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Walking with Normobs – A Response from our man Whatley

Been a bit busy of late folk, hence the absence of my regular Whatley on Wednesday slot.

Trying to get down for the weekly podcast mind…

But yes. Reading the site with interest as I often do, I really enjoyed Tuesday’s ‘Walking with Normobs‘ piece.

So much so that I stirred from my blogging slumber and decided to join the debate…

First off, I totally agree with where you’re coming from. I do. Terry. I do.
But you need to look ahead.

The Normobs of the future will be at the early adopter stage we’re at now.
Underestimate them at your peril.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a Nokia End User group test thing wotsit.

On the N81 8GB.

Yes – the same device that I reviewed way back when and the same device that my esteemed colleague Ben Smith lavished hatred upon recently also.

This is no strange thing. I often find myself in these kinds of focus groups.

Well I’m one of those people. One of those people that when asked:

“Would it be ok to contact you in the future?”

I say “Yes”

If I’m not busy, and if I have the time, then I’ll gladly offer assistance. From big companies like Vodafone and Nokia after some customer insight or for a friend’s friend whose N95 keeps breaking because her firmware is ‘stuck on v10’.

I like to help.

Anyway – off I went to this group gathering – just off Carnaby Street, and lo, as is the norm with these things, I entered a room full of folk from all different walks of life/areas of London.

In fact – one guy had such thick urban ‘accent’ that the gentleman running the session actually found it difficult to understand at times. Love it.

I digress.

The point is, Terry, these kids – I was, it seemed, the oldest chap in the room, (quite refreshingly so too). These kids knew their stuff. We had a mechanic, a trainee IT bod, a couple of students and an accountant… and me, obviously.

As I said – these kids knew their stuff.

They knew about firmware updates, they knew about downloading games (N-GAGE or otherwise), they knew about all sorts of stuff.

I was genuinely impressed.

They referenced other devices in their analogies. They reminisced over handsets of yesteryear when articulating their complaints.

They. Knew. Their. Stuff.

You and me, Terry? We’re the old men of tomorrow.
Our kids? What handsets will they be concerned about getting us?
We’re early adopters now. Our kids will be too. Their kids. And so on.

The normal mobile users of tomorrow will be using the products you and I use today.
You make valid points about Skype as a service. Skype is a different way of making a phone call, branded. Tell your Dad to make a phone call by pushing the Skype button, and he will. Tell him to make a call over Skype? He’ll look at you like you’re from Mars.

Similarly with other naming conventions/terminologies: Podcasts vs Radio Shows. Blogs vs Diaries.
And so on…

Of course we’re not expecting our folks to go out and start making VoIP calls tomorrow.
But that’s not the point.

I’m pretty damn sure that the big guns aren’t really concerned about the Daily Mail reading, Marmalade eating Normobs taking up their services. Of course, it’d be lovely if they did! But I doubt very much they EVER will. The Daily Mail will die out as new generations come forward with new ideas and thoughts. Challenging the way we think and the way we view the world.

I read recently on a blog in Clay Shirky’s Book “Here Comes Everybody” about a little girl who, on a recent trip to see some family members had, on arrival, taken one look at the television, screamed and then run behind it suddenly looking for something…
The reason?

She was looking for the mouse.
The girl in question had never seen a screen without one before.

These small changes in behaviour and expectancies of ‘the norm’ take generations to change. Sometimes things go faster, but often things move a lot slower.

There is a particularly fond day dream of mine, where all of us geeks are sitting round at dinner late into our 70s and there we are still moaning about the lack of X and how Y never really did turn up etc etc…

And our kids?

Well they’ll be doing their equivalent of blogging and moaning about the lack of parent-friendly services/devices on the Market I’m sure.





And as an afterthought, going back to that focus group for a second, maybe those kids in the room weren’t that savvy after all.

Maybe it was just that bloody device that made them get online and learn something.



  1. all good points Mr Whatley, its natural that these kinds of things will eventually catch on and hopefully in 10-15 years or so they will be mainstream – however knowing that is one thing, convincing investors ( the real people behind these services) that they need to wait for this long to see a return is another thing entirely. As much as we might not like it these are the people pulling the strings in the mobile industry and they want as big a user base as possible, as soon as possible. Unfortunately the people with big bags of money will always dictate, unless the revolution comes and they are all lined up against the wall and shot…

  2. That's it! Cheers Stefan. It wasn't actually a blog post at all.

    I'm reading Shirky's book “Here Comes Everybody” at the moment.
    That'll be it then.



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