#EarlyInternetMemories is trending on Twitter today to mark the 25th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s paper ‘Information Management: A Proposal’.
There is a lot of clever stuff being tweeted (and the usual spam) and it got me thinking about the early years and how it has evolved. My most striking memory is, after landing in London from Harare, I took a temporary sales job for a company that sold advertising into a gym chain. First day at work, I took out my laptop, hooked into their dial up network and started looking for leads online. I was immediately pulled up on this and told to stop wasting time as a copy of The Yellow Pages, then of large print biblical proportions, was thumped onto my desk.
Surely I was in London and they knew about this Internet stuff? Needless to say I did not stay at that job for very long.
It was an early introduction into how many companies can be reluctant to change, or grasp the fundamental benefits the World Wide Web brings. It is deeper than behavioural change as it addresses the way we think, search and make decisions. I have always seen the Internet as a tool, to be used with purpose. We loved seeing the light bulbs go off when we showed companies that through assigning profiles and permission based architecture then tagging content and workflows we could change the way they organise their teams and content over distances in real time. We take this all for granted now, but in those early years it was revolutionary.
Then, one of the larger barriers to entry was seen as the cost of technology. Of course there were a whole host of complexities hiding behind that, but once the decision to make that initial investment was taken, the hard part was done. From there on in, the task of getting buy in and creating the workflows, content and defining tasks were taken seriously due to the high investment costs of the project.
Today, costs are less of a barrier as technology has become more accessible. Smaller organisations are able to realise the benefits of having an online presence that works as a business tool versus online brochures or out of date sales sheets. However this has had its negative side as many of these small to medium organisations are failing to implement the new technologies correctly. You can no longer incorporate the costs of gaining an understanding of workflow needs, gaining work force buy in and defining tasks into the technology costs. The hardest part of our job is no longer the technology, but ensuring companies are creating the right content for their audiences, gathering the most appropriate images and embedding calls to action that enable and add value.
It is astounding how far we have come in 25 years. It is clear Tim Berners-Lee is responsible for radically changing the way we think, search, collaborate and make decisions. We have evolved from an information society to a knowledge society. Today the skills we need have shifted from retaining niche information to understanding how to find the information we are after and quickly be able to make sense of it and apply it. Whatever you may think, 25 years ago today was the start of a major shift in how we, as humans behave.