Have you ever tried to take a millennial out? I have; I have two of them at home. You should try it sometime. They are like any other generation of kids you would have met, you’d think. And to a large extent, they are. They are still ambitious, bubbly, mostly happy and enamored with growing up.
But there is something that is very different from other generations, a quality you may discern if you are paying enough attention – they have seriously short attention spans. Nothing holds their attention for more than a few minutes. They do not play outdoors all that much. For one, the suburbs they increasingly live in have no real public spaces for them to play in, and they feel physical games hold only a one dimensional challenge.
And so they do other things. They play games like the worlds they are conquering in them are real, they learn to code and start making stuff even before college, they create and share art on the dozens of social networks that they are on. Their world only exists in the here and now. It really has no use for a long delve into the past, or a sharp, thoughtful look into the future.
The themes and pop culture of the times reflects this transition and focus on the present. This isn’t a ‘trend’, if I may use that word. This is how the current generation chooses to live, and what has happened is a self-fulfilling loop of sorts; the whole world is falling in to the ‘here and now’ template.
And so is the technology.
Let’s start with the biggest of them all. Google, for all the startups it buys, closes down or integrates with its ecosystem, is still first and foremost a search engine. And it delivers results, ads as well as suggestions in real time. There is really no association with the past. Its biggest and most important offering, AdWords, runs exclusively on being able to beam ads at people exactly when they want it, and not a second later.
The platform that defines this generation and its relationships, Facebook, is again a network that focuses on the here and now. Facebookers do not really care about what happened before this moment or that incident. It is forever harping on what is happening now, or as the status bar asks you, “What’s on your mind?” Facebook is easily the network that defines this generation, and the fact that no one is interested in scrolling too much down into the past is a big insight into how young minds work these days.
Instagram, the photo sharing app that became the tech entrepreneurship story of this century, is a platform that we older people just don’t get. What it does is apply a few filters on a perfectly good photograph and share it with other people who are doing the same. What I didn’t get then, and a lot of people still don’t get, is that Instagram isn’t just about the photographs themselves. It’s about the answer to the question of where and when the photograph was taken as well, the answer to which is here and now! The people who are sharing are not just sharing pictures, they are sharing stories, albeit stories that are going now now.
The quite aptly named online shopping behemoth Amazon has to its name a quite brilliant innovation, what is referred to as one-click shopping. It’s a way of ensuring that customer simply do not have the time to think before buying anything, which is disguised as an innovation that helps the customer, because otherwise it’d be rejected immediately. And again, Amazon was able to sell it to customers because they could tell the story of the ‘here and now’. And it worked, because this is the narrative this generation is familiar with.
Perhaps the best example to explain this would be Twitter. The microblogging platform, responsible for spawning whole revolutions on the strength of 140 characters, is the perfect ‘platform of the present’. Twitter thrives on what is going on right now in different parts of the world, and aggregates the ‘in’ stuff in real time with its hashtags and live searches. And it does this so well that it has perfected the art of delivering information about the present to almost an art form. And with the absolute prevalence of Twitter among the more affluent, educated youth, the platform has become something that can measure ‘sentiment’, almost, and reading that sentiment only proves the point I’ve been making – the ‘now’ is what matters these days, and nothing else.
I chose to shine the spotlight on the above networks, platforms and media properties precisely because they are the most successful and popular. I could actually go on – there’s FourSquare, Tumblr, Whatsapp and its even more rooted-in-the-present cousin Snapchat, all of whom take the concept of the now to a totally new level.
This climate of instant gratification has initiated a feedback loop of sorts. These technology platforms and social networks channel user behavior, and in doing so, strengthen the pattern themselves. Society has taken these cues and what has happened is that no one is actually ready to wait for anything in technology at all. Since everyone around them is getting everything immediately, people looking for services are convinced that they will get products and services instantly as well. The proliferation of SaaS apps hosted on the cloud may also be called up as an example of this self same phenomenon. Good technology is defined these days by its simplicity and its propensity to be used immediately, that is, ‘now’.
This understanding of the bigger picture in technology was one of the reasons iYogi was able to establish itself as a leader in the technology services platform. We are, in our truest sense, a tech support company, and remote support is but a natural extension of what has been happening to consumer technology. I thought that giving customers support in the here and now was more important that anything else, for example, over sending a support guy over to take care of things in-person. And that is how iYogi’s service delivery was conceptualized; once we had built the platform, we found that customers wanted exactly that, and the journey began from there.
And we evolved with the demands of the market. The technologies we had to support changed, and they changed pretty fast. We not only had to keep track of the changes, we had to be ahead of them to be able to deliver world class support continually. There really couldn’t be a time to regroup or relearn things. There was no time, obviously. There only was the here, and the now.
The nature of the support we delivered changed as well. The services we now increasingly provided shifted from being repair and patch up jobs to usability and compatibility issues. People now have a plethora of devices in their jacket pockets and in their bags – and they need help figuring out how they work, and how they can be made to work with each other. The age of the PC has ended; the age we are entering has already been branded the Post PC world. And what’s more, it’s not just usability issues in devices that are bothering people. With web/mobile apps that this generation can’t live without, any accessibility issues are the bane of a young person’s life. iYogi has been able to keep up with all of these and more only because we were able to identify what was happening a bit early, and because we chose to act on it.
We are still acting on it.
(Vishal Dhar, is the President Marketing and Co-founder, iYogi – a global remote tech support firm, based out of Gurgaon.)
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