Here’s a useless piece of information for you. Apparently 3.2 billion comments are posted online every day. Huge figures get bandied around now, but to write it in numbers that’s 3,200,000,000,000 – kind of boggles your eyes reading it, doesn’t it.
I don’t know about you, but my brain starts to feel like over-ripe brie when I try to contemplate communication on such a scale, not just the actual words themselves, but the whole method of delivery and transmission. It’s all such a long way from the chalk and black boards I grew up with at school.
Indeed, I seem to have spent my entire life on the cusp of cutting edge technology. At primary school, I remember being told how floppy discs would change the way we studied and the world at large. But by secondary exams there were still just a handful of computers in our school, and the only notebooks we had were of the spiral bound, lined variety.
Choosing A-levels, I opted for Communications, the very first year that it was on the syllabus. I may as well have chosen Ancient Greek History for the relevance to today’s digitally led planet. There was a girl in my class, who’s family were among the first to buy a video recorder – she was asked to stand up and describe this fantastic device, through which you could record one channel, whilst watching one of the other two. We were agog with envy.
Jeremy Vine, talking of a “video” clip on Radio 2 this week, described it as a “lovely old-fashioned word” – from state of the art to old-fashioned in around 30 years. Tempus fugit!
The course was also linked to technical skills. In basic RSA typing I learnt how to centre and space text to give maximum design impact.
O R S H O U L D I S A Y: M A X I M U M D E S I G N I M P A C T.
A worthwhile skill, I’m sure you’ll agree.
At journalism college a few years later, one of the basic rules we were taught, was to find a pay phone, or chat up the local pub landlord to use his line, when pursuing an urgent story. That way you could be sure of phoning in your copy ahead of your rivals. It was advice that stood me in good stead for longer than you’d think, as most of my bosses were too tight to invest in the early and expensive mobile phones.
In my 25-years as a newspaper and radio reporter I worked my way through manual type-writers, a satisfying clack-clack-clack around the office; Tandy computers in a briefcase, now they were something else; fax machines, which churned out endless reams of paper; uhers, clunky reel to reel tape recorders that at least built up your biceps; mini-discs, kept breaking down; flash-mics, very handy; and digital editing – to name but a few.
Today I’m sitting here designing posters for a Halloween bonfire party I’m organising to raise money for our local playing field. I can download thousands of online images, add my own pictures, have the text any shape, size, colour that I want and print dozens of copies off at home at the touch of a button. It’s all so easy.
Some would argue – perhaps too easy. You see I’ve managed to really cheese someone off, with my prolific postering. A strongly-worded letter to our village newsletter this week, complains of “poster pollution”, and how too many are littering the countryside on fences, telegraph poles and trees. The scandal of it!
I have to hold my hand up and say: “Guilty as charged m’lord”. For indeed it was I, who also put lots up earlier this year to advertise our annual 10km run. And I suspect it was the writer of the letter who shortly afterwards took many of them down.
That kind of cheesed me off. Trying to promote a local fundraising activity, and then have someone sabotage your efforts is a bit frustrating.
But communication is all about trying to reach your target audience. Online comments are great for some things, but I don’t expect many readers of this blog will be able to make our Halloween fundraiser.
Until, some clever techy person comes up with a digital answer to posters, I’ll have to stick to the tried and tested old-fashioned method, go round with the thumb tacks and rather like last week, publish and be damned.
Before doing that, a brief running footnote: I completed the Bournemouth Marathon yesterday – a superb, scenic, atmospheric 26.2 miles, in glorious blue skies and sunshine. I notched up my best time this year, 4:22, coming 1059th out of 3001 finishers. Not too bad for an old plodder like me.
Right, posters in hand, now I’m off to deface the neighbourhood.