Things That Will, And Things That Will Not, Change

I want to refer back to a post Julie wrote a couple of months ago about writing in SEO. I’ve struggled with this a lot recently, because sometimes it’s just torturous to come up with something new. I get to work at about eight-forty-five every morning and leave sometime before six, and I do SEO all day. Sometimes I do extra things when I get home too, but there is often just nothing noteworthy to say about it. I fix mashed up redirects. I figure out who should link to what from where. I do things that interest me, but do you really want me to write blog posts about the merits of dropping IIS servers off of cliffs? Well maybe that wouldn’t be a bad post. But I, too, get “so bored with the SEO.”

It’s not a boring job, but it’s boring to watch people justify their constant stream of blog posts about it. The situation is even worse when you get into social media blogging. In total honesty, I want to read and write more posts like this, composed in a fit of genius by my coworker Rebecca. I am so bored with the endless rattling about things that don’t matter: If a blogger has nothing important to say, at least do something funny. Please don’t compose another trail of drivel about corporate social media efforts. Even when I don’t read them, I know they exist, just like I know Sarah Palin exists even though she’s not going to be Vice President. (Can I get a hell yeah? Ahem. Excuse me.)

In that vein, I’m not going to write about SEO. I’m going to pretend that this is a more generic technology blog (which it often is, really). People often write lists of predictions for the new year, and this fits into much the same genre. Technology of all types, but especially of the Internet related variety, has changed my life in astonishing ways in the last two and a half years. Here are more things I see changing soon, and some things I don’t see ever changing.

  1. The end of text messaging. I pay way too much for an SMS plan that I don’t use. Nearly everyone who I want to contact in a moblie environment has a telephone that supports an email client. Most of them also carry Facebook and Twitter with them wherever they go. Why do I pay for a text messaging plan on my phone when I also have a data plan? The only solution for SMS plans’ survival is that they become incredibly cheap or free. As more “normal people” adopt BlackBerries, iPhones and other incarnations of walking laptops, more of us will realise that expensive texting plans are a ripoff.The only person who will suffer here is my Dad. He has email on his telephone but can’t use it. I still receive punctuation-free texts from Dad at seven in the morning on Saturdays. This will never change.
  2. The end of small plastic cards. I am old enough to remember when New Zealand switched from large, paper drivers’ licenses to plastic cards, and I assume I’ll also see such cards start to disappear. I also remember when my parents stopped using cheques and started paying with plastic. Given the right technology and security, we could put an end to this…

    … and introduce the era of this.

    I see no reason why this is a crazy idea. The technology that’s already gone into iPhones’ touchscreens allows them to do some pretty incredible things. My dear old BlackBerry Curve has a little way to go before it’s capable of paying for my shopping, but I can certainly see it happening in the relatively near future.

  3. The complete and utter death of offline yellow pages. Forever. Gone. Out. Good-freakin-bye. They delivered copies of the yellow pages to my area yesterday. I came home and there was one outside the front door. In the past, they’d just leave them out by the street, near the letterboxes, and expect us to pick them up. No one ever did, so now they’ve taken to placing them on our doorsteps so that we have to at least move them before we can get inside. I begrudgingly brought mine in. Here is what it’s doing right now. It will do this until I take it to the rubbish bin.

    Can we please admit, finally, that the phone book should die? I’ll get people in comments who’ll say, “but I still use it!” Seriously: get a telephone that knows how to work teh Googles and save all all that paper. I guarantee that I can find something faster and more reliably on my laptop or mobile phone than I can in this massive book. Although people have been predicting this for years, the fact that they felt the need to drop the books on our doorsteps this year confirmed to me that offline yellow pages are suffering badly.

  4. The reintroduction of professional journalism.
    I say this as someone who contributes to multiple blogs and who spoke on a blogging panel a month ago at Pubcon in Las Vegas: I dislike blogging. I don’t like the word. The term “blogger” usually elicits emotions of disdain from me. There are too many hacks out there who publish crap. Additionally, I’m not the only person who feels like this. As more people take up the cause of writing about their fantastically boring lives, many people will react by embracing writing as a profession again.Writers will once more need some sort of credentials in order to be taken seriously. I don’t mean that they’ll need degrees. However, they’ll need some talent with language and knowledge of their field. Quality newspapers don’t hire people to write their technology articles who are borderline-illiterate and who don’t actually do any technological work. The idiot-blogger celebrity phenomena will go the way of the yellow pages.
  5. Appliances and gadgets that are Internet-capable. Why can’t I upload photographs directly from my digital camera to Flickr? I can do that from my mobile phone, and I have to imagine that cameras with degrees of Internet capability already exist. However, I should be able to select photographs on my camera and send them directly to a Flickr account. I could be logged into a Facebook account, probably via an application similar to the one on my telephone, and create new albums on that site as well. This completely cuts out the “middle man” of my computer.Although they’re hellishly expensive, some appliances like this already exist. A Seattle coffee shop near the old SEOmoz offices had a coffee machine that “talked” to its fellow coffee machines in order to determine the optimal temperature and amount of water needed to make the best cup of coffee. It was sort of ridiculous, but a sign of future normalcy at the same time.Unnecessary, irrelevant applications and appliances will make their way onto the market, but it’ll be the small, sensible changes that make a big difference. Cameras that upload straight to the Internet aren’t revolutionary, but they’re logical and useful.

And now for things that will never change:

  1. Search engines will never be defunct…… although I’m willing to admit that they may one day be very different. This said, the idea that vertical search and social media will completely take over from generic online search doesn’t seem quite right, at least not for a long time. Just now, I saw somebody I follow on Twitter ask a question that she could have “Googled.” She received an answer. However, we often overlook the fact that Google would have answered that question as well. What social media is good for are questions that people can answer quickly, and the additional information that they can provide. It still stands that traditional search will win when nobody knows the answer or is around to provide it. And holy shit, I included something about SEO in this post.
  2. Retail stores will still bring in customers. I’d file my fingernails online if it were possible, but I still don’t fully embrace online shopping. The main reason for this is that I like to try things on and I hate sending things back. Therefore, if I’m going to buy clothes, I want to buy them at the store. There will always be people like me who like offline shopping.Additionally, I’m never going to buy something really important online, like a car. I want to take a look at something that expensive and important before I buy it. I’m sure people have bought and rented property online before, which is an awful idea unless geography truly prevents the person from visiting the location.
  3. Geography will never cease to exist.
    It makes no difference that, in looking at my Twitter feed or Facebook home page or Gtalk IM client, I can talk to people in Australia, Florida, Auckland, Washington DC, London, Seattle, California, Texas and North Carolina. The Internet doesn’t make up for the fact that I am not there with them.
    I have a couple of friends whom I talk to daily. We joke that when we’re not face to face, we live in each other’s computers, but it doesn’t work like that. Nothing makes up for being sat in front of someone–no amount of video chat, Twitter, email or anything else. We’ve liberalised communication to the extent that I can contact someone in France as easily as my next door neighbour, but until we can email ourselves somewhere, geography still wins. I’ll still buy aeroplane tickets. We’ll still miss people with whom we have a constant line of communication, and we’ll never completely close the gaps physical distance creates.

And that’s about where I stand on these few random technology-related subjects. I won’t buy online, but I’ll pretend as hard as I can–and in vain– that my far-away friends are actually here. I’ll contradict the fact that I write blog posts with the statement that blogging usually falls in between boring and asinine. And, all the while, I wait for the day when my coffee machine knows how to make a better drink than I do.

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23 Responses to “Things That Will, And Things That Will Not, Change”

  1. Teifion says:

    Firstly I think, nay I demand/humbly request (delete as appropriate), that you next post be a list of the merits of dropping IIS servers off cliffs ;)

    I wasn’t even aware they did the yellow pages any more, I watched the Terminator the other day and it made me chuckle to see Arnie using a phone book. I am however not so sure that I’d agree with you on the subject of professional journalism, I think that’ll go whichever way makes the most money.

    I tried to find some things to really disagree about in your post but I couldn’t, I think you need to write a more controversial post after you write about dropping IIS servers off cliffs ;) .

  2. Tony Spencer says:

    Yellow pages piss me off. Bastards drop 4 HUGE books on my office doorstep each year and I promptly drop them in the recycling bin at home which I’m sure most do these days. I’ve wasted so much time calling to try to stop them and its futile.

    Having said that, I also don’t expect to see Oyster card on mobile anytime soon unfortunately.

  3. Ciaran says:

    I’m with you on the search engines and journalist ones (I’ve had to hold off leaving my real thoughts on so many posts about how the tragedy in Mumbai and the fact that a couple of people on Twitter mentioned it means CNN is about to go bust – errr, no).

    Not sure about the plastic card or text ones though. Oyster are now actually merging their service with credit cards, whilst texts just seem to be part of life here in the UK, especially as a lot of price plans here allow almost unlimited texts.

    Anyway, enough of this crap, please write something about 10 ways to use Twitter to build your newspaper delivery business.

  4. Hey Jane, great predictions and I too think the Yellow Pages should be put to an end once and for all.

  5. I suspect the phone books will stop when companies quit paying for the ads in the yellow pages. Much like newspapers, I suspect its the ads that pay the bills. I can’t imagine the phone company printing a directory at a loss (unless mandated by law).

    As to the text messaging, I would vote for that as well. Now that I’m test driving an iPhone I have email and IM so I don’t really see a point in texting (which is just another nickle-and-dime-you-to-death scheme of the carriers).

  6. Dawn Wentzell says:

    The last time I used a paper phonebook, I was at a campground in rural PEI, where I couldn’t get a signal on my cell phone and needed to call a taxi (that was also the last time I used a pay phone, too).

    I too wish they would stop dropping those huge wastes of paper on my doorstep every year. I also wish companies would stop using their yellow pages ad budget as a reason *not* to get a website (“Well, our marketing budget is taken up by the yellow pages, we just can’t afford to get a website right now”). *sigh*

  7. while I do not have a server ( yet *thinking positively*) I would love to drop kick a few things off a cliff, or over the side of a mountain … which ever.
    Yellowpages – make great door stops but would make much better forests….. lets have them stop.

  8. CJ says:

    I loved this post.

    Yellow pages must be terminated. I agree with you for everything else as well.

    cj :)

  9. Sharp post Jane! The one thing we can count on that things WILL change. Exciting times and hopeful, creative ones for those who with a fighting spirit :)

  10. How many small businesses get SEO? Get quality web design? Ah yes. Hence, the yellow pages. Even with local portals buying/scraping YP data and publishing it online, there’s still an abundance of verticals where online search doesn’t work properly yet.

    Contrariness for the sake of being contrarian aside (sorry, it’s snowing and feels kinda crummy), I found this pretty entertaining :) .

  11. Lauren says:

    Great post Jane! I hope you are right and the trend of celebrity bloggers’ disappears and we reintroduce real journalism to the web

  12. Tom says:

    Great post :-)

    The phone as a replacement for all your cards is already a reality in Japan and Germany. I expect we’ll see it start to enter the mainstream in the UK late 2009. Also – wtf why do the yellow pages still exist?

  13. Dr. Pete says:

    Unfortunately, 1-4 still exist because they make someone money. Phone companies are raking in profits on overpriced SMS and still have advertisers for yellow pages, small plastic cards make the Visa/MasterCard cartel billions, and low-quality, opportunistic journalism works great for Fox News and Rupert Murdoch. These things are going to die a very slow death, unless we consumers wake up and demand something better.

    On a completely different topic, I totally agree on the blogger fatigue. While I was working on an e-book last month, I took about a month away from the blog, and it honestly felt great. I’m thinking about reducing my relatively conservative 1x/week schedule to 1x/2 weeks. Sure, it’ll slow my subscriber count a little (maybe), but I’d rather write when I have something to say, not just churn out content.

  14. Kimber Cook says:

    i wrote a long rant a while back (name link) about finding local businesses online. i mentioned yellow pages and called them antiques. someone quickly commented to their defense:

    “Those books which you say you are “Antiques” actually got referenced over 13 billion times last year. And that’s just the print versions. 87% of all adults reference them at least once a year, 70% in a typical month, and 50+% on average month. How about on average 1.4X each week? ”

    and then went on the explain how they do not cut down any trees to produce the books. i didn’t bother checking the facts but find those stats hard to believe since i know no one who keeps those books.

    anyway, great predictions jane!

  15. LOL about the Yellow Pages. I’m sure they are cursing the day that the internet was ever invented! ;)

  16. Justin Parks says:

    Points 1 trhough 5 are totally spot on and I look forward to the day when its a fact.

    The other points are certainly interesting. Social media may become much more prominent soon but I think Search Engines will adapt or integrate rather than fall by the wayside.

    Retail stores and buying things in person, again spot on. Its important ot be able to interact with alot of the things that we want and clothes is a perfect example. How good it might look on screen only to find that its horrendous when you get it and then send it back, something that is easily avoided by “real” shopping. Being Irish, I also cant imagine the pub ever becoming obselete or ever becoming feasible online (that buy someone a drink thing on facebook is a serious pet hate of mine).

    And the Geography? Well thats the pub example again isnt it? Love to be in touch but theres nothing like being together.

    Great read.

  17. Jane Copland says:

    Thank you guys so much for these awesome comments! You all bring some great thoughts to this. One that’s stuck with me is Pete’s: your blogging schedule thoughts are definitely along my lines of thinking too. I usually write once per week at SEOmoz.org (on a Wednesday, if you’ve been paying attention :P ), but it’s hard to think of something insightful to say every week. Like I said, as much as I love what I do and enjoy writing, there isn’t always something to say about it that makes for an interesting read. This is especially true when you’ve been writing about it every week for over two years.

    I can’t imagine being asked to write about SEO every day.

    I’ll likely investigate some other genre options… I mean, if I could put out something like Rebecca’s “10 clients” post or mine and Rand’s “Google Onebox” post every week, as unhelpful as they are, I’d be delighted!

  18. Alyssa says:

    Good info. I can only hope that professional journalism makes a come back as opposed to where we’re headed -> part-time opinionism. Investigative reporting, in-depth analysis and fact checking are important.

  19. dave says:

    yes have to agree with all thats been said about yellow pages we have down graded from half page colour to half page mono saving £2000,……we get very little business from yellow pages and are lucky if it breaks even.yes also have to agree that the web the right way forward. ps did work years ago !!!!!

  20. Geoff says:

    Text Messaging will never be defunct. It is a way to communicate in short bursts. I am a techie and i have a data plan but alot of people dont want to shell out the 40 bucks for one so that is far away in my opinion not to mention that even if you use push for email it can take up so much battery it may not be worth it.

  21. I cannot agree, that we will see the end of plastic cards very soon. Always remember that not everyone is a geek and even most geeks would not want to be depended on their iPhone whenever they have to pay for a coke.

  22. In Berlin you can pay for stuff via your phones and same in Korea. Problem isn’t that it can’t be done but that it’s not secure and if you lose your phone you lost everything!

    They trialling oyster cards on phones in London at the moment but people found with the merged oyster/barclaycard that if they got their wallet stolen, they lost both means to travel and mean to buy new travel, – potentially leading to loss of earning capability to pay off said credit card :)

  23. Tunç says:

    “It will do this until I take it to the rubbish bin. ”

    You mean “recycle bin???” :)

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