One of most interesting aspects of the human experience is that we take everything we do and learn for granted, and have a hard time believing that our methods and processes have actually evolved over a very long period of time.
Take the process of communicating with others. Today, we text, email, Tweet, Skype, IM, message through Facebook, or call. Most of these interactions are asynchronous (“async”), meaning that we send a message, wait, and then receive a message back. In fact, we are increasingly moving away from synchronous (“sync”) interactions (face to face meetings, phone calls, Webex, Facetime, Skype) as our primary or initial interaction, and are using async for the entire process, or at least to setup the sync portion.
Let’s explore phone calls. We know that people hate leaving voicemails just as much as they hate receiving and retrieving them. We also don’t like being interrupted or surprised by their ringer when they are busy. This has resulted in us texting one another (async) and asking “when can you talk?” prior to making a phone call (sync). While we take this form of interaction to be the norm, it’s a far cry from how we made calls even five years ago. Anyone remember answering machines? Pagers? Answering services?
Another example of changing behaviour is how we have more context about the person we are calling before initiating contact. Through Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and any number of other social streams we have access to who, what, when and where. An example would be how you see a pictures of a place your friend visited, or a check-in at a great restaurant, resulting in a call saying “how was your trip to L.A.?…was the food at Osteria Mozza as great as everyone says it is?”
Context is changing the way we communicate. It give us an awareness of your availability (no need to call someone if you see they are on vacation), what you’re into these days (food, music, activities), where you’re hanging out, and who you’re spending time with. All of this is new, and yet we feel as though it has always been this way. Moreover, the pace of change is just going to get faster, thanks in no small part to the booming adoption of smartphones, and the increasingly normal practice of sharing information through apps and social networks.
What does this mean?
My prediction is that over the next 5 to 10 years we will see completely new forms of communications, one’s that orchestrate sync and async methods seamlessly, and predictively. Imagine having multiple options for connecting with a friend, and having the context determine what method is best? What if the platform could tell if your friend was busy, and dynamically turn a call into SMS? Why make a call when your friend is just around the corner? Why not fire up video if she too is online and ready? How about having the subject of a call travel before the ringer engages, giving the recipient some idea what you want to talk about and how urgent it is?
Irrespective of the device, application or method, one thing I know for certain: people will still talk to other people. Period. When we need comfort or guidance, need to laugh or cry, we reach out to other people with our voice.
People need to be heard. That will not change.
Thanks for Listening,