A while back I had lunch with a social media guru…an impresario of the arcane reaches of the Twitter/Tweet/In-Your-Facebook phenomenon that has taken over a significant chunk of the universe with the use of tools that can get lost in your shirt pocket and cost little more than a meal for two at a mediocre diner. Still, after I returned to the familiarity of my untidy desk, I was no closer to an understanding of the situation than before, yet convinced that while the promise of something big is there, an important ingredient is missing.
Over the years I’ve accumulated enough used and discarded hard-, firm-, and software stuff to buy a ticket to Mars, and today I hold in the palm of my hand a wondrous amalgam of metal, plastic, silicon, and black magic, whose sheer computational capacity rivals that of machines of yore filling football-field sized enclosures.
As with the computer several decades back, I sense we’re on the threshold of something momentous, but despite the several hundred million mostly young people messaging one another with information running the gamut from earth-shattering to trivial, an overarching magic app—or perhaps what you might call a hard target—has yet to burst into clear view.
What we do have for certain, however, are the tools—the handhelds, netbooks, laptops, PDAs, and a mushrooming collection of mobile devices—that allow us to access or share information from and to nearly every place on the planet. But even more on point are the applications proliferating in virtually every field of endeavor…and in some cases approaching a critical mass. Consider, for instance, the health care industry, where a survey this past spring showed that a third of all physicians use some sort of mobile device to access medical information. Can you imagine that this will not approach totality in the very near future?
My guess is that many of you make use of two-way devices not just for verbal communication among managers, supervisors, and operators, but also to transmit activity data between office systems and onsite machines. The central issue in all these cases lies in their relevance to critical job objectives and their strict adherence to well-defined operating procedures. And it’s here that I think the backdrop of social media, with its acceptance of the anything goes mentality, presents a genuine challenge where the touchy-feely stuff disrupts the flow of information vital to workflow or safety. The question may lie in how you can you tell the difference and then control it.
Have you any thoughts for me?
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