(translated from the original Neanderthal by Babelfish)
Thing. Need thing to hit other thing into thing.
You couldn't be a bit more specific could you?
(In case you hadn't noticed, this imaginary situation takes place between one smart Neanderthal and a dumb one)
Need big thing to hit little thing into other big thing. To make thing.
(Not realistic? Come on, you know someone like this now)
Here you go.
Well it a rock, but in the branding package for Phase 2 Design we're calling it a 'Hammer'.
Hamm-er. It thing to hit little thing into other big thing?
Hamm-er, HAMM-er. HAMM-er! It work, look.
So what the hell's all this then?
I think I'm going to call it a LASER.
What's a LASER when it's at home?
Well I took some light, right, and jiggled it backwards and forwards through some stuff, and then it shoots out of here in a really tight beam and it's crazy bright and it goes all the way to the other wall and hardly spreads out at all, look.
What's it for?
Um...well you know. It's bright and concentrated. Maybe we could...point it at things?
It's a flashlight?
No, no, no...like things, that are really far away, or really small?
It's a searchlight? Or a microscope?
So it's not for anything at all.
Not as such.
So are you done? All finished? Can I have my storage room back now?
I think, when we're looking at innovation on the web or in technology...hell, in anything really, 'What can you do with this?' is a much better question than 'What is this for?'
People ask 'What is this for?' of Twitter and Facebooklast.fm all the time...while using them to bits, exploring them, learning how they can be used, what they can do...but still needing an answer to that question.
I don't think we do need an answer to that question any more.
It's a more playful way of doing things...in which case maybe the laser wasn't a great example...but it's a more interesting way of doing things. Exploring the possibilities is more engaging and exciting than learning how to do set things.
I always used to call foul on the putting green whenever my Dad would get down on his hands and knees to knock the golf ball in by using the club like a snooker cue. But it's like that. You take the tools you're given and you see what you can do with them.
With all these social networking sites, or sites with social networking underneath a patina of other function - friendster, facebook, linkedin, orkut, flickr, goodreads...once the boxes have all been ticked and the fields all filled in, a lot of people, including me, I have to confess, turn around and ask 'Now what?'
It's a good question and we should keep asking it in the hope that we'll discover what the answer is. Or try an answer on for size. Or try something new. Or unusual. Or approach it in a different way.
"What is it for?" is a demand, while "Now what?" can be a question to yourself.
So that those people you were too lazy to keep in touch with are now reading your blog, looking at your most recent music choices, looking at your photos from when you knew each other better, comparing their book lists with yours, swapping mixes with you and recommending a lot of different entertainment. And facebook, to choose one I've been thinking of throughout this post, have just opened the doors to third party applications. So there's even more scope and potential. The tool can change its shape and there is more to explore.
This is starting to sound like a Douglas Adams argument...I forget where it appeared... where he's talking about computers and how people react to them. To begin with they thought - oh look! It's a big calculator. Then a big typewriter. Then a big drawing device, an entertainment centre, encyclopedia...and in the end Adams asserted that a computer is a modeling device and it can 'be' anything we want.
If we're playful enough and experimental enough, maybe we can get to a point where the answer to the question, "What is it for?" can be, "Everything."
But the "it" in question probably won't be facebook.
Just so we're clear.