A few weeks ago I read with interest the post “Is WordPress A Thankless Community?” and my immediate reaction was “probably so, but no more than any other.” Then I lamented my cynicism and remembered my own hypocrisy. It wasn’t a good day.
I promise this isn’t going to be a “kids these days!” post, but I do think there’s a generational aspect to all this. We read lists like Wired’s “100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About” and the annual Beloit College Mindset List that lists the “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college” for that year. At least I always read that list because I often teach freshmen and need to know how many of my jokes are going to fall flat that semester (answer: most of them).
But the point of bringing up age is to note that in the U.S at least (and this info is from a Pew study), Generation Y (18-32yo) is the largest group of adults online (30%), and somewhere around 90% of all people aged 12-24 are online. That 12-24yo group accounts for most of the activity in Web 2.0 and social networking spaces—using tools, creating blogs, customizing their internet experience. [alert! grand sweeping generalizations follow!] For those 12-24 year old users—a category which I should note that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fit into until a few months ago—this stuff has always been free, they don’t have the same sense of the history of the web and the developer ethos that some of us have, and the dot-com boom and bust pre-Web 2.0 is nothing but a Wikipedia article and certainly wasn’t something they lived through as working adults. This is the age of user generated content, consumer generated media, and crowdsourcing; remember that the 2006 Time person of the year was “You.”
So it comes as no surprise to me that “You” (or “Us”) sometimes forget—or maybe never realized—that the tools that enable us to do all those things online, customized the way that we want, are created by individuals.