Becoming Professional: A Blog

Posts Tagged ‘skype


people talking

Original by David Boyle on Flickr

What good is technology? Why do we love it and use it? What motivates us to use the new gadgets and websites that come our way?

I may earn the title of Captain Obvious for saying this, but humans are social creatures. We like to talk to each other and compare notes. We compare ourselves to each other and show off. That’s the basic thought at the root of gamification’s leaderboards. I know that whenever I check into foursquare I like to see how I am doing in relation to certain friends in particular.

A woman holding her blackberry

By chellseeyy on Flickr

But it goes deeper than that. The products that are likely to stay with us are the ones that enable our communication. Those that are failing in other ways are surviving in some respects thanks to their ability to work with our social lives. Let’s take the Blackberry as an example. What do the urban youth love about the Blackberry? Is it e-mail? The Internet? The ability to open multiple applications at once? Nope. It’s BBM. Free texting mixed with social network style updates. RIM is even trying to extend their brand by capitalizing on this love for their messaging service. BBM is apparently coming to Android.

Let’s look at Facebook. Why do people stay on it even when many can go on for hours about how much they hate it? For this I’ll turn to one of my favorite YouTube songs: the Facebook Song by Lynnea Malley. One of the lines in the chorus says it all: “Facebook, oh it would be sublime if I could erase you without being disconnected from society.”

But is making it easier to connect with others the key to success in our new digital world? Not necessarily. Though tools and products that make it easier to communicate more naturally are coming into the market (dare I look to Google+ as one such example?), there are other factors to consider.

  • Network advantages certainly come into play. This basically means that as each new person joins a network the value of the network for all the members grows. This in turn makes it more appealing to join. It can be summed up by saying “All my friends are there, so that’s where I’ll be, too.” If all their friends weren’t on BBM, then the urban youth would not be using it.
  • Utility is also important. So what if we can communicate in a natural and organic manner if we can’t use it when we need to? I’m going to poke at Skype here. Though Skype mobile apps and Skype phones are now available, not everyone has one. I don’t. So rather than showing my mother the shoes I am thinking of buying while in the store and talking with her about them, I have to either take a photo and text, avoiding Skype entirely and using an unnatural communication method, or buy them and Skype chat at home where I can try to show the shoes to my mother using my not-so-great web cam. Of course, that’s a comment on the camera technology as well as Skype.
  • Branding and money can also play a part. How else did Google+ get millions of users in only a few months? Of course that doesn’t solve the problem. Money can only “lead the horse to water.” It can’t “make it drink.” Google+ now has to get all those people with accounts to use them.

So no, making it easier for us to communicate is not the only thing to think about when trying to think up new products for the market, as much as that feature is in demand. What other roadblocks can get in the way? Feel free to add some in the comments.


Two people (cartoons) with twitter and other icons in speach bubbles

by khalid Albaih on Flickr

Do you get the feeling that you don’t actually talk to people anymore? I do, sometimes. From conversations with family to chats with friends or coworkers, I tend to type my messages rather than just pick up a phone. Even when I’m not in front of a computer, I SMS, BBM, or type a straight up e-mail rather than call. All of those on my phone, of course, an item once thought of as a device to facilitate speech.

skype logo

by la cueva del escorpion on Flickr

I tell myself that I ping people before calling because I don’t want to interrupt them. After all, particularly at work, they are busily concentrating on other problems. But I also do this with my family. Though I live across an ocean from my brother, I can easily call him. He has a Skype phone. That said, I tend to text him, right within the Skype application. He’s not busy. I’m not terribly busy. We could talk. But we don’t. We text. Hell, I’ve done this with my brother when he was just sitting on the other side of the couch from me. Reason we gave? My mother was between us and it was just easier to type than lean forward. Even at the time I thought it was a lame excuse.

This goes on more than I like to admit. More than I like to think about, actually. Virtual interaction is, indeed, with real people. I firmly believe that people are people, even if I only know them by a Twitter handle, so my friendships with them are just as strong as with people I have met in real life in similar circumstance, say at a networking event.

shirt that says multitasking kills

by Daquella manera on Flickr

But what does it say about our culture that there are individuals who prefer to text or IM than use a free program like Skype that allows both voice and image? With a text only interaction, we can multi-task. When a person is in front of us, even as a video image via Skype, we have to pay attention or risk being rude. It means we can’t multi-task. We have to narrow our field of focus to the individual in front of us. Pay attention to someone else. People are now so used to multi-tasking that they are not ready and willing to devote the necessary attention to the person in front of them, or to welcome that kind of singular interaction. Yes, sometimes we’re working, but couldn’t we continue the work after the talk? Or answer the phone with a smile, explain the situation, and call back later? That’s what people used to do.

I don’t think that we are becoming only virtual. People still like to go out together, do things together. That’s why they’ll download music illegally but pay a premium to go out to a concert with friends. But the fact that when we have the option and opportunity to go for a face-to-face interaction we opt for text is a bit worrying.

What is your experience?


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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