Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the Unknown

For about a month earlier this year I had an Internet Use Survey running on Survey Monkey.

I made some phone calls to strangers to, to ask them if I could help in some way, and to suggest taking the survey. I got a shocked reaction when I suggested to the second lady I spoke to that I'd like to watch her using the internet. "There's no way I'd let anyone see me do that." was the response. I recognized the reaction immediately. That was exactly how the participants in an earlier door to door survey responded, late last year. All of them had this "no way" reaction at first. Most but not all by any means were happy to be subjects for the survey with a little persuasion. After 10 minutes together the fear of the unknown evaporated, the idea that this was some sort of examination disappeared.

During the first week of the Internet Use Survey I asked three groups with a high proportion of experts in them to do the Internet Use Survey. The Coaches Network at Ryze, the Christchurch Linux Users Group and the New Zealand WSIS Group. The results were interesting. Some people who considered themselves (self ranking) to be expert users, have characteristic use patterns that I believe belong to newbies. Some people who are relatively new, have use patterns that show good connections and a wide variety of activities that I'd equate with experienced users.

I didn't talk to any of these people. I may be judging unfairly. For instance I know well how enormously valuable a tool like Yahoo Instant Messenger can be. I have used it extensively, several hundred hours. But my current use is tiny. It's a wonderful tool, but it eats up the hours, and I simply don't have the time. I'd equate using Yahoo Instant Messenger with an experienced user, but I'm an experienced user who avoids using it.

Even among the expert users there were very few people on the social networks like Ryze. And NONE of the 39 people who responded were keeping a blog. Both those numbers are interesting, because I think in the next year we'll see more experienced users doing both those things.

The internet is a TWO WAY communication process. Every experienced user becomes a publisher of opinions. Newbies shudder at the thought. Fear of the internet is I think a worse fear than the fear of public speaking. But it is an un-necessary fear, when the time comes each of us has a need to speak out. When you do that easily and well, you'll know that you are a peer on the internet, a cybercitizen if you like.

The Internet Use Survey confirmed for me that very few people are competent internet users. People tend to do a small number of things they feel comfortable with. The best way to learn about lots of different tools and techniques is to join groups of other internet users. Sadly most newbies are unwilling to do that. Hence they remain newbies for months and months because the key process that would allow them to learn new things was never engaged.

If you have not yet done so, join the Ryze Business Network. It's free, and it's not too hard for even newbies to understand how to use the network. If you go to Yahoo Groups, search in areas of your personal interest. Find some groups to join. (Most groups have very low memberships and low mail rates. But a few groups generate lots of letters.) Try them and see. (As a new user you will need to register first.) It's probably too soon to start your own blog. If that interests you, there is an excellent network on Ryze that will help you. Of course you are now on Blogger. You could start here.

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