I wrote a post three years ago where I said that the world is changing in front of our eyes. In that post I talked about how Twitter was used during the Iran elections, how the traditional news media (especially in the US) took so long to start reporting on the situation.
Recently I’ve been thinking about that post a lot. The world has changed because of the advances in technology. Hardware and software used for content creation and communications that were once extremely complicated and expensive are now available to the masses. I don’t worry any more about other people not seeing that the world is changing. Now I worry about the people who don’t want the change to happen.
The big thing on my mind the last few days has been the trending Twitter topic #NBCFail. This hashtag was created because NBC has decided not to broadcast many parts of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games live. They didn’t post the opening ceremonies, a time when the entire world can watch something as one group, because they felt the American audiences needed the content to be explained to them. They also needed high ratings to satisfy the sponsors who paid top dollar to run ads during prime time tv-watching hours. It seems their strategy was successful, they got huge ratings (more on this later). NBC cut out a tribute to the folks who were killed during the London terrorist bombings from the US replay of the Opening Ceremonies. Once the games started, they didn’t show the much anticipated first medal attempt for Michael Phelps live, but reported the results on their nightly news broadcast before they played the tape version during prime time.
Frustrating, especially when the rest of the world is watching live, and interacting with each other during the live event. Americans have to wait. For prime time. To have it explained to us by people who don’t know who Tim Berners-Lee is, or that its just wrong to mention Borat every time athletes from Kazakhstan compete.
But NBC feels that they have found a winning formula. The ratings they got for the Opening Ceremonies were someplace between a BCS bowl game and the Super Bowl. Because the numbers were good, they think they did the right thing by not allowing Americans to participate in a global event. And I do mean participate, we don’t just watch TV anymore. But did NBC measure the right thing? Do they really think most Americans even realized that the event wasn’t live?
These people don’t want the change to happen.
It’s not just NBC. Comedian Patton Oswald took the entertainment industry to task in his keynote at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival, he told them they needed “to stop thinking like gatekeepers. You need to do it for the sake of your own survival.”
Heck I still come up against it at work sometimes, I have to remind people if we use social channels it’s not for positioning, we do it to engage. You can’t put out spin when you engage, and want people to interact and question and help you make a better product.
The world around us has changed.
We don’t have to watch things in prime time to get the news, or stay current on events. We don’t have to buy CDs to listen to music. We don’t have to have cable to watch TV. We can talk to people all over the world, trade ideas and cultures and memes with them. We don’t need you to explain it to us.
It goes even further. Things are moving ahead. If you know me, you know that I believe strongly in growing our industry from our past, and not reinventing the wheel each time a new technology emerges. But that’s not what’s happening now, people are using open source to get around the entrenched industry giants. It happened with operating systems, and now is moving down the stack to networking and storage. How will those industries deal with the new ways of doing things?
One way to accelerate this process is to teach the folks who don’t know how to see more online than what the powers-that-be want them to see. Teach people how to truly interact, teach them how to demand more. Teach them how to go around the barriers of money and power with open source and the open internet.
Maybe one of our responsibilities as early adopters is to give people the tools to help them bridge the digital divide. How do we do that? How do we make sure that the change we’ve seen continues to happen, and that everyone benefits from it?