Happy Leap Day (if you're into that sort of thing). This once-every-four-years phenomenon, an extra day, has been generating its fair share of online buzz since 1996, which is the first Leap Day I can recall that started with a morning log in via my Netscape browser.
Unlike this morning, when I was greeted with Leap Day headlines on Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Twitter (from my iPad), in 1996 I might have read one or two pieces about Leap Day on AOL or in a Usenet group on my bright and shiny new Compaq PC. I'd recently given up trying to stay connected to the World Wide Web on my Macintosh LC II and the conversations on The Well because the PC was faster back in the dial up days. It could download a whole page, complete with graphics, in about a minute. This was the beginning of the end of anything resembling an attention span.
Flash forward to 2012. Life is not about computers anymore and what amazing things we can do with them but about how we can stay connected without being tethered to them. The extra phone line running across the living room rug to download email has been retired to the Smithsonian (alongside the horse and buggy).
Email itself is undergoing a bit of a transformation. Namely, how do we stop getting so much of it now that we can reach out for one another's more immediate attention by texting, IM'ing and in a less-frantic-I-don't-really-care-if-I get-a-response-or-not form, social networking. Social media, a term that in 1996 might have implied some type of contagious disease you could have contracted from sharing a newspaper or renting your videos from an unclean store, zaps us around the "interwebs" (for lack of us coming up yet with a better term) at the speed of light.
We've gone from Web 1.0 in the leap year 2000 to the blogosphere of 2004 to the social networking of Facebook and Twitter in 2008 and here in 2012, we are on the edge of our seats waiting for Web 3.0. Experts debate what that will really be, but it could already be here in the form of the power the Web is giving to the people. Ordinary people shaping culture online. Online culture.
Two recent events in this longer-than-usual February spark a trend of ordinary people coming out of our social network cocoons and taking control of social media. One was the online backlash against the Susan G. Komen Foundation's threat to stop donating funds to Planned Parenthood. Two was last week's outrage at the Virginia state legislature over a restrictive abortion the bill (the bill has since been revised to mandate a less invasive pre-screening procedure).
A third really recent event (i.e., yesterday) basically has nothing to do with these first two, but signals a trend we're going to need to keep an eye on. Real real-time. A NASCAR driver tweeted his status from the racetrack following a crash. Gives new meaning to texting while behind the wheel.
Where will be four years from now? That's the real question. I may be writing a blog post from my steering wheel. Parked, I'm assuming. Mobile mobile blogging is probably not in the cards until 2020, at least.