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The Pace of Change

By 13 May ’12Thinks

By Kevin Sprague – I’ve been having a conversation with a number of clients in recent months about the internet and the pace of change. It goes something like this:

Client – “Should we be focusing on facebook or twitter or our SEO? It’s all moving so fast – it’s hard to keep up. What’s Instagram? Do I need to know about it?”
Me – “Yes”

That’s a glib answer to a complex question – the heart of the question is the anxiety that we all feel about the speed of change that technology has created. This is nothing new – you can go back to read about this same anxiety during the Victorian era when trains hit the scene like the bubble of the millenium. Change is hard, change is good. We want all the great new connections and possibilities but we’re challenged by the choices and the learning curve.

So…. here’s the problem. It’s getting worse. Or Better – depending on your perspective. The Internet is subject in many ways to Moore’s Law
– the observation that processing power on modern semiconductors doubles every two years – which results in a logarithmic, accelerating curve into the stratosphere. This law is what is behind the amazing computing power in your iphone – more computing power in your pocket than the entire world enjoyed a few decades ago. Guess what – that curve continues to accelerate and with it comes an explosion of possibility. Wearable computers, contact lenses that will overlay an augemented reality pulled from the internet onto your world, ubiquitous smart devices thinking ahead for you. A GPS with artificial intelligence and likely some fresh attitude.

If you are a business you don’t really get to ignore this accelerating pace of change. But you can manage it by focusing more effort on what you can do NOW as opposed to what you think you should do to be ready for the future. What do I mean by this? Simply put – make the best use of the most solid, popular and functional tools that are in the present and stop worrying about the cutting edge.

My mantra of late on web development is this – build the site today that you can launch tomorrow – not the site that takes 12 months of planning, design, coding and creation that will launch next year. That cycle is too long for most organizations and implies that the world you are building for will wait around for you. It won’t. A couple of years ago we weren’t talking about delivery to mobile devices or what would happen to your site when someone turned it sideways on their ipad. It’s only been a year or two that those issues have become standard design constraints. Facebook is the new blog – and blogs are dead (long live the blog!). Photo sharing has evolved from smugmug to flickr to pinterest to instagram to ??? – you get the idea. Use the tools in front of you today to the best of their ability. Stay nimble and flexible that the tool you love today might get changed, replaced or augmented in the next few months. Experiment with these new platforms, ideas and channels – there is little harm in doing so.

I’ve often written about the concept of internet fluency – that the internet is no longer a technology but a language and that fluency is a core competency of the 21st century. Fluency is easily obtained through experimentation and play, as well as a healthy does of curiosity and google searches. Don’t be afraid. Dive in. You haven’t missed the train – it’s just changing before your eyes.