Sunday 26 September 2010

A friendly definition

There is always a sigh of relief when something I've been grappling with is picked up by someone else and the notion of the problem expressed far better than I can. Tim Lloyd is todays provoker of the sigh, with a link he posted to the issues GP's are having with friends versus patients versus patients who become friends versus....well you get the drift.

I'm struggling too but for different reasons. Back when the web was small, when peoples 'handles' would pop up in various places on usenet, web chat systems, BBS chat systems and game zones, you could be relatively sure it was the same person behind all of them. Some of them were hackers in the traditional sense and some in the modern sense. Some had police scanners taken off them in HMV in Plymouth. Some of them just loved taunting me by hacking my node on the network and making it play music - a fate worse than death on behemoth old Suns we used to play on. But there was a playfulness there too, and a big feeling of community. People crossed the country to meet other 'geeks'. People crossed the country to meet people they'd never met before, just for the luxury of speaking the same language as the people they were going to see. Geek.

The community grew, and people joined and left. Time passed. When we weren't looking, the web happened, forums and all that new fangled jazz. We all eventually caught up with Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. Communities drifted apart as the geeks suddenly discovered that a) they were suddenly cool b) there were geeks more local to them than a 100 mile round trip and c) as connections were made in different places based on different hobbies and interests.

The problem is, I'm still struggling with the same thing everyone else is struggling with. At what point does online collaboration become a friendship? At what point is it okay to offer a virtual *hug* (yes I'm old skool, and?) and at what point is someone not of the old skool where that was expected and a *hug* will result in a raised eyebrow and a 'get away from me freak girl'.

I don't know how to tell the different from the geeks who's hearts were absolutely always in the right place and the new school of geeks. The former are still there and I still adore and respect and admire. The latter are bandwagon jumpers, seeing tech as an an economic, financial and career opportunity, not a tool for social change, for engagement, for inclusion, for balancing playing fields, allowing people to do their jobs better and more efficiently, for empowering people and giving them a voice. It's possible to be both I understand this absolutely. But peoples motivations matter to me, and I am catching up with catching up with who is on the right side of the line and who is on the wrong side.

Which brings me to the point. Which is that I am slowly understanding that ideas are a commodity in this brave new world. That the girl who lamented to a friend 6 years ago that no one would ever pay her for her ideas and why didn't the world work that way and what was I supposed to do with all these ideas I had no idea how to implement, that I knew tech could make possible but that I didn't have the tech knowledge to actually implement - in this world right now, those ideas are valuable. Not in monetary terms, perhaps, but in ways that I am only slowly beginning to understand.

So, when the geeks inherited the earth, turns out things got more complicated, and not less. Inheritance means responsibility, means slowing down and taking stock, means that those of us who wear our hearts on our sleeves (not all geeks, I know this) are getting caught in the crossfire of other peoples agendas. I do not like this at all.

It's like swimming with sharks. I knew it would be. I didn't expect it to be so difficult to discern the sharks from the good people. And I am old fashioned, but I only want to collaborate with good people.

No comments:

Post a Comment