Are we listening?

It is Sunday morning, like it will be for nine more Sunday mornings. I am sitting in the ski lodge at Eldora mountain working while my son takes part in a twelve week ski school. For those of you that have experienced Eldora, you know that it is a stretch to call the structure I am in a lodge and worse yet to call the ski area a mountain, but I digress. I should also be truthful and tell you that it is not all work, I do get my runs in, however short they may be.

So why am I blogging about what I am doing on a Sunday morning? Well I have an observation to share with you. First let me paint the picture for you. I am sitting at a fold-away table in the middle of a large building which is effectively located in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. No network, no cell coverage, no TV, nothing but the stray particle passing on its way from space. The room is packed with parents and kids from age 3 to teens. Around me are about 20 other overworked corporate sycophants and/or people who just can't live without their laptops. While their kids ski, the parents work. Right next to me is a man who was just joined by his son, who looks in his teens. I over heard the boy ask one simple question which formed the basis of my observation. "Dad, are you on the net?" That is it. However, the value was in what followed. Of course the father said no, as there is no network connection, but then the kid kind of went off on his father. He said "No network, then what are you doing? You can't read email, instant message, surf the net or find out what your friends are doing"

Now this may not be that interesting of an observation except from the passion and age of the person who pointed out the lack of the obvious. Kids these days (I sound like an old man don't I?) are more aware of the network and its benefits then any other generation in our history. They are the digital natives (unlike myself, a digital immigrant) and don't seem to be able to function without it. Not because they are computer junkies, rather they are part of a community that we current day adults don't seem to understand. Take a look at the likes of, and They all represent significant communities where conversations take place, needs and wants are developed and ideas are shared freely. You don't think so? Well the three I listed support a community greater then 30 million people.

All of this reminded me of an article in the December 12th, 2005 issue of Business Week. The article, "The MySpace Generation" by Jessi Hempel, was basically highlighting the generation of individuals that perform a significant amount of their socialization in the digital world. Let me point out some data included in the article: Share of 24 million American teens (12-17):

  • 87% Use the internet
  • 65% Instant Message (IM)
  • 44% Go online everyday
  • 29% Keep several IM conversations going at once
  • 29% Have more then 50 buddies on their IM list
  • 25% IM with people in the same room
Back to the observation. The fact is that communities matter. Now you can jump to think that this blog is just a propaganda pitch for Sun's cause, but the reality is that communities do matter. Younger generations don't separate technology from their social interactions. In fact, they rely upon technology for their social interactions. Three million people are joining the network every week. The younger generation that are joining the network are using positive emotional words to talk about technology, they view technology as social and blend it seamlessly into their lives. More important they are optimistic about the future and the roll that technology plays in it. Now we old folks can sit back and just think that this is silly and that social interactions should be just that, social. However think about this for a minute. These kids don't have barriers. They interact and socialize with people around the world. They think freely and don't mind sharing. Sharing is the price of admission if you participate in a community.

Now the real question all of us in the technology industry should be asking ourselves is, "are we listening?" Are we paying attention to these communities? Are we listening to the needs and wants being expressed? I can guarantee that if we don't start listening, opportunities will pass by us faster then google became a recognized brand.

I will go on the record for the start of this year to say this is trend #1, Communities Matter. I am undoubtedly not the first person to recognize this, but I hope that you will see that we are the first major computing technology company to leverage and embrace communties.

What does all of this have to do with Services? Simply put we must find ways to serve communities and in turn the communities will serve us. How? Just watch us...


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