Tech Snobs, Geek Angels, and Dinobots

Monday, 7:33pm
Reno, NV
“You called me… Bizzaro. Must be my name.” Bizzaro, Superman’s twisted doppleganger (circa 1958)

Howdy…

I think I just created a new word.

Tell me what you think of it.

It came about this weekend while Michele and I were taking her nephew David out for a “grill lunch”. A grill lunch is where you hold someone you care about (but haven’t seen for a long time) captive for a couple of hours while you grill them on every detail of their lives.

When I was growing up, I always resisted such info-mining, and became a petulant, sulking zipped-lipped prisoner, offering nothing. To this day, the worse way to find out how I’ve been or what I’ve been up to is to ask me directly.

Child psych still works pretty well with my type, though. Trick me into spilling the beans, and I’ll give it all up.

I’m easy that way.

Nephew David, however, is of better stock. He handles grill lunches with grace and wit, and he’s a joy to hang out with.

He’s also my main contact in the new generation coming up the ranks. He’ll be a senior next year at a major mid-western university, studying subjects that didn’t exist when I was in academia.

That is, he’ll be a senior if his summer “project” doesn’t haul in a million bucks, which it could. The kid is tech-savvy to a scary degree, both as a creator of sites and ideas, and as a cutting-edge consumer of technology. And now he’s honing his business chops, too.

He’s got entrepreneur’s blood in his veins, and he smells the financial adventures ahead.

However, my guess is that, like his other summer projects, he’ll experience some success, gain amazing experience, have too much fun, and finish out his education like a champ.

Or, as he refers to himself: Like a budding tech snob.

In other words: He’s SO wired into the virtual culture, that he has a sixth sense of what’s coming down the pipe… and waiting a bit longer to launch into the business world might be an advantage during this phase of the blossoming online world.

What I’m taking from talking to him… is a cultural warning: Increasingly, the gap between tech-savvy kids and technophobic geezers threatens to become an unbridgable chasm.

However, it doesn’t necessarly mean the tech snobs will automatically win.

Take, for example, how the ability to be in “constant contact” with your friends has morphed into something weird and icky: A few short years ago, the dude with the cell phone permanently screwed into his ear — so he could chat with both hands free — was either a cultural warrior bravely navigating the far reaches of technology (as he saw himself)… or a shallow chatterbox, devoid of deep thought (as the people around him thought).

This condition (“Phone-Welded-To-Brain-Itis”) is no longer startling to encounter. You see someone walking around in a distracted state, babbling loudly to no one in particular, and you just shrug. He’s not crazy — he’s wired.

Though, sometimes I can’t help myself from leaning over and telling him to say “hello” to Kathy, and that I sure hope she gets those packages out to Fed Ex in time. I mean, I felt such a part of his conversation (it’s called “cell shouting”, with no known cure), it’s like we’re now old buds.

Anyway…

… cell shouting now seems SO innocent, with the arrival of “micro blogging”.

Texting constantly to people wasn’t enough. No.

Now, it’s critical to keep whole populations of other folks hip to exactly what you’re doing at this very second.

Wow.

I can see where this is going, too — once we combine GPS systems, micro-video, and IM with Twitter into something that can be wired directly to your autonomic nervous system, you can be a walking reality show.

Everyone you know will have instant, unrelenting access to your every thought, action, and movement. Like “The Truman Show”, only more invasive. (“Hey, everybody — my iPhone just alerted me that Susie’s blood pressure spiked twenty points, so she must have arrived at the prom… and… wow… looks like she’s gonna fart…”)

Listen: I live with someone, and I often don’t know where she is in the house, or what she’s doing… and I don’t NEED to know.

A little mystery, folks, is not necesarily a bad thing.

Here’s some insight from a guy who’s walked both sides of the knowledge divide: When I first met Gary Halbert, I was composing ads on a personal computer (early model), playing hip video games, and totally clued-in to the cultural Zeitgeist… while he was still usng a No. 2 pencil and a legal pad, had zero video-game dexterity, and considered MTV as something akin to an alien invasion of UFOs.

I was in the room when he was ridiculed by other writers, in fact, for his retro-style. Younger, hipper, more tech-savvy writers actually shook their heads and pitied the guy.

That was an important moment for me.

Because I knew that the accoutrements of writing — whether pencils and paper, computers and hard drives, or chisel and clay — were irrelevant IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO SAY.

What Halbert possessed was deep experience and knowledge of classic salesmanship… stuff that transcended the physical act of writing. Or talking, for that matter.

For me, it was a major epiphany that still reverberates in my career today.

Technology is fun, and important. And, especially with the arrival of the Internet, you very well may be left behind if you refuse to get hip.

But, dude… it’s still JUST human-to-human communication. No matter how much electronic whiz-bangery occurs between the thought in your skull and the receipt of that thought by another person… the rather crucial issue of IMPORTANCE still matters most.

I often get blank stares from seminar crowds when I bludgeon them with the concept of learning classic salesmanship early in their quest for wealth and fame. I understand how confusing it can be, too. In many of the first marketing seminars we gave (back when we were inventing the model), we would often get some guy who would stand up and announce that he’d just popped for THE most expensive and tricked-out computer in existence… and now he wanted to know how to make money with it.

We’d sigh, collectively. And then patiently explain that, no, it’s not the equipment that brings in the bucks. It’s the brains behind the equipment.

In fact, in most cases the equipment is just a side-show.

I do not remember ever having any of those guys do a double-take as we explained all this, and suddenly say “By Jove, you’re right! I need to learn salesmanship and marketing skills!”

Usually, they stared at us without comprehension. Our answer couldn’t find a toe-hold in their brains.

Back to kids and tech: Nephew David called himself, in a moment of rueful self-actualization, a “tech snob”… because he is SO wired into the technological hinderlands, that he gets bored with “dumb” tech (like software or games or devices diluted for the masses).

When you can write code, you have little patience for people who can’t make their new GPS system work in the car. (We call our GPS “Know It All Betty”, cuz the voice sounds like a Betty, and she DOES pretend to know it all… especially when you miss a turn, and she goes into “scold mode”…)

His aunt Michele, however, sees him as a “Geek Angel”. Because he can explain things in ways she can understand.

To her credit, she first takes the technology she wants to learn to the absolute furtherst reaches of her learning curve… so she’s not bothering him with questions she could find out herself.

When she presents a problem she can’t figure out, she really can’t figure it out… because she’s spent massive hours in dead-ends, and needs help.

A Geek Angel will never be out of a job. He possesses a rare ability to both immerse into the mysterious Tech Culture and thrive… and yet still be able to sit with unfortunate earth-bound tech-illiterates, and reveal some of the magic to make their lives better.

I’ve heard many tech-savvy people complain about the way clueless friends waste their time with incessant demands to “fix” their buggy computers, or detangle the electronic miasma of their TV remotes. (I have 3 remotes for my plasma, sound system and cable, which can all be thrown utterly out of synch when the dog sits on one of them. Don’t you?)

I sympathize. I learned long ago not to tell people I’m a writer. Trust me — soon after revealing your occupation, one of the folks you’ve just enlightened will approach you with a killer offer: “Hey, man. I’ve got a great story to tell. How about you write the screenplay, using my idea, and we’ll split the profits from the movie 50-50?”

I’ve had guys get ugly when I’ve begged off, too. Hey — all I had to do was write up their idea, you know, do that “typing thing” for a few hours. Greedy bastard. How dare you withhold your pathetic little writing tricks from the rest of us?

I’m sure it’s the same when you’re super tech-savvy, among the tech clueless.

And you ARE an angel when you help, though. Consider it a good deed, which will fortify your karma. (But make sure your second help session includes contacting a professional outfit that offers computer help, so your desperate technophobes have an alternative path when their bugged-up laptop crashes the next time, and they can’t find you.) (Or, you don’t want to be found.)

Anyway…

Here’s the new word I invented: “Dinobot.”

It is, of course, a quasi-clever combo of “dinosaur” and “robot”… and I consider it a description of the best place to be in business right now.

Part old-world, part new-world.

It’s important to have a certain level of tech savvy, if you’re gonna do any online marketing. If you’re new to the Web, this transition may be painful… but it’s critical.

The Web is technology made manifest, to get gnarly about it.

It’s a new life form — there is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.

And we need to learn to thrive in BOTH.

Gone are the days when a marketer could proudly proclaim to be ignorant of new tech. (Hey — it wasn’t that long ago when direct mail, print and broadcast media were the ONLY way to go.)

Also gone are the days when simply being hip to the latest and greatest software applications will give you any astounding advantage online. (Again, not too long ago, just having a pop-up squeeze page would so overwhelm a visitor to your site, that he’d give you his email and name out of existential fear.) (Man, those were the days, weren’t they?)

I don’t expect to win over many converts… but I’ve always taught that the best position to be in… is to straddle the worlds of old-time salesmanship and ultra-modern tech.

Thus: Dinobot. A little bit of the stubborn street-wise classic salesman… welded to a shrewd knowledge of what the ‘Net is capable of providing you in terms of traffic, attention-getting tactics, and practical social networking.

Emphasis on the word “practical”.

Look — I have immense respect for my colleagues in the online entrepreneurial world. Some of these guys are pulling down vast fortunes while literally creating the business model for Web marketing that will be around for decades to come.

True pioneers.

However, the models they’re creating are all based on concepts that go way back. Essentially, online biz is all about finding a hot market, becoming the “go to guy”, and creating a greased slide sales funnel. Just like offline marketing.

The difference, of course, is in scale, and cost. What would have worked in, say, direct mail… and cost you fifty grand to pull in two hundred grand… can now be re-fitted for the Web, and cost a couple of hundred bucks to bring in the same two hundred thou. Or more.

And instead of months using the postal system… you can use email, and get ‘er done in a few days.

The Web has created an opportunity for anyone to become a filthy-rich capitalist from their kitchen table, using a laptop and a few low-cost online vendors for processing orders and managing data.

I have been one lucky son of a bitch to have a front-row seat for much of this current marketing revolution, too.

I make no claims for exceptionality, other than I have remained open to opportunity my entire career… and I happened to start in the old-world model of direct mail and infomercials, and smoothly segued into the new-world model of online marketing.

And from this cat-bird seat, I can tell you without doubt that the guys raking it in… are all using classic salesmanship, welded to a basic understanding of the current technology. They are NOT geeks. They hire electronic cowboys to wrangle the technological details.

It’s an important realization.

The world is fast moving to a new class system: The top layer will be the guys who know how to USE the technology to their advantage… and they do not need to be masters of the code and electronics.

The second layer will be the geeks who roll up their virtual sleeves and immerse in the Grid to keep the tech alive.

The bottom layer will be a tiered mess of technology consumers. Some will be mostly clueless. Others will be wired to the max, with a satellite connection installed in their brains.

But they’ll still be “just” consumers.

You wanna grab a seat at the top?

Become a dinobot.

Dude, I’m telling ya. It’s the path less trod, but it’s the way to go.

Okay, I’m done.

What do you think?

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

P.S. Increasingly, the coaching we do in the “Radio Rant Coaching Club” (which is all virtual, by the way) settles into a groove of convincing people to find happiness with a balance of high-tech savvy and classic marketing skills.

It helps to realize, as you clamber aboard the Web, that you need both. You’re able to move ahead quickly, and you’re not surprised by any sudden gap in your knowledge base.

We’re creating a race of dinobots.

Check it out: Go to http://www.carltoncoaching.com and see what’s available.

The world is changing under your feet. Hooking into the right resources for info and tactics and savvy is essential.

Just a suggestion.

P.P.S. Okay, here’s an update (a week later): Enough parents have written in to inform me that Dinobot has already been taken by the Transformers juggernaut.

Bummer.

I’d toyed with other options before choosing dinobot: Geek-o-saurus. Techosaur. Dinology.

You guys got any suggestions?

13 Responses to Tech Snobs, Geek Angels, and Dinobots

  1. This article is inspiring, John…

    I’m a 19 year-old online copywriter, and realizing
    what you’ve mentioned – I have to restudy all the
    classic lessons taught by legendary copywriters again.

    Thanks, and I appreciate it.

    Sincerely,
    Seth Chong

  2. Great post/article John, as always. You never fail to impress.

    On the new “Dinobot” scale from 1 – 10 (old vs. new) I am about a “5” on a good day.

    After attentind your Workshop in Orlando and studying some of your courses I hope to rise higher on the Dinobot Scale.

    My goal is to acquire a “Unique Grasp of the Obvious”.

    Thanks again John (and Stan).

    Tom Malley

    John Carlton replies:

    Hey, Tom. Good to see your post here. Love the “Unique Grasp of the Obvious” line…

    John

  3. John,

    Being a Dinobot is at the core of being an entrepreneur nowadays. If you’re a Dinobot and an entrepreneur skilled in salesmanship, human relations, a bit of law, marketing, spirituality, and so on… You’ll be hiring the Geek Angels and Tech Snobs to work for you! Kinda like You and Halbert… It’s about being effective, not just efficient…

    Thanks for keeping us frosty,

    Fabio Henri

  4. John, you’ve done it again – this is GREAT!

    I can honestly say that I think I have the ‘Dino’ part down. My real problem is with the ‘ultra-modern tech’ stuff.

    I thank you for furthering my education!

    Deb

  5. Yep, I can go along with that…. Be a Dinobot along your path toward becoming a Providual (Procivilization Sovereign Individual).

    One “thing” I would do, John, is “split” your “world of flesh and blood”:

    “It’s a new life form — there is now a world of flesh and blood, and a world of virtual data.”

    The virtual data world is CyberSpace of course, but how about defining the world of flesh and blood as BeingSpace (what happens in the individual’s Being) and adding the distinction RealSpace for the world outside the Being, to include relationships of course, but also anything natural, like the environment and biosphere etc.?

    That’s what we do down our way :o)

  6. Yes! I am a Dinobot (though it pains me to admit to the Dino part!)

    A few years ago, in what was either a moment of insanity or a misguided method of repair I did a full time (3 year!) degree in Computer Technology… this in itself is an interesting concept because technology is changing so fast that at the end of year 3 the people just starting the same degree in year 1 are learning totally different material…

    Anyway, I was an ‘adult student’ and the oldest student in the class (which made me dangerously motivated as I was one of the few people who actually knew what they were giving up to be there) and I graduated top of the class (we call it dux down here). Now, here comes my point… there were kids who graduated with me who knew more about technology the day they STARTED the degree than I knew the day I finished… and I bet them all . You see I knew how to play the game, I knew how to really HEAR the question and COMMUNICATE the answer… I became so good at this that I could have in depth technical conversations with tutors and not really understand a word I was saying – I ‘SOLD’ them the answers.

    And this is what I really learnt… technology is just a tool, no more, no less, a means to an end… it didn’t really matter how much I knew about the tool, all I really had to know was what it could do for me – everything else was small stuff. I DO need to know how to incorporate new software into my business, I DON’T need to know how to write it.

    So yes, I imagine that I definitely qualify as a Dinobot, and a successful one at that, but you see I have had a secret weapon…. before I even started the technology degree I had already graduated from the Gary Halbert/John Carlton University of communication and marketing!

    For this I am eternally grateful.

    John Carlton replies:

    Karen, I would NEVER bet against you, on anything. You possess too much brain power and too many fundamental skills. You’ve led an amazing life (guys, she sailed across the Atlantic in a two-crewperson sailboat!), and I would be astonished if you don’t yet have another dozen challenges in your future that you’ll pounce on with glee…

    Sometimes, just staying true to the goal of insisting on an interesting life, lived with gusto, is enough to open the door to opportunities most folks cannot even dream of. I firmly believe the Dinobots will rule the world until forced by biology to yield the till…

  7. Yo John,

    I’m young enough (and from a tech-savvy enough family) that I’ve had computers around me since the day I was born. (A month before I was born, my computer programmer mom invested in a top-of-the-line Apple IIe.)

    I feel blessed and cursed by this.

    Blessed because almost anything tech comes naturally to me — I’ve even leveraged this into my first copywriting job with a high tech company.

    Cursed because this damn technology swallows you whole if you try to stay on the cutting edge. (Especially when you suffer from a bit of ADHD and easily find yourself knee-deep in worthless news about technology that won’t be publicly available for another three years, with a day gone by before you even notice you got off track!)

    Dinobot seems to be the calm in the chaos — staying on top of technology enough to know what’s possible in the right (hire-able) hands, yet staying out of it enough to maintain some perspective. It’s a concept I’ve been settling on recently, without the $60,000 word to describe it.

    Knowing this deep inside for a while now, I feel fortunate that I’ve been open to the idea of learning from the old-farts. :)

    I’ve learned classic salesmanship.

    I’ve trodded through the dusty 1920’s language of the Robert Collier Letter Book to pick up timeless sales appeals.

    And I understand advanced concepts like building out AdWords systems, doing Taguchi multivariate testing, and even how to build a complete e-commerce site from the ground up in an afternoon (with the help of templating systems, of course!).

    I’m working my way up to being a Dinobot to be reckoned with!

    It’s nice to hear an old pro who’s been in the trenches for years saying this is the way to go. It’s validating.

    Frosty as ever,

    Roy Furr

    P.S. — Why’s the text on these comments so damn small? I mean, I’m young and hip and haven’t lost my eyesight yet, but my love for your blog posts and reading and responding to comments is gonna push me over the edge if you don’t do something about it!

  8. A real dinobot would know that dinobots have been around since at least the 80s. They were the dinosaur characters on Transformers. :)

    Technicians will always be led by strategists. That’s why CEOs make the big bucks and owners out-earn employees.

  9. John

    Great post! as always.

    Roy Furr “…Why’s the text on these comments so damn small? ….”

    Answer: The comment text is currently set to font-size 9px(really small). To correct this, have you geek change the font-size inside the css class: .comtxt to 10px or 11px.

    Stay Frosty
    Wes

  10. Sorry John, dinobot is already taken. It was used in the Transformers Saturday morning cartoons that kept my son reveted for a couple of years.

    However your message and intent is right on as always.

    John

  11. Man John, I just discovered this blog, and your writing is just like
    watching the “tele”. I can’t “turn it off”, it’s too good. I’ve got a lot
    of work to do right now, but I find I just want to keep on reading.
    You should write some stories for “House” or some of your other favorite shows. You know and I know you would kick butt.

  12. The word you’re after is – HALBOT

    Part surname of the greatest copywriter HALbert (no offence), and part roBOT.

    HAL was actually in a science fiction movie…

    Some people even think that a certain company are strange cos’ their initials are a letter after each in the alphabet!!! H(I)A(B)L(M)……

    Anyway, I’ve had a bit too much wine and I gotta go listen (again) to some Guns n Roses and Lynyrd Skynyrd…

    Keep rockin’ John, your words ‘inspire the fire within’…. (By the way, that was MY line…).

    Cheers John,

    Col

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