Media Perspective: It's never too late for new-media virgins to join the digerati

There used to be a thing called Usenet. Actually, there still is.

It was a pre-web way of organising and hosting discussions on the internet, a bit like a bulletin board system or a forum. And, every September, Usenet users groaned as, all over the Northern Hemisphere, a new intake of students would arrive, get given internet access by their university and start blundering around on Usenet.

Over the subsequent months, the newbies would learn the rules or lose interest and the net would settle down again. Then, in 1993, AOL gave all its users Usenet access and ushered in what some described as an Eternal September, an unending flood of noobs ignoring the FAQs and omitting to RTFM.

Which is a bit like what happens every time agency management teams attend an internet training session. It happened just the other week - a big ad agency spent the weekend learning all about digital gubbins, and trying it out, and you could feel the rolling of eyes from around the internet as they careened around Twitter, @ing all and sundry and pronouncing excitedly about how world-changing all these digital tools are going to be. My son was the same when he discovered knock-knock jokes, telling them to everyone he met, like no-one had ever heard the Dr Who one before.

It is easy to be grumpy about this sudden enthusiasm, especially if you've been labouring down the HTML mines for the past 15 years, but such sulkiness is misguided. Some of those students who stumbled into Usenet in the 80s went on to build the best bits of the web and, even if it takes an expensive training session to get someone on Twitter (which my mum worked out on her own), the sooner people figure it out, the sooner we can get on with doing something good with it.

Those of us who stumbled on to these tools a little earlier shouldn't try to keep them to ourselves, however strong the temptation. But there is a lesson to learn here. The fifth, final and vaguest of my Things You Need To Think About suggestions is perhaps more of an attitude than "a thing".

It's about learning how to learn: a willingness to try things just to see what they're like, before the ROI becomes obvious. You understand new media tools by using them, not by looking at them, and there's no reason to believe that the tools of the next 15 years will be any different.

Ultimately, I'm probably just wasting your time with all these predictions; no-one knows whether biotech or 3D printing will really matter in a couple of years. But I can assure you of one thing: the sooner you try them out, the better.

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