The other day I was talking with a friend about a project she was working on with another student in a management course she is taking. Both have very busy schedules making it hard for them to get together to collaborate on the project. So they turned to e-mail to share their work with each other. The project required them to deliver a report and a presentation (produced using MS Word and PowerPoint respectively). So far so good until (for reasons never fully explained) my friend's co-worker found himself without e-mail via a computer and resorted to using his iPhone to access his messages. This is where the "fun" began for my friend. Since my friend's co-worker could not easily read lengthy documents on the small screen of his mobile device, he asked that she send him her work in small text files. Ok, way too much work, I agree, but they were on a deadline and necessity is the mother of invention and sometimes inconvenience.
This story got me to thinking about how the increasing use of mobile devices impacts the type, format, and size of the information that we create. Interestingly, although maybe not surprisingly, there is a 20 year age difference between my friend and her co-worker. So GenXer meets millennial and their preferred methods of doing work aren't compatible.
A recent The Economist article, "The meek shall inherit the web" (September 4, 2008), examines how "most new internet (sic) users will be in developing countries and will use mobile phones." It reports the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) recent interest in the mobile web for social development, prompting the organization to launch a new interest group to "ensure that the web's technical standards evolve to serve this rapidly emerging constancy." Stephane Boyera co-chair of the new group sees it this way:
The right approach, Mr Boyera argues, is not to create 'walled gardens" of specially adapted protocols for mobile devices but to make sure that as much as possible of the information on the web can be access easily on mobile phones.
The article continues to state:
As countries work their way up the development ladder, however, the situation changes in favour (sic) of full mobile-web access.
I suspect that is also true of millennials in the developed world.
Given this set of circumstances, and the growth in delivering more content to smaller devices (with smaller screens), I wonder what impact this trend will have on the content we produce? I imagine micro-formats will gain in popularity as mobile applications try to filter out unnecessary content. Media is already being optimized for delivery options including mobile devices, creating new challenges for producers of audio and video content (which is a hugely cumbersome task these days). I am personally looking forward to opening up of the mobile walled gardens and for service plans that support the growing desire to take things with us.