A message from the real world

Filed under: — 11:33 am

For those of us who spend most of our time online, it’s easy to get into the habit of thinking everybody is like us. That’s why I like the dose of perspective I get from This Pew Internet Survey (PDF). Among the findings in this survey of internet users:

  • 10% are not really sure what “spam” means, and 3% have never heard the term. No wonder spam still works!
  • 9% have never heard the term “adware”, and 15% have never heard the term “phishing”.
  • Only 13% have a good idea what “podcasting” is.
  • Only 9% have a good idea what RSS feeds are. (Even less than podcasting!?)

Considering those statistics, this Weblog usability study comes as no surprise. Most participants (typical internet users) had no idea how to distinguish between a weblog and a “normal” site, and none of them had any idea how to subscribe to a weblog or feed.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with typical internet users—on the contrary, I think they’re right. Why is there a distinction between a weblog and a normal site, and why do just about all weblogs copy the design and navigation scheme Slashdot was using in 1999? Why do we spend time trading jargon like “trackback” and “podcast” instead of educating people? Something to think about.

Update 7/27/05: Keith Robinson writes about some of the same issues and the RSS issues in particular.

[via SEW and Digital Web]

5 responses to “A message from the real world”

  1. Every month PEW comes out with another survey and everybody starts quoting from it. Then somebody points out that PEW is just a bunch of morons that do surveys and extrapolate whatever they want from the results and everybody apologizes for quoting them. Then next month, we all play dumb and start all over again.

  2. Michael Moncur says:

    Well, yeah, like all surveys, it’s flawed. But it matches pretty well with my experience.

  3. Amit says:

    Hi Michael,

    I sent you an email, did you receive it?


  4. Many, if not all, surveys are flawed or skewed in some way. Regardless, the simple fact is that there many, many users out there who have no idea what RSS is, for example. It wasn’t so very long ago that I didn’t know what a feed was, or how you could benefit from using them. To the novice user who clicks on one and gets a bunch of XML source for their effort, this is not a very good situation. I encourage every Web site owner who provides feeds to publish or link to a tutorial.

  5. Tim says:

    I agree with Michael. These survey results don’t suprise me at all. I don’t know one “non-webmaster” person who knows what a blog is, let alone what RSS is. I think internet savvy people need a reality check every now and then and expand their horizons and realize that to alot of people the internet is a mystery.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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