Some ideas just won't die. Though enterprise and government Web teams have made enormous progress in recent years bringing their organizations into the modern world and preparing them for what comes next there's always somebody who missed the memo, or was out sick the day that we talked about new media and moved on.
I can sympathize - - there's a lot of new stuff here and I've had to hit reload more than once to wrap my head around things like the cut-and-paste Web and free content - - and I definitely come from the "there's no such thing as a stupid question" school, but it is exhausting to confront the same basic ideas and/or misconceptions over and over again. This happens frequently enough that I've come up with a shorthand method for referring to these zombie-like ideas that won't die.
It's from an old joke that goes like this:
A guy is having his first day in prison. He's having lunch in the cafeteria. It's very quiet and everybody is shoveling down food when a prisoner yells out "twenty-four" and everyone busts out laughing. A few minutes later another inmate yells "thirty-two" and everybody starts laughing again, knee-slapping guffaws all around. The new guy is baffled and whispers to his neighbor to ask what's going on. He's told that they've all been locked up together so long that they all know the same jokes, and to save time they just refer to them by number. (A follow-up punch line has the new guy mustering his courage to yell "twelve!" and the result is dead silence. He asks his neighbor what he did wrong and is told "some guys just don't know how to tell a joke.")
Thus we come to the idea of Numbered Conversations - - ideas and concepts that recur so frequently in the technology workplace that you can refer to them by number.
These are some of my numbered conversations I have far too frequently:
27. If we put it online, people won't come to the museum.
I thought we got over this one a long time ago. Online museum visits are different than actual museum visits. I don't know of a single piece of actual or anecdotal evidence that shows that somebody didn't come to a museum because a work of art was viewable online. And we know that people compare museums' Web sites with those of other cultural attractions when planning visits. (I saw a survey recently that said 44% of museum visitors did this - - I'm looking for the citation.)
32. Digital Images online take attention away from actual works of art
This may be true for the very few people in the world who already know a lot about said work of art, but for the rest of us our attention can't be taken away because it isn't there in the first place. I also suspect that the experts and enthusiasts are wise enough to keep their focus where they want it.
44. If we put it online for free, we'll never be able to make any money on it.
Wellll, maybe and maybe not. I'm willing to have this conversation, but what disturbs me is that it often doesn't go anywhere beyond this assertion, and there are a number of instances in which it is demonstrably not true. Witness the Victoria and Albert's liberalization of their image-use policies. (Related blerb on Boingboing.)
61. If we put peoples' opinions on our Web site our customers will confuse those opinions with our own authoritative content.
I used to worry about how to work through this one convincingly until I saw how the New York Times was mixing letters to the editor with reporting and editorials in their search results. Public and non-public content are intermingled and highly findable and the combination gives users more knowledge/insight than either would separately. (For an example see this NY Times search on "Jonathan Lebed," a bright kid accused by the S.E.C. of giving illegal stock advice.)
72. We can't do/think about that because we don't know anything about technology
The train has left the station. If you're a manager and don't know enough about technology to have opinions or lead and motivate your staff then I think you're in trouble. See Universal Music CEO: Record industry can't tell when geeks are lying to us about technology for a point of reference.
12. I don't need to do audience research because I know our audience.
Ohhh, how I wish this were true. What this statement usually means is "I've had some experience with half-assed audience research and it was expensive and I didn't learn anything." Circular logic and self-fufiling prophesy.
6. Let's do a blog so we can attract a younger audience.
Related to #12. Do a blog because you have something to say and let it find its own audience.
I don't really refer to these ideas by the same number week-in and week-out, but I do say to colleagues "hey, I had a numbered conversation with Joe Schmoe about xyz" and they get the picture.