I used to give a lot of talks to Japanese audiences, but have recently been spending more time speaking overseas and writing on my blog. Kenta in my office suggested that I accept the occasional talk in Japan to keep in touch with the Japanese audience. I accepted a talk at the Japan Information Technology Services Industry Association (JISA) annual conference. As I was preparing my presentation yesterday, I tried to imagine my audience and I realized that I had "lost it". It was almost impossible for me to imagine what they wanted to hear, or what they would understand. They had allotted me 70 minutes and the last slot so I had plenty of time.

I tried to explain very clearly with examples where I thought things were going. I showed blogging, Technorati, Wikipedia, last.fm, Creative Commons and talked about the future of the music, telecom, and copyright. I could see a few people understood what I was talking about, but there were several hundred people who were politely attentive, but didn't seem to be smiling.

Later, at the party, one of the younger members told me that most of the people in the association still programmed on mainframe computers in COBOL and viewed the primary disruptive threat as low cost outsourcing to Asia. They didn't really use the Internet yet. Oops. I guess I missed my target. Sorry! That's what happens when I stick my head out of the echo chamber. I guess I should probably do it a bit more so I remind myself that social software is not really "here" yet. For some people, the Internet is barely here...

11 Comments

YES! We call this a reality check, you call it sticking your head outside of the echo chamber. It is a sobering experience, a learning opportunity, and it is encouragement to go on. Look how much work you have to do in order to pass on the good news!

i have found this many times in that last few months, having an internet account does not equal online life. my mother uses the internet only to get her emails and there are many others like her.

also dont forget aol, the worlds largest online service, they feed people what they want to feed, not what is truly out there. most people are happy to be passive consumers instead of active consumers.

back in the late 80's with the whole cyberpunk movement it was all about information being power, turns out they will be right, not because iunformation is not there for the taking, just because people are not interested in taking!

COBOL! WOW. Thought that was dead! ;-)

It's strange how easily your view of reality is skewed, especially online. I would've done the same, made the same presumption.

It reminds me of a quote from someone recently who had switched his office from Internet Explorer to Firefox. He said that when he did he knew he'd get calls asking: "Where did the Internet go?" as many people associated, and thought, the internet with the IE logo.

Going back to basics is always good though, helps you remember where you started and how far you've come.

It Sounds like this organization has well-defined priorities which are outside your normal field, and yet they asked you to speak, so someone there thinks you have something to say that could be useful.
Perhaps there should have been a bit more communication on why they wanted you there in the first place.

According to the website you pointed to, their main activities have to deal with computer viruses, open source, VOIP, RFID, web services, privacy and intellectual property protection.

Hmm...sounds right up your alley. Maybe there's one echo chamber for the members and one echo chamber for the guys that write the website.

From their English Main Activities page, first paragraph:
"Open source software and offshore outsourcing are also regarded as significant challenges that need thorough examination and consideration."

This is similar to what the guy told you.

Later on down I see a reference to "ubiquitous computing", which I believe is a phrase coined by Dr. Sakamura for the TRON project. A potential political mess there that I wouldn't touch...

And it goes on. So reading the whole page, it looks like they're superficially in the same universe so they can use the same buzzwords, but are taking a different approach.

Speaking of sticking your head out of the echo chamber, I would like to point out that AOL's software includes 3 things that directly contradict Gérard's claim about AOL.

One, a big fat widget running right across the top of the "AOL browser" that allows people to type in URL's. And it works!

Two, a facility for remembering your favorite URL's.

Three, once the connection has been made, you can start a different browser and use it.

So much for AOL="walled garden".


If you look at the list of officers, you see people from Japan's big name Systems Integrators. Argo 21, NEC Soft, NTT Data, CRC, Etc....The organization profile says they control 50% of Japan's IT market. And they do not use the Internet?

I do not think this kind of organization exists to promote open source software or social software. If anything, they represent the opposite, Proprietary Software, closed licenses, big companies. This is a really old school organization, the kind the squishes small and creative IT companies in Japan. I would not do a speech in front of these people for any amount of money.

Let me rephrase what the guy said. The don't use Internet in their solutions. I think he was probably generalizing though. I'm sure they use Internet for their work.

Most Japanese banks still run on big mainframes and I think globally, most of the world's financial data is on proprietary networks in funky databases. My point is that that people who work on big back end system and legacy systems probably don't know what a blog or a wiki is, much less perl. Also, the people attending were mostly CEOs who were probably doing development during the who millenium crisis... which was all about digging into old COBOL code...

I'm glad you had a chance to see what people working in the "real world" of IT are up to. Somehow you have some money moving in that space and I hope you dont loose that money, but personally I dont ever see any of that stuff ever being more than a niche market at best in terms of creating jobs which allow people to feed themselves or their families.

I can see the usefullness of some of that software, but most folks are not even going to remember all the strange names, most of which either dont work well in katakana or depend on cultural references which just dont exist here.

Wherever we work, its good to get outside of our field every now and then and see what other folks are interested in.

I see. A wiki is a great project management tool, even for old school companies. ;)

Maybe you can suggest that JISA put a blog on their web site and appoint a moderator?!?

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