Thursday, November 11, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Do new technologies bar us from consulting IRL experts?

I use several pictures on my online profiles, but the one that I use most often is derived from a trip that I took to Boston, Massachusetts in July 2006.

This was taken during my visit to the bar that was the inspiration for a television show in the last millennium called "Cheers." It featured several characters, among whom was one named Cliff, a fount of all knowledge whose knowledge was sometimes unreliable. In other words, Cliff was like today's Internet.

Actually, there are some more reliable sources on the Internet, and sometimes when I need some information I'll consult them.

When I was younger, there was no Internet. (Or there was an Internet, but I was not a defense researcher with access to the Internet.) In those days, I'd have to go to our bookcase and check our encyclopedia, or perhaps I might have to get in a car and go to the library.

Or I might ask somebody.

Even today, we ask people things all the time. If I'm in a store and I want to know where the bathroom is, I don't go to Google Maps and requested a really-zoomed-in view of the location where I am. Later, if I can't find a price for an item in the store, I don't go to the store's website and look up the item.

But we don't always ask people things directly. Before I went to France, I went to Google Maps and looked up some restaurants within walking distance of my hotel. This was partly due to the language barrier - I don't know the French equivalent of "Can you tell me where to find a restaurant that is near my hotel and that takes American credit cards without a chip?" - but I've done the same thing when traveling to places like Texas, which (at least theoretically) speak the same language that I do.

I faced this issue directly at work this morning. I needed to know the name of a particular standards document that is not that well-known. I could either look it up on the Internet, realizing that it might be difficult to find, or I could go to the other side of the building and ask a guy who was familiar with the standard.

In the end, I chose the latter.

P.S. No, I didn't record the walk in RunKeeper.

P.P.S. My co-worker's name wasn't Cliff. His name was Norm. (But he doesn't sit around on a barstool and drink all day.)
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