By Mark O’Neill
Sometimes I don’t know why I bother with all the technophobes of this world.
I’ve been working on the internet exclusively for the past two years now. This makes for some very interesting conversation at dinner parties when someone asks me what I “do”. I’m sure you’ve had the same problem explaining what you do for a job. You have the doctor explaining the latest rectal examination technique, the lawyer bragging about the latest billion dollar lawsuit they’ve just won, the businessman giving you the ups and downs of the NASDAQ…..then they turn to me and I start talking about the unfairness of the new Digg algorithim. Is it me or is everyone fidgeting? Why is that woman looking at her watch? Why is the lawyer holding the butter knife as if he wants to use it as a murder weapon?
I try to explain the websites I work for and the inner workings of the internet, but then you see their eyes glaze over, their heads slumping forward, the edges of their mouth quivering as they try to feign interest….when I finally stop, they snap out of their trance, wipe the drool from their mouth and then repeat “yes but what do you DO? What is your OCCUPATION?”. I sigh, give up and start twittering with my cellphone under the table. Meanwhile I hear the rectal examination doctor mutter “unemployed….I knew it!”
Well a new site has started up called FriendFeed and web workers around the world are happier because Friendfeed allows people who are highly active on the web to pull together all of their web activity into one place. So next time someone asks me “what do you DO?”, I can give them this webpage address and say “look there, this is what I do. This is my world. These are the pages I work for, these are the pages I visit, these are the people I work with, talk with, network with. Come step into my Batcave – if you dare!”. I’m thinking of getting business cards made.
But as usual, the technophobes are up in arms about the Friendfeed concept. Despite having a lot of geek internet friends, I also have a lot of friends who think the internet is evil (I know, poor souls). They have the internet solely to check email from their bank manager and stock portfolio manager and no more. I’m sure you know the sort. They treat the internet as if it’s a ticking time bomb (“Quick!” they scream, “check the ’email thing’ then GET OFF!!!”). When they switch on the computer, they think that the computer will self-destruct in 60 seconds, Mission Impossible-style. The sort of people who would watch the Terminator movies, see Skynet “become self-aware” and then refuse to switch the internet on for months afterwards thinking that checking the movie schedules on Yahoo would be enough to trigger Judgment Day.
One of my elderly friends thinks Friendfeed “is freaky”. He spent ages trying to convince me that there was something sinister in the fact that the site knew “exactly where I was on the internet at all times” (‘It’s following you!’) and it knew exactly when to update itself. I tried telling him that I was telling Friendfeed myself all my details but he wouldn’t listen. “The internet is intelligent – and evil!! – the end of the world!”. Hang on, let me get my tin-foil hat on.
So if you can risk an evil and intelligent internet starting the end of the world, I highly recommend Friendfeed. You can aggregate many aspects of your online life into one page and one RSS feed. You can follow your friends and you can also have everything emailed to you. You can then have your page ready for when someone haughtily asks you what you “do”.
You can even set up imaginary friends for people you want to follow but who don’t have Friendfeed accounts. Imagine that – imaginary friends! You can be five years old again.