Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ali Luke.
Think back twelve years: 1999, the end of the last century. What did your life look like then?
I’m guessing it was pretty different from your life today.
In 1999, I was fourteen. We’d had dial-up internet at home for a year or so, a few of my friends were getting mobile phones, and I was attempting my first novel.
In 2011, I’ve got a super-fast broadband connection, I make my living online (Skype, WordPress and Gmail all being essential parts of my day), I’ve got a smart phone, and I’m still writing novels.
The pace of technological progress, in little more than a decade, is just astounding. The practical differences that it makes in our lives are as if the printing press, the telephone and the radio were all invented within the same decade.
Now, seeing as you’re reading this on a blog, I’m guessing you’ve more or less embraced change. Chances are, your work involves the internet in some way – you might even run a whole business online. You might be more or less comfortable with new technologies: you’re on Facebook, Skype or Twitter.
The relentless march of the new, though, isn’t slowing down any time soon. Smart phones, tablet computers, e-readers… the technology is continuing to evolve.
As I see it, we’ve got three options:
#1: Run for the Hills
When something new comes along … run away. Ignore it.
I was at a writing conference last weekend, and I saw this attitude cropping up again and again in conversations. Would-be novelists said things like I don’t have time to blog, I just want to get on with my writing.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably had this reaction to a fair few things. Perhaps you’ve sworn you won’t jump on the iPad bandwagon, or that you can’t see the point of a Skype account when you’ve got a perfectly good landline.
A bit of skepticism is a good thing. It holds us back from wasting time and money on every new gismo out there. Some technologies, though, have become so entrenched that your customers are going to expect them from you:
- A website, at your own domain name.
- An email address, preferably @yourdomainname.com. If you’ve got a Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL account, you might want to think about changing it.
- The option to make payments via PayPal. This used to be the preserve of small companies – but I’ve seen lots of big, mainstream sites offer PayPal alongside credit card payments.
Depending on the demographic that you serve, a Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn profile may be all but essential too.
(If you’ve got other essentials to add, let us know in the comments. What are your minimum technological expectations when you’re doing business with someone?)
#2: Fall in Love
When something new comes along … embrace it with open arms.
Back in March, I was at South by South West interactive when the iPad 2 came out. There was a lot of excitement, and a fair few people turning up with shiny new gadgets.
I get that. I know that the latest and greatest tools aren’t just useful, they’re fun to have; they make you feel part of an exclusive club.
But the danger is that you end up wasting money on gadgets you don’t really need, or that you waste a ton of time signing up for nifty little services online that don’t really fit with your workflow.
When faced with something new, ask yourself:
- How established is it? (Join Twitter; think twice about Google+, for now…)
- Have friends or colleagues recommended it? (I got a Kindle after two friends, both passionate about books, raved about theirs.)
- Does it essentially do the same thing as what you already have? (If you’ve got a netbook, I’m not convinced a tablet is worthwhile.)
#3: Find a Balance
When something new comes along … be open-minded.
As with pretty much everything in life, balance is important in our reactions to new technology. We’ve got a tendency to either fear the new or to run headlong at it; neither reaction is particularly helpful.
Look for a balance.
If you tend to run away, ask yourself whether you’re dismissing a life-changing technology just because it’s not the way you currently do things. Or whether, like me, you’ve got a sneaking dislike for anything that smacks of “cool”.
If you tend to fall in love with new gadgets, ask yourself whether they really deliver. Be a little skeptical about marketing promises: of course Apple are going to make the latest iPhone sound like a must-have, that’s their job.
Technology is neither bad nor good. It’s just a tool – and it’s up to you to decide how to use it.
Ali Luke blogs about writing and the writing life at Aliventures.com, with posts like How to Cut the Waffle From Your Writing – and Grab Readers’ Attention. You can get a free copy of her latest mini-ebook, How to Find Time For Your Writing, by signing up for her newsletter here.