers who assume that everybody else is exactly like them.
Incidentally, sales of vinyl LPs—while still less than 1% of all recorded music sales—more than doubled between 2007 and 2009, and are now in the multiple millions of albums each year. I’m not a vinyl lover (no turntable), but facts are facts.
I like Eric Schnell and most of what he writes, but I’ll grouse a bit at his short deathlist in this July 22, 2009 post (apparently July 22 was a great day for pontificating about obsolete technologies!). The introduction uses a different form: “technologies that are fading, some fast.” If “fading” means “being used less” and is roughly equivalent to obsolescent, then I’d be more inclined to agree in most cases—but there’s a huge gap between obsolescent and obsolete, sometimes decades. Anyway, here are the six:
▪ Photographic film: Absolutely obsolescent—but every grocery store and drugstore still has loads of film-based single-use cameras and 35mm film, so it’s some years from being obsolete. (As an artistic medium, I’d guess film might stick around for a long time. As an everyday tool, not so much.)
▪ Stamp vending machines: If the USPS is removing them, then they’re going away. Agreed—although it’s a stretch to call these a technology. (And “having to go” to a grocery store or drugstore doesn’t seem so painful when the PO is closed, since there must be 10-20 times as many such outlets as there are post offices.)
▪ The Music CD: “The current CD format will go away fairly soon as the shift from physical media to downloadable content continues.” (Emphasis added, since it’s the “go away” entirely that I think unlikely for quite a few years more.)
▪ LCD displays: (Because OLED is more efficient.) Eventually, yes, and probably unmourned—but it’s taking a while for OLED to emerge.
▪ Wrist watches: Here’s another “everyone else is like me,” with all those other electronic devices with clocks. “Watches are more about fashion and less about function these days.”
▪ Antivirus software: Schnell seems to believe we will and can rely on “cloud computer” approaches to cope with malware.
After I objected to the antivirus point in a comment, Schnell admitted to “thinking provincially” for institutions like OSU. Indeed, if the only way your computer can get to the internet is through a tightly-controlled institutional network, controlling malware at the network level makes sense. Until the first time you take a netbook to the local coffee shop, then attach it to your work computer…
This one’s also from What’s next: Top trends (discussed earlier), posted November 27, 2009—and it’s just two unannotated lists. The first one is 21 things that are being killed off, and it’s full of nonsense. Which, unfortunately, means I also have to be a little doubtful about the second list, seven things that are not being killed off, and that’s a shame.
Some sillier items among the first 21—noting that these aren’t “things that may matter less” but “things that are being killed off”:
Memory; Privacy; Experts; Concentration; Punctuality; Cheap watches; Spelling; Copyright; Reflection; Paper money; Landline telephones; Intimacy.
That’s 12 out of 21 where I’d argue “killed off” is a grotesque overstatement, and I think you could make a good case against the demise of printing photographs (really? you never print digital photos?), plagiarism, telephone directories (as long as yellow pages are profitable) and even “listening to a whole album.”
The seven things that this writer says are not being killed off by digitalization:
Public libraries; Vinyl record shops; Newspapers (look at the data globally); Physical banks; Meetings; Paper; Church.
I’d certainly like to believe he’s right on all of those (although, you know, if people are buying LPs at vinyl shops, chances are they’re still listening to whole albums)—but it’s hard to wholeheartedly endorse one list when you’ve trashed two-thirds of another list.
Mike Elgan of Computerworld isn’t satisfied with deathwatches—he’s out to kill these technologies. Why? Because they’re “dumb” and because “better alternatives abound that are easier, cheaper, higher quality and much more efficient.” Particularly, y’know, if you’re just like Mike Elgan, have unlimited resources and feel that adding to landfills with slightly obsolescent products is a great thing.
I won’t argue about fax machines, “lighter” outlets in cars (Honda doesn’t call them that anyway) or redundant registration on websites. Yes, “www.” at the start of a URL is mostly silly, but it’s not a technology. Then we get to #4: “Business cards.” Elgan’s explanation is remarkable—particularly the third paragraph, which seems to assume you always know in advance that you’re going to meet someone you might want to talk to later. So much for conferences and exhibits!
#5: Movie rental stores: This might be OK were it not for the explanation—namely, since movies are just digital files, you should be downloading them. Since, of course, everybody has broadband with unlimited usage. Right, Mike?
#6: Home entertainment remotes—because you should be using your smart phone as a remote. Which, of course, we all have.
#7: Landline phones. Elgan basically yells at the 75% of Americans who still have landlines, calling landline phones “redundant” (we all have cellphones), “annoying and waste time” and “have no way to take messages, or they have some obsolete answering machines.” What can you say? (What’s that? I can’t understand what you’re saying. You’re probably using a cell phone…) Those obsolete answering machines have mostly been chips within landline cordless phones for years now, but never mind.
#8: Music CDs—because, you know, “we should (all) move to an all-digital, file-based library.” Oh, and CDs have no significant advantages over downloadable media “such as MP3 files.”
#9: Satellite radio—because, cue it up, you should get it over the internet and via your smartphone.
I think Elaine Nelson’s commentary earlier sums it up pretty well. I’ll give Elgan this: Instead of assuming everybody else is just like he is, he tells us that we should all have the same preferences. Arrogant and annoying, but at least different.
The title’s from Stephen Abram’s December 14, 2009 post at Stephen’s Lighthouse, which begins with a section of Asi Sharabi’s December 8, 2009 post at No Man’s Blog (no-mans-blog.com/). (Note: Abram gives the name of the blog as “No Man’s Land”—and neither of the links in the post works, both leading to 404 SirsiDynix page. Could this be related to Abram’s move from SirsiDynix to Ebsco?).
Here’s part of the original post, omitting a few of the killing fields:
Please can we stop killing things?
Over the last few years we’ve been all guilty of new-technologies sensationalism. Our response to the overwhelming pace of change made us believe that emerging platforms and technologies will categorically and dramatically kill everything that was before them. Search for “TV is Dead” on google and you’ll get over 2million(!) results. But is it? really?...
What else have we had?
Twitter is killing blogging!...
Second Life is killing Real Life!
Yahoo pipes will kill the browser!
Google is killing Microsoft!
iGoogle is killing Newspapers!...
Books are a thing of the past!
Google Wave will kill Facebook!
Facebook is killing email!
Twitter is killing Facebook!
And now, the most recent hyperbole, straight from Twitter’s (AKA The Pulse) oven, I give you….
Streams are killing the web page.
Guess what. it turns out that when human evolve and construct culture(s) they have some time-attention-alchemist-like qualities whereby old things are not being replaced with new stuff, they add to them. Sometimes they compete and sometime co-habit and complementary and together they evolve and we evolve….
True, there are some casualties (DVD did kill the VHS) and natural selection (e.g. closure of few magazines and channels), some people make less money, some people make loads new money. Things do expand and contract, evolve and change but reality is more complex and is no where near the new-technologies massacres we read about every day.
So for 2010, let’s try to avoid the trend of killing old things in favour of new things and live happily ever after…
“Closures of [a] few magazines” is an interesting one—because, in practice, scores of magazines die every year (that’s been true for decades). And scores of new ones are born. Sometimes the new outnumber the failing; sometimes not.
Abram admits to having “participated in my share of dead technology panels but I guess I’m sick of it now.” More of his added notes:
Let's all try to reach the stage of sophistication that we should be at. Dead or thriving polarizations are just too simplistic—just too black and white….
Today I listened to my radio and some CDs and watched broadcast TV. I shopped in a brick and mortar bookstore. I didn't have to visit a graveyard to do so. OMG, today, I even read a print newspaper—two of 'em—and two yesterday too! And I really don't think I am a dino.
So I agree with the plea. Let's manage these technological evolutions like the professionals we are and not be so shallow. Let's be more Darwinian.
I don’t think I need to add much in the way of comment.
Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 10, Number 2, Whole Issue 125, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, Editorial Director of the Library Leadership Network.
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