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Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Tracey Holden-Quinn has developed and written content for communications plans and websites, social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter, and blogs. She is experienced with conducting needs analysis, establishing goals, recommending and scheduling tactics and strategies, and evaluating results.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Danger of Making Predictions

The Internet? Bah! Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana – Feb. 27, 1995 article in Newsweek by Clifford Stoll

I don’t make predictions.

The other day I was asked how I “imagined” the field of social media changing in the future. Imagined? Did they mean conjure up, presume and prognosticate? Could I claim that my imaginings came to me by divine intervention? There are always problems when making predictions. However, predicting or imagining the future of social media presents a unique set of problems.

Problem #1 - It is next to impossible to make predictions in the face of civilized anarchy. The internet and social media is a wild-west with hardly any rules, policies, common etiquette, legal precedents, or universally accepted paradigms. Some argue this lawlessness is the very nature of social media and any attempt at regulation will lead to its’ mortality. Under these circumstances I cannot predict what will happen in the future. I will however recommend two things. Be nimble. Be quick.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.

Problem #2: It is one thing to predict how the nuts and bolts of technology may change, but it is another thing entirely to predict the change in human nature. Even those who make a living from attempting to make sense of current social media trends while also staying on top of emerging trends find the pace of change staggering. The exponential growth of technology is not only changing how we communicate, but is also directly connected to social change. Did anyone foresee or predict the recent revolutionary change in Egypt and surrounding countries that happened seemingly overnight?

The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

Problem #3: In social media there is no harbinger of change. Often, predictions are based on previous patterns, business models, and statistical likelihoods. People are able to extract patterns and use that information to make accurate predictions. Even a few years ago it was possible to predict what would happen with technology within two to three years. There were always signs. There were always warnings. There were precedents. Now with technology being driven by both users and software, it is impossible to predict what we might be using and also doing just two years from now.

I do believe I just made a prediction.

“We will never make a 32 bit operating system.” — Bill Gates

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