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The not-so-secret Internet diary of a Gen X man

This guest blog follows my invitation for comment on media, culture and society from difference generations after Ellie Waddington’s recent post.

Ged Carroll is a Gen X-er born between 1960 and 1980. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years and like me he grew up in North West of England in the twilight of the UK’s heavy engineering industries.

He studied in Manchester and then headed to London and built a career as a marketing consultant and planner. He’s worked in Asia, China and the US, and is now back in London.

This is a post about the development of the Internet and social media. Ged first used the Internet in his late teens and at university. He’s an early adopter of technology with iconoclastic tendencies as you’ll discover.

By Ged Carroll

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Messenger for keeping in touch and on track

lineMore than a decade ago I used to use Adium X, a multi-service instant messaging client for the Mac to keep in touch with a wide range of friends, colleagues, suppliers and clients. Each client was like hitting a different layer of clay in an archaeological dig, indicating when I knew them.

People on ICQ were the longest held contacts, then Yahoo! Messenger (I even ended up working at Yahoo!), Windows Live messenger was purely about my time at Waggener Edstrom and GoogleTalk became de-rigeur when the bots on Yahoo! Messenger came too much.

Now I use LINESignal, Skype, Telegram and WeChat.

Flickr is a photo archive and so much more

flickrI have friends that are talented photographers and you can’t convince me that some nice filters and a square picture adds up to the pretentious of photographic art that many people seem to feel it has.

I have been on Flickr for 11 years and 18,345 photographs later, it would have to be a really compelling service that would get me to move. Flickr is my stock image library, it is my visual diary, image hosting for my blog and my mood board for when I am looking for inspiration at work.

I think it has a better community than Instagram because it isn’t ubiquitous, though my heart is in my mouth every time Yahoo!’s finances take a wobble.

Facebook is utilitarian

facebookI use Facebook in a similar way to developer friends using Stack Overflow or other forums for professional social discourse on a couple of private groups.

I don’t even bother with cognitive dissonance type of posts of it always being sunny on Facebook. I know it’s crap; in your heart-of-hearts you probably know it too.

Facebook events are often used, alongside meetup.com and Eventbrite. For loose network contacts, Facebook acts like a poorly designed phone book.

Twitter: I have a bot for that

twitterTwitter is used as a messaging service for some of my friends, but mostly I use it to passively consume content like breaking news in lists and syndicate content that I find interesting.

I do this syndication through various recipes set up in IFTTT.

Media content

Steve Jobs talked about the only way to fight music piracy was to have a better idea. So for a number of years I have bought my music on Beatport, Bleep and iTunes alongside my love of vinyl records.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the record labels as they have consistently focused on short term blockbuster hits at the expense of slow and steady selling artists.

I have recently started ripping CDs into my music library again as these are often cheaper than digital downloads or offer back catalogue content that digital services don’t.

I use late model iPod Classic because of its 160GB storage.

soundcloudFor streaming music I listen to mixes, mash ups, edits and remixes on Soundcloud and Deephousepage. My current favourite remixer is Luxxury. I use the online radio channels (not Beats 1) in iTunes to have as relaxing background music prior to turning in at home.

I watch live news on television as the broadcast network is better for big audience numbers in comparison to the internet. I have an Apple TV box that I use for Netflix, internet radio and iTunes store content.

Out of the terrestrial channels I tend to only use iPlayer as it is so much better designed than 4oD, ITV Player or Channel 5’s offering. I stream RTE News, Bloomberg TV and the BBC World Service.

My favourite news content comes from Vice – it feels like the channel that CNN should have been and is less shaped to meet the norms of the establishment, though this will undoubtedly change in the near future.

News is apps and RSS

newsblurMy RSS reader of choice is Newsblur. I was a minority amongst my peers in that I never trusted my bookmarks and OPML data to Google’s Reader, instead using Bloglines and then Fastladder.com. Both of which where driven out of business by Google prior to them closing Reader.

Instead bookmarking is done with Pinboard.in. I also get news from the RTE News app, a breaking news list I built in Twitter, Stratfor, Vice and the South China Morning Post app. If you’d asked me this ten years ago then The Economist would have been on here, but its been replaced by Vice and Monocle magazine.

When I get to read a newspaper; it is the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal on the way home from work as a way to decompress, or the weekend FT for a mellow Saturday morning. I still read the US edition of Wired magazine in a print copy as the accompanying digital subscription has somehow become borked on my iPad.

My media indulgence would be occasionally rifling through the pages of Japanese style magazine Free & Easy.

I subscribe to a number of email newsletters for specialist analysis.

Brands that cut through

The brands that cut through for me are ones that cut their own path. I don’t wake up in the morning and think “hell yeah I want to engage with a brand on a social channel.”

With people like Carhartt, Gregory Mountain Products, Canon, Nikon, Mystery Ranch, Barebones Software, Apple, S-Double Studios, Porter Tokyo and IWC Schaffhausen the product is the marketing – the online marketing efforts of these brands are coincidental.

I do know that many of these brands do spend a good deal of effort to influence the kind of publications that I read. Monocle magazine does a really good job of integrating marketing and content.

I buy much more online now, the high street has become quite bland, especially after having lived in Asia. I use trans-shipment company Buyee to buy product in Japan and Lightinthebox has replaced many of the none-impulse purchases that I would have made at Argos.

Challenge for brands, media and life itself

The Internet has come to mirror the wonders, banalities and horror of everyday life. As I write this Ellen Pao had resigned as CEO at Reddit. Reddit is a poster child for all of these categories from organising gifts for the poor to water cooler chatter, racism and death threats against Ms Pao.

Culture has now been made massively parallel by the internet. As an 18 year old, I remember having to get a train down to London to go trawling through record shops in London to find Stussy clothing and records on the Japanese Major Force label. Now everything is up on Soundcloud or YouTube for you to enjoy.

Making a difference is a work in progress

Like Ellie, I am not that optimistic about aspects of the world. In many respects the concerns of Gen-Y and Gen-Z mirrored concerns of a younger Gen-X. I held McJobs and had a constant fear of unemployment over my head, was concerned about nuclear holocaust, economic meltdown and an environmental dystopian future – concerns that I still have today.

There is an anti-science bias and a lack of hard innovation coming through that will fuel the next forty years of innovation.

The current outlook reminds me a bit of the film Interstellar where the lack of willingness to focus on anything but on our own small plot was killing humans as a species. The current political climate with regards to privacy and digital services indicates a Luddite and megalomaniac political tinge, where freedom is being sacrificed for the illusion of safety from extremism.

The only thing that actually offers that freedom is a better idea, not an Orwellesque vision of privacy.

About Ged Carroll

Ged currently works heading up digital services at Racepoint Global in London. He lives in the East End of London and spends a lot of time in Hong Kong. You’ll find him online @r_c and renaissance chambara.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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