Do “Most People” Really Find Web 2.0 Tools Hard to Use?
Posted by Allison Fine on October 2, 2007
The Overbrook Foundation report on the readiness of their human rights grantees to fully engage in the Web 2.0 world is circulating widely. Many people have found it useful. And some less so. Jayne Cravens, shared these thoughts (in part):
“ *You* may see Web 2.0 tools as easy-to-use, but many, many people — in fact, *most* people — don’t. Just because you and, perhaps, those you associate with see these tools as simple, the majority of people and organizations do not, and if you cannot appreciate that point-of-view, you cannot help nonprofits to embrace Web 2.0.”
In the report, we defined Web 2.0 tools to mean new wireless and web-based technologies. Let’s start with wireless. Does Jayne think that using a cell phone is difficult? Is sending a text message difficult? “Most people” find cell phones easy and essential to use. This isn’t a euphemism in regards to cell phone usage and US citizens (we intentionally limited the study scope to US based organizations.) According to the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life nearly three quarters of all American adults have a cell phone. Nearly 60 percent of American adults over the age of 60 have cell phones. Thirty percent of overall users say they couldn’t live without their cell phone. Millions of them are text messaging use their cells, increasingly emailing using their more expensive smart phones and instant messaging.
How about blogs? According to Technorati, the leading blog tracking website, there are over 107 million blogs. Over 4 million bloggers update their web logs daily, or over 50,000 posts an hour. Creating a free blog on blogger.com or wordpress.com or other services takes less than five minutes to do. In my over three years of studying blogs and working with bloggers, young and old, I’ve never heard a person say that creating or updating a blog is difficult to do. Millions more set up email accounts for free in seconds, and use instant and text messaging.
Please note that I am responding to the issue of whether using Web 2.0 tools is difficult. They are not difficult or expensive to use that’s precisely why they have spread so far and wide so quickly. Where nonprofits and NGOs are struggling, is a people problem not a tech problem. Many people find it intimidating and overwhelming to try to stay on stop of all of the new tools, moreover, and here is the most critical point for activists, too many leaders of activist organizations don’t understand how they need to change the way they work to use the tools to best effect. A blog is an opportunity to create a community-wide converation about issues. Organizations that have blogs without the ability for readers to comment is a lost opportunity; a brochure not a conversation.
The activists who participated in our group discussions at the Overbrook Foundation were primarily executive directors of human rights organizations. Their dilemma was that too many of them didn’t know what they didn’t know. Consultants and other support people, like Jayne, are critically important in providing information and support to these people and organizations to help ease their transition from the old broadcast world
In summary, the tools themselves, are indeed very easy to use. The transition to a new culture of open, networked organizations is incredible difficult, particularly for organizations and individuals who were successful in the old era. But that’s a people problem not a tech challenge. And I agree with Jayne that as a community of funders and support organizations we are not doing a great job of easing that difficult transition for most groups. That was the underlying reason for doing the research for Overbrook in the first place, the very difficult struggle that organizations, and the people who run them, are having keeping up in the Connected Age.
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