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Do age and social networking really matter?? October 15, 2008

Posted by dreanotes in Work-Related.
Tags: , , ,

So, there were some interesting tweets in the Twitter-verse yesterday and I think it started with Alan Lepofsky (yes, of the one-time Lotus fame) talking about some “Gen Y” people who had come to his booth today and spent a great deal of time talking about how they wanted to change the world, and that their needs for tools were different than anyone else’s.

And Alan’s initial tweet was

…Just listened to 20 min of 4 20somethings talk about their needs, which were identical to the needs of everyone around me.

And, of course, there were other tweets in response, some from fellow IBMers like Luis Suarez.  And Luis’ comments are valid and certainly pointed out that not everyone has the time to search for information nor does everyone live with these kinds of tools.


But, it got me thinking.  In many presentations, I have seen people tie this whole social networking thing to the Millenials – and we even have slides in many of the Lotus Connections presentations that show age gaps and how different ages learn differently, or react differently to the sharing and collection of knowledge.

As a side note….I can’t tell you how many times I have had customers come up to me after a presentation like that and say they took offense to that particular slide – the one about how different ages learn/connect, etc.  They say, it’s not true, and is a generality we shouldn’t be preaching.  And, I, for one, have taken that slide OUT of ANY pitch I give on Connections or social software.  I think it’s a bit demeaning.

But Anyway…back to my point…

Was it really the age gap that brought about these tools?  Was it really the “needs” of the millenials that were SO different from the needs of everyone else that brought this whole revolution?  Are millenials really the only ones who were crying out, demanding these tools?  Or are we just grasping at straws here?  Why do we feel the need to constantly hold onto that age gap thing?  I’m really having a hard time with this.

Sure, we had a TON of intellectual capital sitting in people’s heads – but I would argue that many non-Millenials were thirsty for the tools to share this information too.  I think the need was out there, no matter WHAT age you were or where you were in your career.  I use the Internet.  I “play” online.  I collaborate in new and inventive ways.  And I’m NOT a millenial.  And, I know many, many just like me – and they aren’t millenials either.

Maybe it’s that the millenials are pushing harder or refusing to use other tools more – maybe we should have stood up long ago and pushed for these tools ourselves – maybe we were just too complacent with things like team rooms and discussion databases and forums and such.  (which have been around the whole time I’ve been out of college)

I don’t know.  But I know one thing…I for one, am going to try to stop pushing the age issue so hard.  I think we ALL need these tools.  We ALL should be using them – because true collaboration is NOT new.  The ability to share information is NOT new and this is NOT just a millenial concept.

It just has a better wardrobe. (ok..and maybe a face-lift or two)

Or am I just age sensitive today???  ;-)



1. Alan Lepofsky - October 16, 2008

I hope I’m still part of the Lotus-fold!

Anyway, what I find interesting (as I reflect on being old) is that none of this is new. My original IBM managers in 1994 had no idea how to deal with us kids who wanted to use Lotus Notes on OS/2 instead of Prof on AS/400s. We wore jeans to work, not blue suits! We wanted to get together and brainstorm on ideas, not be locked away in our cubicles.

Facebook, Twitter, etc… hmmm I recall BBS, forums, Compuserver, newsgroups, listserves, nettell, irc

What Gen Y has is a more established, better looking, faster, more accessible web.

2. Don Melton - October 16, 2008

I’ve been speaking to some local (Toronto) mainframe-focused usergroups recently and have noticed that there is a reluctance to use the “new” tools. I’m pretty sure it’s not an age thing,

I think it’s more of a familiarity issue. The “millenials” have grown up with the tools that I (and a few others) lusted after in our workplaces. I can remember a time when a terminal on every desk was *not* the norm — the only ubiquitous connectivity was the telephone.

Somwhow we need to get everyone using the new collaboration tools … I’m thinking that it may take a mentoring/evangalist approach if we don;t want to wait for a generation to filter through the worplace,

3. Luis Benitez - October 16, 2008

Great post Andrea. I, like you, don’t think that the age gap was the tipping point for this. Like you said, there was a clear need for better collaboration and IC sharing tools. While I’m border line millenial/gen x, my biggest pain was “how do I share information”. Within IBM we have 100’s if not 1000’s of databases. That always brought the question:
* Where should I post my collateral?
* Where are people searching for collateral?
* Do I even have access to post into a certain DB ?
* Do I have to post the same thing into multiple DB’s so that the chances somebody finds it are higher ?
* Why does each DB have a different categorization/hierarchy?
* Where in the hierarchy should I put it?
* Time: DeveloperWorks takes about 3-4 months.. by the time I get something out, it’ll be stale.. And forget about a RedBook… 🙂
* and so on and so on…

After a while, you can see how quickly this becomes a turn off and even a barrier for information sharing!!!! Now, with Dogear, it doesn’t matter where you put your intellectual capital: your blog, your FTP server, your GSA server, in the Media Library, in Cattail, in a Domino DB, etc… as long as you Dogear it, **YOU** can find it later and so will others!! With a blog you can talk **about** the IC that you just created.. why did you created? what did you learn about it ? what are the next steps.. ? and, again, link to wherever you posted the content.

To me, it seems like, finally, the barriers for information sharing have been torn down! With those barriers out of the way, when it’s time to collaborate, you can just get down to business without having to go through a learning curve every time you start a new team/project/etc…

I’m sad I missed this conversation today, but I was working on a cool little asset for Lotus Connections.. stay tuned!! And thanks for this wonderful summary!

4. Jen Okimoto - October 16, 2008

Andrea – Like Luis I am on the border….a different border…the boomer/genX one. I have the same reaction when I read what GenY people want…I want much of the same! AND, I’ve been in many conversations about the utility/danger of using the generation chart. I do think it plays well with certain clients, especially clients that are more resistant to change. The GenY argument becomes a call to action in companies that face major demographic shifts, knowledge outflows, and difficulty attracting new talent. The GenY “demands” may in fact reflect the pent up demand/aspirations of a much larger portion of the workforce. Bottomline, GenYers are a good excuse for change.

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