Getting Physical

JRP Reflecting

Reflection – written December 10, 1997

I often get asked whether the Internet as a new medium will reduce people’s desire to get together in person or whether people will just sit in front of their Internet connection and never go anywhere. I don’t think so. Here follows a few examples. ThirdAge (http://www.thirdage.com/) founder and CEO Mary Furlong told me that this “senior” community site has now been in part responsible for 14 marriages. I stopped by ThirdAge and met with Mary and her management team. She took me for a tour of the Multimedia Gulch in downtown San Francisco. New Media companies abuzz with activity. Bicycles in the lobby of the second floor. Computers on saw horses with wooden doors as a desktop. We had a small roundtable to talk about the future of the Internet and new media. We also watched a video tape which profiled some “seniors” and their activities.
I recently learned about a Web site built by a group of students at Sachem High School in East Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. They learned about my Web site and sent me an email. We had a few exchanges and then the students asked if they could visit IBM . A few weeks later a yellow school bus pulled up in front of our Advanced Internet Technology laboratory in Southbury, Connecticut with a few teachers and a group of a dozen students who call themselves the Web Slingers. We had a wonderful afternoon getting to know these great kids, showing them through our lab, giving them demos of technology we are working on. Their eyes were as big as saucers when they saw our SP2 supercomputer Web servers. We were excited too about their enthusiasm, their questions, their knowledge. Could all this be duplicated on the Web? I don’t think so.
A few weeks ago I got a new home gym (you can see a picture and related things on my Running page and decided I needed some wall pictures to help me learn the position of some of the exercises. I searched around the Web using Dogpile and found a tremendous amount of information but not the pictures I was hoping for. I left a posting at one Web site and quickly got a suggestion to visit another site. I visited that site and learned about another. I was getting warmer. The trail led me to the Global Health and Fitness site. Bingo. Pictures of exercises; video too. I posted a message and within the hour I got a reply from the proprietor of the site, Chad Tackett. Chad told me all about the offerings of the site, suggested exactly how to get the pictures I was looking for, and encouraged me to subscribe to the Global Health and Fitness program for $49 per year. I exchanged several emails with Chad; asking questions, getting fast answers. He said that as a member I could email a question at any time and get a reply. I checked out his curriculum vita and looked around the site a bit. I was quite impressed and subscribed. Then I noticed on one of Chad’s emails that he was based in Portland, Oregon. Turned out I was going to be in Portland the following Monday to visit an IBM customer so I asked if I could perhaps stop by and meet Chad. I had already gained respect for him and it occurred to me that putting the name and the face together would be a good idea. Chad said that not only could I stop by but that he would give me a workout at the real gym he owns in Portland. He further offered to develop a custom exercise program for me that I could then take back and use with my new home gym. After a full day on Monday I got a ride to Loprinzi’s Gym in Portland. It has been there for 50 years. I hadn’t been in a gym for many years and it was a colorful, real as it gets, experience. I changed into gym shorts and had an exhilarating hour of learning exercises tailored to my goals. I put pictures of Chad and Loprinzi’s Gym in my photo gallery.
I changed back into business clothes and rushed off for a flight to San Francisco to give a keynote speech the next morning at the Technologic Partners Personal Technology conference. Before my talk I got to meet Eric Savitz from Barron’s Magazine and after my talk I ran into met Sam Perry from Reuters. Putting their stories together with faces, gestures, and a short conversation makes the subsequent stories more meaningful. From there to Project World in Santa Clara to give a speech. Hearing the 500+ person audience laugh at some of my humor and having an engaging Q&A session with them is a hard to beat experience. After the talk a woman I had met years earlier in Moscow came up to say hello.
All this in one week and it is only half over! Will the Web eliminate “in person” interactions? I don’t know anybody who loves the Web more than I do but, no, I don’t think people will give up on meeting in person as a result of the new medium. There is too much that would be missed.