As Silicon Valley debates the worthiness of Ajax vs. Flash and the best new way to add tagging everywhere, my parents’ VCR still blinks 12:00. My mom listens to her favorite music and radio stations on a $40 clock radio because she can never figure out the complex home theater system. In our quest for the latest and greatest technologies we may be overlooking the masses of users waiting for technologies to enrich their lives.
My mom’s a blogger but doesn’t know it. She passes along chain mail and jokes to family and friends on an almost daily basis. Each week she updates everyone who’s interested on the latest news from my brother in Iraq. Both activities are ideally suited for blogs and syndication, but it’s easier for her to fire off an e-mail to 25 people with her latest funny joke or piece of chain mail than connect to everyone through a blog or reader.
My 18 year-old sister has never used MySpace, Facebook, or Xanga. Her social networking app is a cell phone she carries everywhere, including sending text messages from her bed. She creates content using still cameras and video, but never shares the content online because she finds the process too complicated. It’s easier to connect her video camera to a TV than to send it to a video sharing site.
As geeks we put up with all the complexities to explore a new service but most of the world just wants to plugin something that works. I try to step out of my geek bubble at least once a week to find out what it’s like to interact with technology from someone else’s point of view. The cashier at the coffee shop has no idea they are using a Windows PoS but they sure do love their iPod. Hopefully we can make their lives simpler and more rich through our attention to geek details.