Friday, December 11, 2015

Millennial thought - part 1

Some thoughts regarding millennials…

New World Order

Here not too long ago, I had a conversation with a friend where we discussed an interesting phenomenon. To most, this is not a pressing issue and to be fair, it might be remedied in a way that I have yet to think of, but I found this to be fascinating enough that I chose to write it down. The main subjects here are millennials and the main issue (or point of discussion) is the order of data, specifically looking at how the younger generation(s) are processing data, the order(s) used and the integration by Millennials into the workforce with Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.

Millennials are, by definition, those born between 1982 and 2004, roughly. There is speculation as to the exact years but these are the most commonly held. Millennials were so named because they began to associate their lives with the coming millennial year (2000) and the first members of the generation would have graduated high school in 2000.

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with technology in the home at all times and as a result, they are typically always attached to some form of device. Because of the use of electronics and more importantly, the internet, Millennials have reshaped how we as a society search for, order and keep data. In prior generations, different forms of data collection and storage have been used, such as encyclopedias, phone books and dictionaries. All of these items could easily be found in the home of a Baby Boomer or even a member of Generation X for a while. However, encyclopedias and dictionaries are mainly only found in libraries and phone books are nearly obsolete. The reason this is important is in how we access data and how we use the means of that storage. For instance, phone books are full of valuable information regarding individuals, businesses and government entities, as well as scores of general information about the community. Nearly all of that data can now be found on search engines on the internet, such as Google.

Here is the issue, however. The information on Google is listed based on your search criteria, which is based on relevance. Another way to say it is, a search is made based on your input, and the output is formulated based on the closest match, or matches, to your input. There is no alphabetical order, no numerical order, no empirical order, nothing. This tends to throw most Baby Boomers off, at first, but eventually, through trial and error, most people learn to use search engines in the way they were designed. The struggle for Boomers is in the lack of alphabetical, or even numerical order, within the search engines. Once someone has clicked on a website, the site is most likely designed with some sort of order. Rarely do you find websites that are designed in a random way, simply due to the fact that our current society depends on the intrinsic nature of the aforementioned order. In my opinion, that society is changing.

Looking back to the days of phone books, we find distinct order throughout. Everything is in alphabetic and numeric order. Given that the search engine was a human being looking up information from within, and not a computer using an algorithm, placing the data in an order, as such, not only spoke to the earliest of intrinsic methods, but allowed for the easiest of data collection/data display. All because the data was being provided by humans, for humans, to look up and use. The history of data collection and organization of data speaks to this order and while it might seem impossible to change the nature of such an order, Millennials are not only moving into the workforce daily, but are rewriting the ways we collect, manage, store, share and express data. 

If you need an example of how this is changing, a bit of proof perhaps, grab your smart phone and observe your contacts. In what order are they placed? If you own an Android (Google based) phone, the majority of users have their contacts organized by first name. This means that the interface behind the data collection for your contacts does not force an order, but is instead left to the user at the time of input. We, as users, have the choice as to how to list and input our contacts. This has not always been the case with mobile phone technology. Anyone who has used an older cell phone knows that the data was collected and placed in alphabetical order, based on last name first. The order was therefore forced and not left to the user input. This shift is in large part due to the influence of Millennials upon our technology and has mostly gone unnoticed. Generation X users have almost unanimously adopted this shift. Only those Boomers who tend to be more analytical in thought have fought this change, but the change has happened regardless.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on Millennials. My next exposition will be on the use of the PC and how it is drastically changing in the hands of the next generation.

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