The Question of Gen Y and the Web

This morning Sarah Perez reposted an interesting article titled “Why Gen Y Is Going to Change the Web“. I thought I should make a few comments since by I fall into the “Gen Y” category (if not by society’s categorization than at least by birth).

The key differentiator between someone who “gets it” and “doesn’t” is that the Internet is simply a way of life. Some will use it as a tool to increase productivity, others may just use the Web to buy a few CD’s on Amazon. But for others, it’s the way we do just about everything, from doing a Thesaurus lookup to reading the morning paper to online banking to planning our weddings and vacations. If you have a question – any question – this is what usually happens:

me: I wonder if blah can blah.
you: Hmm, yeah. I dunno.
me looks at you
me: Yeah let’s find out.
me goes on most convenient mobile device and Googles answer.

Gen Y can almost be split down the middle into two groups (although I’m sure you can perform further disections):

  • those who were there to witness and remember the coming of the storm and accept the Web as an integral part of their daily lives, and
  • those who were born into it and don’t remember what life was like to be “unconnected”

I feel fortunate to be a part of the first group and can anecdotally share a few poignent memories with you that stick out in my memory:

  1. I remember playing Wheel of Fortune that ran off a 5″ floppy inserted into my 286 PC. Also remember getting my first color monitor (those black and orange screens were such the eye sore) and doing a happy dance.
  2. I remember having my super quick 9600 baud modem and getting into arguments with my parents for chatting on IRC with people in Europe until 3 am on a weeknight. Coincidentally, Starbucks had around the same time opened shop in Millbrae, CA, where I grew up, so I also had access to Quad Venti Mochas. Talk about enablement.
  3. I remember my high school starting to dabble with installing Internet in the classrooms. I was a teacher’s aide for a Physics teacher at the time and had managed to hack into the school network just to see if I could. Ahh, the days of innocent open Internet.
  4. I remember when my mother got certified as a Sys Admin after her direct marketing job disappeared in the early 90’s. She is of of many Baby Boomers who embraced early adoption and reinvented themselves to get ahead and is now one of the most read bloggers on a popular Chinese political website. I continue to learn from my mother. I dream of the day I get 10k+ hits in a day.
  5. I remember a conversation I had with a 36 year old co-worker who said something about “avoiding the inevitable for long enough” and “finally jumping on the bandwagon” to learn HTML. This was a few weeks ago. Glad she decided to, so now I ask you – what skills do you need to learn or brush up on in order to stay competitive and valuable?

Loren McDonald tweeted this yesterday and I think it says a lot: “Heading to Rosenblum Cellars open house w/ buddy Vince – he’s not on FB or Twitter – guess we’ll have to talk to each other – wow.”

It’s not just Gen Y if you ask me… the true differentiator to me is whether or not you were excited about being a little uncomfortable – Were you willing to try this new stuff out? Were you willing to get a little behind in sleep because the speed at which things were coming out was so fast that it was simply an impossibility to stay “in the know” and sleep more than 3 hours for every 24? Did you… and do you still… consider it the coolest when you were the first to know about or try a new technology? Are you willing to change the way you talk people, even to the ones right next to you?

Send me an email

2 comments

  1. You said: I remember when I was 10, playing Wheel of Fortune that ran off a 5″ floppy inserted into my 286 PC. Also remember getting my first color monitor (those black and orange screens were such the eye sore) and doing a happy danceMe: I remember when I was a senior in college (e.g. 23) programming a spreadsheet in Lotus 1-2-3 version 1.0 using the same machine and monitor!

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