The Dinner Party Guide to Sounding Convincingly Knowledgeable About the Internet
By my reckoning, pretty much everyone, except your nan, (actually, in most cases, including your nan), knows all about the Internet these days.
They use Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Gmail and (probably) BBC iPlayer and ITV Player (in the UK), Amazon and Ancestry.com, or eBay, or Autotrader, or Lastminute.com, or Gumtree or Craigslist… and probably Spotify… and the App Store… or the Google Play Store… and Skype… and maybe Netflix… or all of the above…
So… how do you trump them these days? How can you sound convincingly knowledgeable about the Internet, without bothering to get into the nitty-gritty?
With my handy Dinner Party Guide to the Internet, that’s how!
“10 Things You Need To Know About The Internet In Order To Win The Argument and Still Get Hammered”
In my experience, there are a handful of topics that regularly get brought up when talking about the Internet, over a glass of wine, with friends or family who are less familiar with all things “Internet” (translation: probably happier, less stressed-out, more ‘connected to nature’ kind of people). Those topics are “Google Glass”, “the death of Facebook”, “the demise of Apple now that Steve Jobs is gone”, “What the hell are Bitcoins?”, “What the hell is Big Data?”… you know the sort of thing. Well, now you have some ready-made answers.
(Disclaimer: these are just my opinions. You are welcome to disagree. In fact, please do! I invite your comments.)
1. Google Glass
(* this is not a picture of Google Glass. This is what they currently look like)
Google Glass is irrelevant. Seriously, nobody wants to be a cyborg* (and those that did are now suffering the Google Glass headaches only they deserve). The technology will eventually find better uses (think proper, clever, heads-up displays for cars and tour buses and theme park goggles, etc) but Glass as glasses for everyday folk is about as relevant as 3D TVs. Doomed to fail.
(* well, almost nobody)
Mobile is (still) everything. This is becoming even more true and will continue to be so over the next 2 years, until its so true it would be embarrassing to still say it! Less and less people will use desktop computers to access the Internet over the coming years, and even laptops will become less popular, despite their (current) obvious crossover benefits. Wanna sound knowledgeable about the future? Mobile is it.
As well as mobile, the Internet is going to become increasingly about VIDEO. In fact, “mobile + video” isn’t a bad place to spend your time if you were planning a startup. Video already accounts for 90% of Internet traffic and 50% of mobile wireless network traffic – and it is set to keep growing! Mobile, social, video-based ideas, that answer a genuine need in society and either disrupt or genuinely improve an industry vertical would be a great place to start (that + great copywriting – but that’s a different story)… Consider the early promises of “interactive TV” and then reimagine how awesome this could / should have been, and you’re halfway there. Connected to everything – and everyone – socially, through commerce, etc, and accessed on your mobile. Powerful stuff.
The mother of all social sites. There’s been plenty of nonsense published about Facebook’s demise recently. Twitter was going to be the death of Facebook (it won’t be, although I reserve the right to be wrong on this one, based on the preview of Twitter’s redesign I saw recently)… and so was Instagram (before Facebook bought it)… and Tumblr… and Snapchat… but this one’s super easy. Forget the bullshit click-bait headlines, Facebook is NOT doomed. It is, and shall remain, the most connected social glue on the Western web. It connects more than 1 billion people and it’s not going anywhere. Fact. Facebook is as much an infrastructure service as it is a website these days. It would be like switching off the electricity. Sure, there’s a few nuances when you start scratching under the surface – and right now it’s value as a platform for business is very low – but that doesn’t mean the platform is redundant. And just because the latest social app has captured the imagination of the cool kids, it does NOT mean that Facebook is doomed. Who said you had to be cool to be popular anyway. The simple truth you can dine out on is that Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Not gonna happen. Not for a long, long time.
5. The Internet of Things
(In other words, everyday items such as toothbrushes, clothes and apparel, fridges and coffee machines, that are connected in some way to the Internet). Connected “things” are going to become completely normal, from birthday cards that send a tweet to the recipient when they land on the doormat (hasn’t been invented yet – will be), to smart collars for your pets that let you know when they pick up fleas (again, hasn’t been invented yet, but, well, it will be). With Google squarely moving into the space (see recent $3 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest), we can expect to see some really smart “things” very soon. But – and there is a “but” (if only a small one) – the Internet of Things will only become widespread in objects that offers practical, everyday utility (with a few, emotional, aforementioned exceptions), such as telling you when your milk is on the turn or allowing you to control your lightbulbs, or keeping track of how many calories you’ve used walking or running, or just giving you some encouragement when you’re active. Gimmicks, like tweeting every time you take off your bra or uploading photos of every single thing you ever do, will not stand the test of time. It’s just common sense really. The Internet of Things will settle down soon enough and we’ll be left with some great connected enhancements to our everyday lives.
(* this is not a picture of a Drone. This is what they currently look like)
There’s been a lot of press lately about the rise of drones as a delivery channel. OK, so this is real, and some very wealthy companies are piling money into making this happen, BUT… Really? Come on people! Drones are NOT going to replace the postman delivering your Amazon packages… They’re just not. It’s a stupid idea that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. If they do roll this service out, I predict that the rise of the drone delivery service will also quickly spawn the rise of a new breed of opportunistic criminal – the “Drone Pirates”… opportunistic bad guys that lay in wait for the Amazon Prime Air drones and shoot them down to liberate their treasures. Think about it. Would you want your goods delivered by drone? And even if they arrive at your home safely, then what? You have to be there to grab it, before anyone else does! And that’s assuming you live in a house, with a nice landing area outside the front door… and don’t own a dog… and it’s not raining… and your location data is pin accurate… Srsly? Drone deliveries are about as realistic a future as the hoverboard. Camera drones, on the other hand… now that’s a different story!
Apple has become a hot topic at dinner parties since the death of Steve Jobs. Will they lose their edge now their master of ceremonies has moved on? Well, there’s absolutely no denying that Steve Jobs was a visionary genius who contributed more than any other to the rise of Apple Computers, but… Despite his absence, Apple will continue to be awesome (for the next 3-years at least) thanks to the imminent release of the iPhone 6, which will be EPIC, and the long-awaited iWatch, which will redefine the smartwatch category and finally give people a valid reason for strapping a computer onto their wrists (hint: think health monitoring)… And let’s not forget the Apple TV set (but that’s something that still seems way off yet)… Oh, and the rumours about Apple buying Tesla… whoa. Now that really would be something. The main point with the Apple conversation is that you’ve not seen the last of their reign just yet…
8. Big Data
(* I know, I know… A small pile of newspapers hardly constitutes “big data”. Hey, it’s just a pic, ok?)
Everyone talks about it, but few have a snappy answer when asked what it is. Well, now you do. Big Data simply refers to data sets so large that they cannot be analysed by traditional data processing applications. It is a hot topic because the analysis of “big data” naturally produces far more accurate results than are possible through the analysis of smaller data sets. Simple really. OK, let’s move on.
9. Voice Control
Apple’s less than optimal Siri – the personal assistant who, in theory, listens to your commands and helps you out with everyday tasks – can be a little unpredictable, to say the least. And Google’s voice-controlled search (also known as “Google Now” on Android devices), activated with the command “OK Google”, has thrown up some very questionable search results for me, thanks to my apparently incomprehensible English accent… but, that being said, Google, Apple and others are putting a great deal of effort into improving this form of input. In short, this isn’t going to go away, and over time voice control will become one of the most widely used input methods on all devices. Even passwords are going to get the voice treatment.
(* Not Bitcoins. Actually these are Roman coins. Bitcoins look like this)
What are they and how are they used?… Well, honestly, they’re not as complicated or even as volatile as you might imagine. Basically, Bitcoin is a virtual currency that behaves like the coins in your pocket (in other words they behave like untraceable cash that can be spent on both real and virtual items, but being similiar to cash, if lost, are lost for good). It enjoyed massive inflation in value in the early days, making some very unlikely millionaires and was associated (for all the wrong reasons) with the infamous Silk Road. Bitcoin was first adopted largely by people who did’t want to share their purchases – or growing wealth – with other people, often meaning the authorities, giving the crypto-currency a bad name from the outset. It was (and still is) the currency of choice for illegal transactions, due to it’s anonymity, but this is slowly changing as the currency starts to gain maturity. It’s also been a gamble for those who fancied trading in a virtual ‘stock’, but it’s volatility has made it a dangerous gamble for those who couldn’t afford to lose their investment. Bitcoins have been regularly stolen, and are impossible to retrieve once they’re gone. All that being said, most of the problems are being ironed out and the currency is starting to look more like a viable option for certain digital transactions. There are a number of rival crypto-currencies (at their core they are cryptographic protocols, hence the “crypto” moniker) popping up here and there, such as Dogecoin, Namecoin, NXT and Peercoin, and their popularity is growing. I predict the virtual currency markets will become more regulated over time and provide people with a genuine alternative to traditional money. Whether it’s Bitcoin or some other crypto-currency, virtual currencies are here to stay. Want to know more? Venturebeat has a great “Bitcoin for idiots” guide.
Well, that lot should get you to the after dinner mints (do people still do “after dinner mints”? I suspect not, but you know what I mean!)… after that, everyone will be so far gone you can pretty much spout any nonsense you feel without risking your position as the “Internet Aficionado” at the table. Hopefully…
That’s it! Thanks for reading!
Got something to add? Disagree with anything I said? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.Is this your first time here? If so, thanks for stopping by! If you’re looking for my Tumblr blog, you can find that here. I’m a Digital Strategist, entrepreneur and Head of Digital Business at Advertising M&A, the specialist Mergers and Acquisitions consultancy exclusively for the advertising, digital, media and marketing services sectors. I am also the Founder and Editor-in-chief at advertising industry blog Inside MarComs, featuring Q&As with brilliant people in advertising and marketing, as well as Founder and Principal of Rick Palmer Consulting, offering my personal expertise to private clients. You can find out more about me by reading my biog or connecting with me on LinkedIn.