John D. Sanders, Ph.D.,
"The Net is Killing Me"
As I mentioned in last month's article, to me the Information Superhighway is the most exciting development for entrepreneurs that has come along in the past couple of decades. And based upon Wall Street's reception for the stocks of companies providing Internet services, I'm certainly not alone in this prognostication. The future for all sorts of business ventures and uses related to data storage, transfer and analysis is more mind-boggling than any science fiction created.
However, some of my past articles have dealt with such titles as "Information as a Commodity," "Paper of Electronic," and Innovation Without Contact." The future is certainly not clear that this "gold rush" will make millionaires out of all the early entrepreneurs, or even that many of them will even survive. And, what about the rest of us that are users of "The Web" and riders on the information superhighway? Are we going to get so bogged down in the millions of home pages to come that we just give up with information overload and decide that "ignorance is truly blissful."
I used that analogy before about this being like the gold rush of the 1850's, where the miners got the promotion but in general the profits were made by those in support selling picks, shovels, booze and jeans. Now, I've had one of my employees discuss the Internet as being like the Oklahoma Land Rush where you had to be there early in the game to get any prime real estate. Yes, I responded, and look what it got those pioneers: arrows in their backs; worked their tails off to clear and protect the land; and even the successful ones died young from overwork and exhaustion. It was their great grandchildren who made any real money, and that was mostly because oil was found on their property (something that wasn't even a consideration in the early events). And don't forget, on the "Net" there will presumably be an infinite amount of real estate. Will "location, location, location" have a meaning?
So why is the Net killing me? There seems to be so much to do, and so little time to spend on it. Everyone's putting stuff on it; our publications have their home pages, indexed articles, "hot links" to advertisers, E-mail opportunities, and all the bells and whistles available. The telecom guys have ISDN, T-1 lines, and now BRI lines. Modem speeds are continually going up, like computer memory. There's never going to be enough, and my frustration level will increase with expectations.
However, the new guys coming along. They will "eat this stuff up," and love every minute of it. Exploring the Net will be a part of their job, a hobby, and/or a necessity of their daily lives. The standards for "user friendly" will continually evolve,just as operating systems have for computers, to accomodate the broadening of the user universe.
It's fun to be a part of the Net and to participate in its evolution. However, you're not going to get me married to it. I guess I will always like picking up the phone, getting the right guy on the line, describing the problem, and letting him send me what I need. Why do I have to do the work to learn all the tricks for efficient surfing on the Net? Let the young guys do it; I'm heading to the golf course.
By the way, the federal government and laboratories should take more credit in the success of the Internet. Dual-use never looked so good.
If you have comments, please contact me at Technology Transfer Business magazine: phone: 703-848-2800, ext. 151; fax: 703-848-2353; internet: firstname.lastname@example.org., or even "the Web": //www.seneca.com/ttbiz
prepared for the September, 1995 Issue of the Federal Laboratory Consortium NewsLink