Thursday, December 8, 2016

5 things I hate about technology

I have to start this off by stating I am a techno-guy.. an early adopter.. the guy who helps others make their tech gadgets work better. All that being said, there are times when technology is extremely frustrating - the exact opposite of helpful.

image credit - flickr maurits verbiest


Here are 5 things I hate about technology

1.) Digital Photo Management

Digital photography is, in a word, awesome. The camera on my phone is quick to access and takes amazing pictures - I've even had a 16 x 24 print made to hang in my son's bedroom. And for those times when I need a true "photographer's camera", I can pull out my Nikon DSLR and capture even more detail.

Our family uses this great technology to take a lot of pictures - I'm sure yours does too. We have 3 android cell phones, an iPad, an android tablet, and a DSLR camera, so pictures are coming from multiple platforms and users' accounts. Over the course of 300-400 pictures per month, maintaining order among all the pictures isn't easy.

Sure, we could just let them upload to whatever cloud service our device auto backs up to (ie: dropbox, google photos, iCloud, etc.) That's ok on an individual level and for the short to medium term. But that doesn't allow me to easily find a picture from my wife's phone taken 5 years ago - especially if you've changed cloud backup providers and/or platforms over the years.

For example, my wife had an android, then used an iphone for awhile, then went back to android. We've used google, dropbox, icloud, and flickr as online photo options along the way.

In the end, we have over 50,000 pictures over a fifteen-year period, coming from all different people and devices, and leaving our family's memories to a 'service provider of the month' is too much to chance. So I'm left with the task of assimilating them all - it's something I do each month.

I have all of our devices auto-upload to each family member's dropbox account. Each account is shared into my account, and my account auto-syncs with my desktop. Once a month I move everybody's pictures into a master harddrive, rename them all into a common naming convention, and click through them to separate the good from the junk. Then I re-upload the good ones back into our family's flickr account where we can all access all photos from anywhere. I also double-backup our master harddrive to two other drives, one of which is kept offsite.

The good news is that I have ALL of our photos since we went digital in 2000, and they are all backed up safely. I don't worry about flickr's drives getting hacked and deleted, or getting locked out of my account, or any of a dozen other disasters that could happen.

The bad news is the whole process is a pain in the ass. I wish there was a faster-better-easier way.

2.) When Tech doesn't work right

We've become so reliant on all this awesome technology, which really has made our work easier. But every once in awhile - more often than I'd like - it fails us.

  • A video won't load on youtube or facebook, just when you're trying to show it to a friend on your phone.
  • Your client sends you a pdf file, but for some reason your computer won't open it.
  • You've sent 300 emails over the last few days. But now, when it's the last minute and somebody needs something critical, an email just doesn't seem to go through. You're on the phone with the recipient, confirming email addresses letter by letter - "Did you get it yet?" "No - I just hit send and receive again and I don't have it yet." Then it magically shows up 15 minutes later. Turns out it was just an email server traffic glitch.
  • The DVR recorded your favorite show, but it stopped the recording a minute early and you have to miss the ending. Really?
  • You turn on your computer to print out a quick one-pager, and it starts running a Windows update. 30 minutes later you have your printout.

Sometimes these are minor inconveniences and well worth the trade-off for the awesomeness of the service - especially when the service is free. But other times it's a mission critical part of the business, and you're paying for that exact service to work - it drives me crazy.

3.) Facebook

Is there anything better, AND worse, than Facebook?

We are completely in tune with our family members scattered across the country, and I've reconnected with friends from all through the years, going all the way back to elementary school.

Remember the days when you only knew about your cousin's new job because your mom talked with your aunt (her sister) once in awhile? You were kept abreast of the family by second or third-hand information, and really just a one-sentence blurb per person.

Today you get to see everything your cousin is doing. And that's the problem.

You see everything they're doing. Day after day, and sometimes hour after hour. How many pictures of the baby and the dog do I have to look at? I just want the summary, the highlights, the what's going on lately. I don't want to see a picture of every dinner they eat. And I especially don't need to get lectured about politics - jeesh!

Multiply this by however many hundreds of friends you have, and your facebook feed is mostly a Groundhog's Day re-run of the same people posting the same things, day after day. It's more mundane information, and more of a waste of my time, than anything that's ever come before it.

4.) Digesting information while Driving

This is going to sound bad - I know it. And I'm not a fan of distracted driving.

But here's the thing: We already have distractions in our car. It's how we use them, and how much we focus on our driving, that makes the difference.

  • I listen to my car radio.
  • I listen to audio books and podcasts.
  • I change stations.
  • I adjust the volume.
  • I can thumb through my cds or playlists and select what I'm in the mood for.
  • I check my speed, gas mileage, and the weather, on my dashboard.
  • I talk on my phone.
  • I talk with my passenger(s).
  • I check google maps to see traffic updates.
  • I can open my water bottle, have a drink, and replace the cap, before putting it back in the cupholder.
  • There are dozens of other potential distractions.

I pay attention to traffic, and I try not to take my mind off the task of driving. I've never caused an accident (knock on wood), but I've been rear-ended twice.

My frustration is - why can't my "smart" phone be more helpful in the car?

I'd like to have an interface similar to Iron Man's Jarvis - where I can just talk to my car and get real answers - the stuff I'm actually looking for - back.

Rather than just listen to an audio book, I'd rather do verbal research - asking my car to search for things and then listening to the results. I'd like my car to read my emails and texts to me, and allow me to respond - in a smooth and conversational manner. I'd like to research and write blog posts and newsletters from my car, and to do some MLS searching while I'm sitting in traffic.

I don't want to see (or hear) advertisements, and I don't want google to show me what it thinks I might like (which is often an advertisement) - just get to the right result and read it to me.

I understand that these things are somewhat possible, individually, but the process is so far from seamless that it can be more distracting than the distraction it's trying to prevent. The technology just isn't ready for prime time yet, but it feels like it should be.

Even better would be an abbreviated display on my windshield that could track my eye movements, or react correctly to my voice.

For someone who spends a lot of time in his car, this could be a huge productivity game changer.

5.) the Overarching Complexity of Technology and short device life cycles

Keeping up with your tech can be a never-ending process.
process.

  • You get a new device. Along with the excitement of how cool it is, comes the project of learning its features and figuring out how to make it do the things you liked from your old device.
  • Next you need to get it all sync'd up with your previous applications, contacts, photos, backups, etc.
  • After a little bit, the new device starts to fit seamlessly into your life. It does everything your old one did, only better and faster, and you're productivity improves.
  • And then it's time to upgrade to a new device, and start the process over.
When you factor in new computers, phones, cars, work applications, websites, and everything else that gets updated and upgraded, it seems like I'm always updating something, and that "happy time" when everything works seamlessly and productivity is at the top level is becoming less common.

Bottom Line - 

I'll take the technology, and patiently get through the frustrations that come with it, but that doesn't mean I won't have to let the expletives fly once in awhile..

- Chris Butterworth

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