In Other News, I’m Old

Via Andrew Sullivan, I learn that Kids These Days are less likely to start blogging, and that the form is increasingly the purview of the ancients, they being defined as people over the age of 30.

This doesn’t surprise me terribly. For the vast majority of what people (not just teens, but teens also) used blogs for — quick updates on line to friends and family — Facebook and Twitter offer an easier, friendlier and therefore better solution than starting up a blog. If you’re starting out in social media, for most folks it makes sense to go there. Later, if you want the ability for customization and a format beyond 140-character tweets and status updates, you can always start a blog. But I suspect most people don’t need to get to that point, and certainly not most younger users of social media.

Also, you know. Blogs have been social media’s Last Year’s Model for a spell now; heck, they were Last Year’s Model when Friendster hit. And it’s certainly true that when I note that I’ve been blogging since 1998, certain younger folks get that look in their eye that says No! No one was even alive then! That’s when I hit them with the concept of “newsgroups.” Good times, good times.

86 thoughts on “In Other News, I’m Old

  1. Yes, but that was just because we had kill files for the substandard cranks and trolls; they had to work at it!

  2. I was all happy, Jay, and then you had to go and mention Fidonet. Thanks, bub.

    My kids don’t actually believe that we had to dial up a BBS using a phone modem. They put it in the same category as parental tales about hiking five miles in the snow uphill.

  3. re: “Facebook and Twitter” — from the full article, neither of those is popular among the “youngsters” either. For the Facebook side of things, does look like the trend is starting out with Myspace and then growing up and moving to Facebook. As far as Twitter, it’s become such a seething mass of corporate updates and spam that I can’t imagine even the most gullible high-schoolers would find it all that attractive …

  4. Aaah Dial up. How happy I am never return to THAT! I still remember getting grounded from the internet because I’d just spent an hour on it and thus my mother couldn’t call and make sure I was ok. Because, you know, we only had one phone line and no cell phones. The Horror!

  5. That’s okay, because the over 30 crowd are also the main group that buys things online. All the kids do is download music and the occasional t.v. show from iTunes, upload or share videos and photos on Facebook and YouTube, and get apps for their cellphones which they use for massive amounts of texting to each other, same as they did in the late 1990’s. The Internet is not really a marketplace for them; it’s a social networking system combined with an encyclopedia. It’s the grownups who use podcasts, online retailers, blogs, news and political news, Twitter and sites to jog their memories like IMDB. Almost everything on the Internet is old.

  6. I’m on the cusp (the hill?) at 30 and I see both ends of it. I’ve kept some kind of blog or journal online for ages, largely to have a headspace online with my name on it.

    Twitter is such a nice short, sharp shock, especially with twitpic and video capabilities. With an iPhone it’s just a delight to play with

    Facebook though, that’s a demon. Every time I’ve investigated it the negatives outweigh the positives by a country mile. I’m a believer that some people you stop talking to for a good reason and that reconnecting in some tangential “clicky” way is not going to end well. Add to that friends and friends of friends posting things that could be very embarrassing. Plus facebook’s rather hinky IP policies and data mining is just creepy.

    Ok, I’m old too.

  7. Wow. I just turned 30 six months ago. I was WONDERING why I was starting to fall apart. :)

    Heh. It doesn’t really concern me what the “kids are using”. I mean, I’m INTERESTED, and I want to keep up with it just so I don’t lose touch with change in the world….but kids don’t blog. So what? We do. And right now, those in my generation are taking over the world. We’re slowly but surely becoming the decision-makers and we’re going to run this place for a good long while. The kids can have their turn later. Right now, it’s all us. And I’m going to enjoy it! :)

  8. I really don’t want to get into how ancient the technology was when I was in my formative years (300 baud, with sockets to plug in handsets! Card readers! Magnetic tape!) I used to blog, but keeping up with the passwords and other hoops ascribed to each blog became tiresome. I settle for keeping up with other people’s blogs now. I tried to make a Facebook account, but they never sent me a password, so my account never activated. I couldn’t be bothered to chase it down, and now am not sure I would want to.

  9. Maybe it’s just a matter of Old Age (or even, shudder, Growing-Up), but I’ve been noticing, for several years, a general decline in hobby & special-interest groups that call for a longish attention-span, and involve work (if you’ll forgive the use of a four-letter word) & have a strong element of of excellence in order to achieve status. There used to be quite a lot of kids coming along to challenge (& eventually replace) the old-timers in knowledge & skill; now… they seem to be becoming rare.

  10. @13 KateH

    Ahh… “War Games” I remember watching that when I was eight and thinking that it was super-high tech.

    @9 Booewyrme

    I remember getting in trouble for yelling at my mom because she made a phone call and kicked me off-line.

  11. My first computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80. My second was a Commodore Vic-20 with a cassette tape drive for the memory. My mom wouldn’t let me dial into any message boards because it tied up the phone for way too long. (Even call-waiting was a newfangled luxury at that time…lol.) I just turned 40 a few months ago.

  12. The article does mention Twitter use being low among teens. I like Twitter myself, but it’s only worthwhile if you’ve got a bunch of interesting peers to follow (which fortunately I do; digital library folks are quite the twittery bunch), and follow selectively enough to avoid the many noisemakers. If your peers aren’t on Twitter, I’d imagine it’s a lot less appealing to join yourself.

    I’ve never found Facebook appealing to join, largely because of what I see as abuse of users’ rights and privacy expectations. But if there were a critical mass of peers there, it’d probably be a bigger draw. I do worry some about young folks tending to live within spaces that they can never really call their own, and at the same aren’t overseen by people who have their best interests in mind.

  13. Fidonet. Opusnet.

    You had a 2400 baud modem to start? Try 300 baud — and lucky to have that!

    I remember when upper/lower case were hardware options.

    And 8″ floppy drives.

    And RLL vs. MFM hard drive disk controllers.

    And add-on math co-processor chips.

    Yup. I’m old. That means I’m experienced. That makes me dangerous. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  14. When MS-DOS was a really nice upgrade from Apple ProDOS and seemed really powerful in comparison.

    Also dialing up to a local BBS over 2400bps, and the BBS wasn’t even /on/ Fidonet. BBS door games, and having to care about which sort of UART your serial port had once you upgrade to a faster modem.

  15. Oh, one of my friends was 30 yesterday. She’s been a member of (our national) parliament for the last five years. I’m six years older than her.

    And the rest of you think you feel old?

  16. Oooh, TRS-80s. And floppies cost $5 a piece. They weren’t even double-sided. I have a computer graveyard in my garage that my husband refuses to get rid of. Plus the original copy of DOS up in his closet.

    I think part of the issue with teenagers is that their attention span is so short. Writing blogs just wouldn’t work. You’d think the time they spend playing Mass Effect or Star Trek Online, that they’d actually have attention spans. Only for gaming it seems.

  17. @Rembrant #3
    I remember when……

    Someone crossposted a posting on misc.kids.breastfeeding and alt.support.childfree. It turned into a free.for.all.

    But whenever I felt a flamewar had gotten out of hand, I went over to a cycling newsgroup and looked at a thread about mandatory use of helmets. Get out the fire hydrant.

    Ah, for the good old days, when I walked 5 miles to school barefoot, listening to “Don’t Look Back” on my walkman…

  18. Dr. Phil@21: “Yup. I’m old. That means I’m experienced. That makes me dangerous.”

    As I like to remind my kids, “age and treachery will always defeat youth and skill.”

    Don’t forget replacing the Intel processor with an NEC part and getting 80% faster performance according to Norton Utilities. It was actually only 5% on real programs. That’s why I never trusted anything Peter Norton sold. (That and the fact everything he sold had his picture on it.)

  19. crayonbaby@24: They’re double sided if you have a hole punch! (Yes, I’m old enough to remember that.)

  20. Generations Y and Z have the attention spans of ADD-riddled gnats.

    Long-form ANYTHING takes too much of their mental bandwidth to digest.

    Any day now, I expect news media to boil all stories down to a headline and bullet points, just to avoid those kids having to actually sit down and think about something.

  21. Blogging under 30? Not when they can text 1,000 messages a day while carrying on conversations at the same time.

    I can see their blogs now: :-) rofl did u c tooth fairy? lol my fav 4 sur :-P

  22. The narrative is now ~140 char chunks via SMS/twitterings. And if you are luck you get a tinyURL link to follow up with exposition.

  23. I remember changing the .plan file on my college vax account, and ‘fingering’ other students’ .plans. The plans were basically our status messages. Or some of us put stories there. 1987, 1988. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t a .plan history, though. So it wasn’t really a blog, per se.

    Was also active on Relay Chat, the precursor to IRC.

    Discovered Usenet in 1990.

    If I knew all my posts would still be available to read 20 years later, I’m not sure I would have written everything I did. Of course, I was young and stupid, so I suspect I might not have thought about it much.

  24. Dr. Phil ++ I can remember the lines in our computer lab to get on the high-speed, hard-wired, 1200 bps DecWriter. Anyone else remember the Kansas City Format for cassette tapes? Citadel-Net?

    (No, John, you’re not old. Heck, I’m not old!)

  25. I recall the day I upgraded my Commodore 64’s 300 baud modem to a 1200 baud…wanna hit the Early Bird special at Denny’s?

    Yeah, I’m old with you. On the other hand, there are a lot of very dead blogs around, probably owned by people who are now neglecting their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

  26. Started on a TRS-80 level one. Whopping 4K of memory, but some people still managed to write games for it. Eventually that turned into a level two with 48K memory. Enough for any reasonable purpose, right?

    I stood in line to buy a 300 baud modem to update my 110. It was the type where you dial the phone and wait for the data tone, then plug the handset into the rubber cups on the modem and hit return a few times until things sync up. The 300 baud made it possible for me to interface to the local BBS for a max of 1 hour a day, assuming I could ever get in.

    I still do newsgroups and e-mail list groups.

    And I have a roommate who has never owned a computer, has no idea how to use one, and could probably not turn it on if he had one. Weep for him. No, he’s only 48.

  27. Mmm… vaxphone. And bitnet (which I think was the same thing as relay chat, except we called it bitnet). I think I still have copies of my old VMS startup scripts somewhere…

  28. Hm. I’m reading the study and I’m finding it interesting that LiveJournal isn’t mentioned. I’d always seemed to find more teens on LJ than on other blogging platforms (aside from MySpace), but LJ has communities which people can create and join. That allows for people to socialize with others easier than just starting a Blogger, IMO. I used to be a member of Tamora Pierce’s Sheroes site for fans and a lot of the girls had LiveJournals and were members of communities for their various interests; very few had blogs. I still see frequent posts from teens on my LJ communities.

    But, I think MySpace and Facebook are going to see more of the teen population simply by virtue of that it’s the “cool” thing. Facebook has groups like LJ does, which I think is another draw. I’ve noticed teens gravitate especially towards sites where they can talk about books, actors, music artists, etc, that they’re interested in.

    – says the 24yo “young’un” :D

  29. Ah…dial-up..I remember when my little town first got the Internet. It was a dial up service started by the News and Observer (the paper in Raleigh, NC) called nando.net. Cost $9.95 a month. Problem was, they had all of 30 incoming phone lines, so getting in was damn near a miracle.

    I kept calling customer service, they kept promising that they were going to upgrade and have more phone lines, but it didn’t happen and didn’t happen and didn’t happen. Then I finally got a higher level tech rep who admitted they weren’t going to add more lines and never intended to. First time I ever called a tech support guy a motherfucker, but it wasn’t the last.

    “I think part of the issue with teenagers is that their attention span is so short. Writing blogs just wouldn’t work. You’d think the time they spend playing Mass Effect or Star Trek Online, that they’d actually have attention spans. Only for gaming it seems.”

    I had this conversation the other day with my 18 year old son. He’s a very talented writer, and he could blow my doors off if he set his mind to do it. But he’s telling me he “doesn’t have the attention span” to read novels, much less write them.

    I pointed out “you just played Mass Effect for six hours!”

  30. Consider the interest level I personally have in teen blogs, I don’t think that’s too much of a loss.
    And it seems suitable that they don’t waste too much time with a form of communication that is doomed to extinction in the near future. Blogging is way too much of a throwback to reflect how people will communicate when that generation takes control.

  31. In this orgy of reminiscence on Usenet, I realised that I miss the sig from Hupert Humphries that I used most often back in the day, so I’m going to adopt it as a very pertinent motto:

    ‘The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously’

    Mind you, another of my sigs, this time from Coco Chanel, read:

    ‘Only those with no memory insist on their originality.’

    which perhaps is a little harsh. Though true….

  32. So far I’ve backed this story up to Plato (or was it Aristotle) complaining that kids those days were reading classic works instead of memorizing them. Does anyone have anything older?

  33. Hmph. I still own the S-100 system I built when I was 17. 60K of 2102 memory. 480 chips. I think it’s the largest collection still operational. 2 8-inch SSSD floppies, a whopping 243K each. A DC Hayes 80-103 modem (the precursor to the Micromodem 100). I did, mercifully, manage to give away the ASR33 Teletype.

    How many of you were thrilled to get the USR 2400 baud modem at the special $550 Fidonet sysop deal? For that matter, how many of you were around when Fidonet node numbers were just a single number? (Mine was #64. Not 1:106/64.0, not 106/64, just 64.)

    My greatest regret of that era was that I deliberately chose not to get the front panel for my IMSAI 8080 chassis. It was a great decision at the time, but the front panel is worth more now than the rest of the chassis…

  34. I find the comments here a little offensive. I’m a teenager (okay, 19, but still) and I blog. I also comment on blogs, and if I had time, I would follow many more than the twenty or so that I do currently. And I read, and I used to purchase quite a lot online. My attention span is actually quite long, thank you very much, and not only for videogames, either. (I’ll be honest, I don’t play many games, and those that I do play are PC games: Elder Scrolls, Civ, and rts space warfare.) I read maybe a hundred novels a year, if I can get to the bookstore often enough. /rant

    Of course, I still remember my old dial-up modem, and floppies, so maybe I’m tail end of the group. I certainly don’t know anyone else (personally) my age who blogs, or many who read as much as I do. While I imagine most of the sweeping (and extremely negative, to be honest) generalizations being thrown around about teenagers are intended to be humourous in some fashion, the sheer volume of casual contempt overwhelms my ability to smile and nod.

    There are a lot of great teen bloggers out there (younger than I am), too, and I’m sure many of them would be equally irritated to read some of what’s been said here. I’m sorry if I come off as a bit humourless, but I’ve gotten really tired of the teenager attention span and ADD jokes. At least come up with something new and creative if you’re going to poke fun at someone.

  35. 17, 29 — what on earth? Even though I’m an ‘old fart’ (at the grand old age of 31, snort!) I haven’t seen this ‘lack of attention span’ anywhere near as universally as you’re both painting it as. I see young artists on deviantArt updating regularly, I see young people in the Sims 2 gaming community regularly making new textures, 3D models, and stories and machinima using the game engine, and I’ve been told fanfic is as popular as ever even amongst the younger crowd.

    And while younger people might not be starting or writing blogs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t participating in the comment sections. I see no lack of under-30s commenting in the social justice blogs I read.

    Perhaps it’s more that kids these days don’t share your interests, or don’t share them where you’re interested in seeking them out.

  36. Hehe, well said Renatus. The gaming, modding, and fanfic communities are massive examples of just how much of an attention span younger people have. I mean, spending thirty-two hours make a Civilizations scenario with original graphics is not quite the same as spending the six hours required to beat such a scenario. And there are hundred chapter fanfics out there. Speaking of deviantart, maybe people here should take a look at some of the doujinshi manga people post there. Spend four hours a week inking manga panels and then you can preach about how they don’t make young’uns like they used to. Whether or not you approve of fanfiction as a concept, you can’t deny the amount of effort it takes to write a really good novel-length fic.

    Now, if you all will excuse me, I have to finish teaching PERL how to play Pokemon.

  37. I gathered that from the nostalgic tales of usenet and ancient computer models. :)

    However, nowhere has a poster made any negative comments about the attention spans or any other attributes of the older commenters. You may be making fun of yourselves more than of the younger posters *shakes head at the sadness of in-group/out-group teasing* but you’re certainly not insulting yourselves more than you’ve insulted the many hard-working and focused youngsters in the blogosphere (and other spheres).

    It may seem particularly harmless to you, but just like any other causal prejudice, it’s not as nice on the other side of the crack. Just keep that in mind. I think you’d be surprised at the number of younger people following Whatever. The sort of comments being thrown about so easily in the comments here don’t exactly encourage younger people to get involved.

  38. @atsiko
    However, nowhere has a poster made any negative comments about the attention spans or any other attributes of the older commenters.

    Do we have to do all the work? Judging by my offspring, the younger generation is brilliant at scathing come-backs that are far superior to anything I could express.

    The sort of comments being thrown about so easily in the comments here don’t exactly encourage younger people to get involved.

    See above. Go ahead, tear our old flabby limbs to pieces. After all, we asked for it. :)

  39. While I believe turn-about is fair play, I have little interest in tearing anybody’s limbs to pieces, flabby or otherwise. I don’t generally go for sweeping statements aimed at a category of people, either. (‘Cept writers–those lazy, greedy hacks!)

    To be honest, I had enough of that sort of cutting back-and-forth in highschool, and I’m not eager to resume it now that I’ve just escaped. ;)

  40. Renatus@47: Yeah, the “short attention span” criticism was lame when my generation was the target and is no less lame when people of my generation are the source.

  41. @atsiko – I always thought that any generation aged teens-twenties was always picked on by the older generations for not being this or that. Then again, that’s a sweeping generalization too …

  42. Hey John,

    I’m curious what your instinct would be on this.

    I’m an American, living in Australia and am near finishing a book and am almost ready to shop it around to agents. My gut tells me I’d be better off to look for an American agent and get myself published in the US as opposed to finding an Australian one that will shop it to Australian publishers or Australian subsidiaries of major ones. I know of a few authors that have waited years for their books to break out of Australia to the US.

    Granted, my goal is to get published one way or another, but I want to go about it in the smartest way possible for me to succeed.

    Does that make any sense? Clealry I don’t have a lot of experience to draw on here and make a descision.

    Cheers!

  43. @keija-
    Taking this comment section as an example, I’m not acting very grown-up at all. :P

    @arthur-
    I’ve never seen tradition as a justification for anything, much less picking on others.

    I suppose the one sweeping generalization I can always agree with is that everyone on the internet has such a high maturity level. ;)

  44. @atsiko
    everyone on the internet has such a high maturity level. ;)

    That’s what makes us so likable!

    Now I think I’ll grab my cane and toddle off to bed. :)

  45. This is why I hate Twitter: none of the kids will be able to write any more. The next fad will be writing five letters at a time and that’s it.

    Ugh.

  46. Makes sense; things that are easy to do from phones are an attractive alternative to a demographic that uses them anyway for texting, while the older folks do all their (oh okay, our) blogging at the office while pretending to work.

  47. And I say that as someone who uses her cell phone for precisely that; texting, twitter, checking email (but rarely writing it) and the occasional facebook update. Pretty much in that order.

  48. I feel so off. I barely ever use my phone. I only got one because my parents wanted to call me at Uni. I’ve had it for six months, and I’ve made a grand total of 62 texts. Some people from my old highschool make over 10,000 a month. My poor unlimited texting plan gets no love at all. Maybe I’m a throwback. Lol

    I suppose this only weakens my case for active young folks in the blogosphere. I’m too much of an outlier to even count as an anecdote. *sigh*

  49. I’m 41! Yep, lived several years in the pre-Mac world. Long gone are the days of passing information along through the gerbil tubes in my grandmother’s mansion on the island. The deaf woman had the network of two-inch tubes built into the walls back in the late 60s, after uploading too much lysergic acid diethylamide, as the story goes.

    Circa 1973

    gerbil message, intube “Stop lollygagging with those dandy longlegs in the attic. Come down and wash up for dinner.”

    gerbil message, outtube “They’re writing spiders, grandma, not dumb longlegs. And they’re teaching me about the art of spinning webs. They say the gerbil tubes are a form of web, the housewide web, hww. They say you that stole their idea, and that they want to be compensated for evolving the way they did! In the end, it’ll be about the Web, they say”

  50. Children, in my day we used letter columns and amateur press associations. Hell, we even had something called the Post Office where (for a tiny fee) you could send messages on paper to spots all over the world.

    You put anything down on paper you had to use a pen or pencil, or type it out using a typewriter. Something written in pencil was relatively easier to correct, but correct your typewriting was a bitch, and writing in pen meant you were either damn good, or a damn fool.

    In addition, all messages came once a day. On occasion special messages would come at different times, but such were usually very important.

    Oh, and if you think texting is pricey today, consider how much people paid to send a message via telegraph. How terse could you be if all you could afford was a 20 character message?

    (I now close to await the comments from John’s 105 year old fans. :D)

  51. I had to explain line noise and lag to a 20 year old the other day. I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe me.

    Weather affecting the Internet? Phone lines? It was the stuff of fiction.

  52. I think I lack the attention span to keep up with this argument. :)

    BTW… I firmly believe that the best new art, commentary, and so forth is done by the young. Old farts (of whatever generation) don’t get it – it’s not the art, commentary, and so forth of their generation and they are the current ones in power (not the right word – but close). Therefore they complain about it in some way. It’s loud, obnoxious, inaccessible, incomprehensible, done by and for people with ADD, etc … Someday those same youngsters will not be as young and will do the same.

    Whatever it is, it’s still new, and it’s still great.

  53. Oh yeah… And someone a ways back pointed out that I could still participate in Usenet. I don’t. I don’t really want to. Why? There are no young people there, and therefore no new ideas.

  54. @OldFart #69
    It’s loud, obnoxious, inaccessible, incomprehensible,

    That’s what my great-grandmother said about my father’s music. It had no tune, she said.

    What music was this? “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey Band w/ Frank Sinatra.

  55. Haha, it was some time ago, since I haven’t had much “correspondence” of any sort for a while now.

    But my relatives in Michigan often send stuff in the mail, and they aren’t un-tech-savvy.

    And shoot, on the publishing front, some agents still ask for snail-mail subs.

    I’m not saying snail mail isn’t losing ground quickly to online communication, but plenty of people still communicate with it.

    Also, there’s more to the post office than sending letters.

  56. I don’t see it as a sign that blogs are out of date and have been and are being replaced by better and better things.

    In other words, I don’t see it as a generational thing.

    I see it as an age and maturity thing, as a couple of people have said. Those kids may grow into blogging.

    Although… I can see how they might skew more towards audio and video podcasts than purely written blogs. But there will always be writers too.

  57. I’m seeing a fair bit of ammo building up for cracks about how oversensitive, easily offended and prone to overreaction teens are…

  58. I’m seeing a fair bit of ammo building up

    But we wouldn’t use the ammo, because we are sensitive new age old farts.

  59. Ed @ 77:

    I’m seeing a fair bit of ammo building up for cracks about how oversensitive, easily offended and prone to overreaction teens are…

    See? They’re not so different from us after all.

  60. I think Tumblr (tumblr.com) falls somewhere in between twitting and blogging. You can blog on Tumblr but it’s set up to allow quick updates like Twitter. It also interfaces with Twitter pretty well and allows me to easily re-blog Wil Wheaton twits.

    I’ve had an LJ since 2004 and my own blog site before that (with no readers but two friends of mine). Twitter is just about right for me, as I do about 75% re-blogs and 25% original stuff (original in that I’m posting them directly on tumblr and not rebloging; mostly pointers to news stories and funny photos).

    As for followers and those I follow, is an interesting mix on tumblr; about half the folks I know are under 20 while the rest go on up to their 60’s. On LJ, things seemed a lot more segregated. Weird!

    As for remembering when, I still have my Ti-99/4A with expansion chassis but no longer have the 300 baud modem. One day, will have to dig it out of storage and jigger up a connection to a monitor or tv. Daughter will be confused. She’s 9, has her own laptop, regularly uses Wikipedia and Google and wants her own Facebook and iPad. They grow up so fast!

  61. Josh@1:

    Cranks and trolls were *better* back in the usenet days, damnit!

    Those were the days. Anyone remember Kibo?

    Of course, there’s a bunch of stuff like that: J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius was mighty in my gaming (Cthulu-based) circle back in the day, but who under 30 has even heard of it?

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