The Internet continues to confound us all. So much of what everyone believed 10 years ago proved to be nonsense. Much of the current hype about Twitter and social networks is also "hopeful talking up" and not based on facts. There is a revolution going on; and we all need to become part of it.
None of us have any control over where Internet based technologies are taking us. Yes, that's scary, but it's also a huge opportunity. For all of us then, the secret is not to be leading the charge as I have been doing for the last 15 years. That's altogether too risky. The secret is to be in touch with what's happening and engaged strongly enough to remain adaptable in changing circumstances. This is where social networking has excellent potential to help you. Membership of several online groups gives you a listening point, a place where advance knowledge of coming events can reach you. Just being in that mind set, will allow you to think more openly about the options you have.
In 1995 the ideal was; that everyone could be well informed, and that there would be a level playing field, so that many of the structural ills of society might be corrected. The fear was that a digital divide would develop, that some people wouldn't have access to Internet connected machines. We now have a new type of digital divide. Even those who are well connected to the Internet, including many of those who say they are competent Internet users, are in fact unknowing and incompetent.
Don Tapscott, author of the book, "Grown up Digital", believes that people who have grown up with the Internet are far more comfortable with the technology. So far so good, but that doesn't make more than about 20% of them competent users. If you are going to learn about the Internet easily and well you need a good model to follow. I suggest that only in 12 households in 100 does a suitable model live. Those who are active in social networks and blogs have access to good models beyond the home.
Sadly education on computer use doesn't help. Teaching people how to use Microsoft programme's and how to use email does almost nothing to make people more competent. In New Zealand, and around the world Microsoft has been able to dominate the training market in schools and colleges, by offering software at special prices. Training people to use Microsoft packages does nothing to help them become competent in the Internet based skills they need today. Sadly far too may people who've been trained this way say "I need a teacher to show me". ALL you need to know is readily available online. A teacher is far too much help. You need to learn how to teach yourself to become an independent learner.
There's no better story looking at business online. It was assumed that on the Internet everyone would be a potential customers and that the Internet would make it easy to sell online. That's not the case. It's much harder to develop an effective business web site than anyone imagined in 1995.
I did a survey of 60 businesses in Christchurch, all in the engineering, science and high-tech area. Only 5 had web sites that were anything like functional. Not a single site in this group was making any effective use of Web 2.0 tools, or effective feedback processes of any kind. There was lots of effort to SELL, but little understanding of the need to communicate. In my recent effort to research Internet use, I found four people who were the owners of business web sites. There were at least as many telling me they intended to develop one. I do believe in the value of businesses having web sites. But I don't believe that many companies will succeed with the online proposals they are developing. The expectations are unrealistic. Information is power. When information is freely available, those who are used to exercise power, because they have in the past controlled the information, now find that's difficult. Governments find it impossible to control what the public knows. Newspapers no longer control local news. Whatever you sell, can also be purchased online, often at a lower price. Nobody can be sure that their job is safe.
You are NOT going to make a lot of money with your MLM scheme, or by professional blogging, or by selling ebooks online. The basic reason is in the graph above. Finding the opportunity here is the challenge.