Reflections from 2011 – The Year of Mobile, Again

Tenerife - Mount Teide in the WinterIt’s rather interesting to see the kinds of conversations that one gets to embark on in the offline social networking world while on a couple of week vacation break (By the way, hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas time, as well as a Happy, rather Prosperous and very Healthy New Year 2012!!). It’s even more interesting when some of those conversations have been going on around what we have done and learned in 2011 and right off it all turns into personal reflections for what’s happened throughout the year. Just like in the virtual world, I guess, like I am doing with this series of blog posts. So continuing further with that set, just the other day one of my offline good friends asked me what I thought was a rather interesting twist, which would be a good intro for this article as well. He asked me what was the biggest disappointment I experienced in the past year that I could have done without. My short answer: Technology. The long answer: here is why.

Technology is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt about it. I am sure we all agree with that statement. It’s helping shape up and change radically all aspects of our society as well as the corporate world. It’s helping us understand how we can keep striving successfully for the ultimate goal for every knowledge worker out there: work smarter, not necessarily harder. It’s essentially helping change who we are and what we do. Yet, some times it’s utterly disappointing to see how far we are from what we all know we could have at this age in 2011.

This year we are about to finish has been an incredibly hectic and exciting year with plenty of amazing happenings and unforgettable events altogether. For me, it’s been one of the busiest and most fruitful, too! With plenty of business travelling and frenzy at work one learns to build a certain level of expectations that you would want to see met, so you can keep up being rather productive and effective, which is what matters at the end of the day. Specially, nowadays: effectiveness continues to beat efficiency any and every time. But it looks like we are another year onwards and we are not there just yet. Let’s see it with the most crippling example I can think of, based on my own first hand experiences …

If anything, 2011 has been the Year of Mobile. And, finally, if I may add that, too, myself! But has it really been that way? Well, in my experience, it hasn’t. Another year gone by and another big disappointment, because we keep suffering from the very same problem we have been having for the last 5 years, when we were first commenting on the huge opportunity for the mobile world to disrupt everything around us. We keep seeing a good amount of tremendously powerful reports and insights on why every year we seem to be experiencing the year of mobile and yet, it just doesn’t happen. At least, in 2011 with yours truly.

Yes, I do have a smartphone (An iPhone 4S which I love to bits, too!); yes, I do have an iPad (My favourite tablet by far and for a great number of reasons that I have recently picked up, once again, on my Google Plus profile, but more on that shortly…); and yes, I do have a MacBook Air, which is as light as you probably could get nowadays with heavy computing tasks. Yes, in short, you could say that I’m a fully empowered mobile worker. I work from home most of my time; I travel quite a bit to conference events, summits, customer meetings, workshops, seminars, etc. etc. I work quite often at airports, at hotels and various other locations. Work is me, I’m work. I am a road warrior, too, I suppose, with a clear mission: work happens around me. It’s no longer a physical location, but more of a state of mind. So my expectations have become rather high when I want technology to work just like I want it to. Alas, it just doesn’t happen. It keeps failing time and time again, which is rather disappointing, to say the least, if not too frustrating altogether most of the time.

Over the course of the year, and as I keep living “A World Without Email“, I have had a growing and continued need to stay connected for as long as I possibly could. Living on the Social Web does that to you; you need to be constantly connected. Social networking tools do not understand the concept of working offline, apparently, or so it seems, so you expect that technology will come up to the rescue, yet, it keeps failing. Why?, you may be wondering, right?, since we are just about to finish another “Year of Mobile“? Well, hardware wise I would probably venture we are there and pretty nicely: with smartphones and tablets taking the enterprise by storm it’s no surprise how keen and very much willing knowledge workers are to even bring in their own devices at work. Yet, we keep failing to deliver at one key issue that most people keep ignoring time and time again and not even sure why: Connectivity. Or, better said, lack of reliable, scalable and sustainable connectivity. The telcos. The (mobile) carriers.

I am not sure about you, folks, but that has been *THE* major challenge for me for 2011. Trying to stay connected, while on the road, to keep being productive with the Social Web. Time and time again, while attending & presenting at conference events, for instance, access to the Social Web has been rather patchy, whether through free wi-fi hotspots, or even paying for the connection it hasn’t worked the way I would have wanted it to. In fact, while I’m writing this blog entry I am realising one of the various reasons why there have been long periods of silence on this blog, and various other social networking sites, was just, basically, because I was not connected to the Web or because it was just so slow that it was rather unbearable to try to get anything done. Ever tried connecting to the Web from your hotel room, whether on a free wi-fi or paying up to 22€ per day to just reach out to the Web? Yes, exactly!, that is what I mean! A complete waste of time, energy and effort just increasing the levels of frustration more and more by the day. I still find it quite amazing what a huge business opportunity there is out there and yet no-one seems to want to pick it up accordingly.

But you may be wondering, hang on for a minute. Both your iPhone 4S and iPad are 3G enabled; and you also have got a 3G modem you can use for the MacBook Air; doesn’t that help out a bit? Well, not really. Yes, I do have that extra kind of connectivity, but, once again, it hasn’t delivered really much. As a starting point, as soon as I leave Spain, which is when most of my business travelling kicks in, I’m out of 3G coverage, as well as good use of the 3G modem, since I don’t want to incur in the ridiculously high costs of international roaming, which, to a certain point, are starting to become a joke, on all of us, poor end-users (even on the literal sense, too!).

So that leaves me out to use the 3G and the 3G Modem while in Spain, right? Yes, but the results are equally disastrous. Every month I’m paying about 120€ to 130€ (Yes, I know, very pricey!) just to stay connected and while one expects to be able to make it, the reality is that 3G coverage and broadband penetration in this country has got a lot to be desired for. For many times I have been travelling to mainland Spain, to rather big cities, right in the city center, and yet the 3G connection is incredibly poor. Knowing that the Social Web is just out there, waiting for you, and yet you can no longer reach it as you would have liked can surely be a rather disappointing experience and what a complete turnoff!

Yet, it looks like no-one is doing much to try to improve things where I feel should be much improved. Stop us, end-users, to keep being ripped off time and time again by telcos and whatever other mobile carriers, for very poor connectivity, while paying huge costs for it. No wonder I have been rather frustrated throughout the year with regards to how little I have remained hooked up to the Social Web over the course of time. I keep wondering when will the European Union start coming along to protect our rights to information and staying connected without having to pay through our noses and fight the good fight. It’s starting to become a far too frustrating experience altogether, so when I bump into rather interesting and enlightening short video clips like “Mobile Year in Review 2011” one cannot but have a chuckle or two thinking how, unless things change drastically with our current telcos and their abusive policies, we will keep longing for that “Year of Mobile” to kick in at some point in time in the next 5 to 10 years. Right now, it’s not even there, by far!

Ohhh, and that’s not all of it, on my next blog post I will share with you folks Part II of why technology has been the biggest disappointment for yours truly for 2011. And this time around social technologies themselves. Then there will be a final follow-up article where I will share further insights on what I plan to do in 2012 and beyond to try to tame that frustration and attempt to get the most of what it is still a rather poor experience of interacting with technology and the Social Web. It’s going to be a revolution, for sure, but one where I am no longer willing to pay through my nose for it, even if that means changing radically what the Social Web experience has been like for yours truly in the last 10 years … I think it’s a good time now to make a stand and take back what has always belonged to us. The Web and the use we make of it.

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