Being the Old Man in a Web 2.0 World

SXSW interactive was a great experience this week. I met quite a bit of press and got to see a lot of old friends that were in town for the show. We co-sponsored one of the official SXSW Happy Hour events and I participated as a panelist during the event. Our terrific PR firm, Porter Novelli (yes, that is a plug), took pity on me and included me in their dinner events two nights of the show. It was at one of the dinner events that a startling and painful realization hit me – I’ve become the old man in the room! People went around the room talking about their ages and I kept waiting for one of the other guys to be older than me. To my consternation (see, I use old man words), none of them were – I was the oldest. By far. Crap.

This realization brought on several reactions; 1) panic, and 2) a very strong sense of deja vu. I remember (not long ago) being the YOUNGEST at these types of events when I was at Ashton-Tate and then at Compaq and laughing at the old guys from the ancient kingdoms of IBM, Data General, and DEC trying to be cool in the PC world. How did it happen so fast that I became one of those old guys?

This swirling vortex of thoughts, emotions, and irrational mumbling led me to realize several things;

  • Just as there is barely any generation gap in music tastes between my generation and my kids (Van Halen, the Doors, and REM are all cool to the kids too), there is a very small generational gap in the web/technology space now. The gap between mainframe guys and the kids building Apple Computers and dBase software was huge. The gap between those creating Facebook and those that worked on dBase – not so much;
  • There is a lot of capability with today’s web development tools and that means lots of opportunity for wasted time. Having been around the block a few times our group knows the difference between a cool widget/feature and a cool business;
  • The casual business environment of my peer set is perfectly matched for working with the young people coming into the work force. The culture shock isn’t as great for the Apple IIgs guy working with the Facebook Widget kid. It’s actually fun for both sides;
  • The discovery of new processes and technology are shared, not passed down. I have my facebook account, I twitter, I google. Obviously I have my iTaggit account. But I was the one who told my kids about Chirpscreen (a cool social networking aggregation tool) so for that 5 minutes I was cool.

The idea behind a blog is to be able to rant and muse. I don’t have a point to this blog other than to state that I am now aware that I am the old guy in the game now and I’m watching to see what that means. As I learn and experience more I’ll let you know what I discover. Just realize that the posts will be shorter – I feel the arthritis starting in my hands all of a sudden…

One thought on “Being the Old Man in a Web 2.0 World

  1. Cheryl Parker

    David, it’s a shock when the same realization hit me a few years back…yes, I’m older than you! How did I go from the youngest and only female in the management group (Equifax) to being a nursing instructor that students call Dr. Parker??? But hopefully age/experience brings some wisdom and while my joints are certainly stiffer, I focus on keeping my mind and attitudes flexible. Enjoyed your thoughts!

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