Looking at the World Through T3 Colored Glasses

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In 1995 when I was helping to found the AOL Newsroom, I coined a phrase:

Stop looking at the world through T3 colored glasses.

A T3 line was one of the fastest pipes to transmit data at the time, and AOL being AOL, we sat right on top of about 100 of them. You could follow our lines right to the ocean, in fact.

So when we would build massive news modules (Pictures of the Week, for example) they would look truly lovely on our screens, loading in at the speed of light.

Problem was, they only looked lovely for us. For the majority of the world using AOL back then, it didn’t look anywhere near as nice.

Most people were on modems at the time, and on average, were getting about 28.8k throughput. (If they were lucky.) Imagine dialing up today? You’d shoot yourself in the head before your first you-tube video even finished playing.

For the majority of AOL users, here’s what they got when they went to one of our awesome new modules:

Please wait. Downloading Artwork. 1% completed.”

And they’d wait. And wait. And wait.

We weren’t paying attention to the user, because we had such a fast connection. Billy Joe, in his trailer in the south, didn’t. And we got complaints.

Today, it seems that nothing’s changed. A new report from Forrester suggests that nearly 84% of people have no idea what services like Foursquare or Gowalla are.

New tech adoption takes time. Just because we use it every day, doesn’t mean the masses do. And if the masses don’t, how are those sites going to generate revenue and profit?

Don’t go screaming into your boss’s office about how Foursquare will change the world, just because “you and all your friends” use it.

While I still believe Foursquare will win, it’s going to take some time. I’d hate to see you blow a giant marketing budget (and worse, your boss or client’s trust in you) because you’re putting all your eggs into a basket that has yet to hatch.

Or, to put it another way, just because we’re geeks, hang out with geeks, and like geeky things, doesn’t mean our audience, clients, or those who pay the bills do, yet.

Use the tech – incorporate it into plans and make it components of your marketing. But judge your audience, as well, and remember that they’ll take a bit longer than you will to adopt and adapt.

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