Computers have never put anyone out of work!
I got my first job using a computer before I could use one! I had been given a massive job calculating a correlation matrix for 500 or so people on 35 variables and I had 6 weeks to do it.
I didn’t fancy spending my summer doing clerical work, so I took a week’s course in programming, barely understood a word, talked my way into the University’s computer centre, found a programme, and finished the job in 3 weeks instead of the 6 weeks allotted. Two of those weeks were spent looking for a comma, though I didn’t know that then.
The last three weeks of my 6 week job were spent teaching at the Institute of Personnel Management, administering psychological tests to select junior bankers, and writing up the manual for a set of tests.
Herein, I learned three important lessons about IT
#1 Computers really can cut out the drudgery of office work. Think how nice it is to cut cutting out 90% of the time you spend on paperwork.
#2 When you don’t know what to do, ask. Often the problem is something trivial that is obvious to someone who has done a similar job before
#3 Computers have never put any one out of work.
But will social media or web2.0 put people out of work?
The troubles of newspapers in today’s world has led me to wonder if it is still true that computers have never put anyone out of work. We hear of newspapers shutting because of competition from bloggers and Twitter.
Is it possible that web 2.0 will put people out of work where web 1.0 didn’t?
After some thinking and scouting around, my best guess is no. Work will change and some newspaper owners may not achieve ‘rents’ they achieved in the past. But the work is still there.
Big institutions need to manage an institutional voice
Today I looked at the NZ Labour Party blog and really, they could do with some professional journalists on their staff.
What does it mean to be authentic when you represent an institution
I know we all want an authentic voice on web2.0. I love it that Paulo Coelho is on Twitter and has real interviews every night.
A NZ Labour Party blog though, represents an institution. There is nothing wrong with MP’s dictating their blog post, or drafting it, and sending it to an editorial team who sub it and check it for coherence (dotting the i’s and making sure it toes the party line).
That’s what Obama does with his speech writers. He is in control and they work on replicating his voice.
In a political party, the MP’s would initiate content and the sub’s would tidy it up using the MP’s voice.
Because the Labour Party is a team, an editorial team would also check whether posts support or contradict each other, extract emerging teams and even hold up a mirror to MP’s about what they are saying and how it might be perceived by their audience.
There is nothing wrong with a service like this running in the background. It is no different from teaching people to write and edit, or, taking a degree in politics and history.
After all political voices aren’t ‘born’. They don’t come ready-made. They are cultured. And we join political parties to work together on something we find important.
Social media creates better work for us all
So no, I don’t think social media puts people out of work. Social media allows us to work together and accomplish more than we did before.
Social media will not put journalists out of work. It will generate more opportunity for them.
And it may generate better work, in new career tracks, with more opportunity to influence the world. Lucky them to lose old ways and find new.