The Idea Dude


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Out of sight, out of mind

Heard on the radio this week, that a survey taken revealed that 61% of people who telecommute regularly are negatively impacted when considered for promotions. It's a chilling fact for software developers, many (if not the majority) tend to be cut from the reclusive cloth i.e. they enjoy their own company and are quite happy to potter around the computer without any apparent need for physical human interaction. My observation happened to coincide with a conversation with an day trader who spent 8 hours a day looking at stock markets. He mentioned he missed the social aspect of working with people or on a team even though he did speak to other people during the day. I remember a while back someone undertook the experiment of staying at home and out of touch with the world for a whole month. Beyond greeting the grocery deliveryman at the door and the pizza guy, he was removed from all human contact. The result... it is absolutely possible to exist in isolation, it was also very evident that at the end of the experiment, he craved one thing more than anything else, social interaction.

I wondered if this was the fundamental driver behind Web 2.0 and the emergence of social networks as a natural reaction to a clinical internet highway. Email and IM while important, did not satisfy our need to connect at different levels, especially on an informal basis. The attraction of a cluttered MySpace homepage made it all the more human and in fact there is an opinion circulated that your blog and website should not look too clean and professional because it is perceived as uninviting and impersonal.

It also made me think whether people actually looked for facts when in fact what they desired was opinion. For example, when shopping for car, you could get all the details from the manufacturer but more often than not what you wanted was the opinion of current or past owners and the problems they experienced. And should the opinion come from a seemingly trusted or well-followed blog, all the better, it absolves us from having to take what may be risky decision. The adage, "no-one was fired for buying IBM" is perhaps indicative of a common human trait of being risk averse and should something go wrong, we can always point to someone else and say, "he made me do it."


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