[Published in the OSALL newsletter of December 2009]
An interesting place to be on the calendar : approaching year-end, decade-end ; so much to look forward to, and so much under the belt.
Hard to believe that ten years ago we were in the midst of the hyper-marketing of Y2K warnings, wondering whether our hard-drives/CD-players/breadmakers/pacemakers were going to reformat themselves on the stroke of midnight and we’d awake to morphed mosbolletjies ruling the kitchen. What, you didn’t risk leaving the breadmaker on? Ok. Starting the new century with an awareness of the fallabilities of computer systems was probably not a bad idea ; we’ve certainly seen plenty of malicious software in circulation, been introduced to porn spam bots like it or not, become familiar with the concepts of keylogging/phishing/Trojans and so on. Fortunately all of this has more than been put into perspective by all the positives.
Search/retrieval was huge in 1999/early 2000s as we accustomed ourselves to the sudden vastness of free online information. Identifying reliable sources became more of a challenge, particularly since the mid-2000s as everyone and his auntie was empowered to publish online. Obviously search is still huge and will continue to be so, but there is now a profusion of ways to access online information that were not even a twitter in somebody’s eyeball in 1999.
Without a doubt, social networking will in retrospect be the development of the decade. Apart from having access to hitherto uncaptured information and opinions, potential to communicate is at an all-time peak.
Likely most of us have profiles on Facebook. I’ve found this to be the perfect forum to catch up and keep up with friends as they move around the world. It’s become an additional way to keep in touch with my teenager and our respective walls glisten with comments across the generations. It’s also introduced me to people I physically would not have been able to meet. An interesting relatively recent development within Facebook has been its overtures to the business community which have been reciprocated a hundredfold. The first instance of a business application I came across was Dave Matthew’s band which used its profile to promote tours, sell soundtracks, accept concert bookings as well as communicate with their followers. Now most high-profile companies are to be found on Facebook and many that aren’t are seriously considering being present in this forum.
Mxit is no longer the domain of teenagers. There’s a way to go before we fully utilise the potential of chatrooms within our community but the technology is there.
Although I’ve only been using Twitter for a matter of months, it became an indispensable tool for accessing current information as soon as I was able to fine-tune the profiles that I follow. It will be interesting to see how this service adapts in the next five years.
My other favourite ‘new’ subscription is Delicious, a bookmarking facility of note. It describes itself as “a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet”. I have no doubt there is a lot of functionality which I have yet to discover but so far I’ve used it to record my favourite URLs along with a brief description and tags that I can either choose for myself or select from a list of established headings. This enables me to access them from anywhere at all that I have connectivity and share them online with others if I wish to. There is a section set aside for links to share with PLT students in a few month’ time ; a photographic section for sites that I just love looking at when I need timeout ; each online application I use has a unique heading. Short of ideas? See what others have been bookmarking. If you don’t already use this service, check it out.
Google Wave has yet to prove itself but, strangely, a group of attorneys have so far been the most enthusiastic users I’ve come across.
To infinity and beyond!
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.