Balancing Innovation and Effective Communication

NetSquared's picture

In beginning my reading of the Four Questions page and the Netsquared Case Studies section, I've had a few thoughts I thought I'd share here. Things I know I'm going to give more thought to and probably be including in my questions to some of the groups I interview here.

Here's the first one. How do we balance the use of new terms to describe new technologies with the strategic utilization of terms more familiar to our constituents? Do we use similes in explaining what we are doing ("RSS is like subscribing to an email newsletter, only it's a different and better inbox") or do we try to explain what's actually happening and risk some cognitive dissonance on the part of all but early adopters and geeks? ("RSS utilizes a second language (XML) that your content is published in and that's easier to manipulate and add metadata to than the HTML your browser reads. One of the things you can do with it is subscribe to feeds signalling changes made to any given document. But there's so much more.")
It isn't a one-or-the-other question, but this balance is one I want to think about. I don't want to sell people short by telling them that we're just doing the same old things with new tech under neath the hood where they needn't look. But I do want to be able communicate with people in a way that will get them excited about the possibilities.
I know I am not comfortable with the idea of introducing people to a technology without any understanding of it's nature until they are comfortable with it, then introducing new applications of that technology. How do we participate in discourse that's both as fully informed as possible and accessible to non technical audiences? This is probably something that people have dealt with for a long time in many different situations, but it's one of the things I think about when looking at Web 2.0 tools in use by non-technical end users. Any thoughts on your part, not just in terms of your answers to these questions, but any thoughts you have on how to best ask the questions themselves in interviews would be great to read.