Making technology simple

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.

3 replies on “Making technology simple”

  1. I think the same can be said of technology targeted at semi-geeks – namely, blog clients and vlogware. Sure, if you want to go through hell configuring, you will get there, but I swear we are going backwards in the interoperability arena.

    Self publishing should be an easy, self configuring and standardized task – but for anyone wanting to get off the web-based editors, and blog like a reporter, the current crop of blog clients are laughable, hard to configure, and confusing.

  2. I could not agree more, Niall. (Though I think young people are often more adept than older ones like me).

    I have linked to and written about your post on my weblog.

    Essentially, I think there are a lot of people like me who are technically adept but not “geeks” as you call them, but who are “getting on a bit”. All this learning and relearning new technologies takes time, however keen one is. And when you aren’t a geek you want to use the technology to do something in your own area of specialism, you don’t want to learn it for its own sake.

    Obviously one can’t have one’s cake and eat it, and one has to learn “stuff”, but I think it would be great if there was a way to spread and accelerate use of new ICT development at the “below product” level (I think I mean the “useful tool” level). I get fed up at all these wonderful bits of code I read about on various websites yet can’t work out how to use them to do what I want to do for my particular application.

    So I agree lots, we need to move more towards user-friendliness to encouarge the interested non-geeks to use all the wealth of knowledge that is out there, in many cases being freely given by the inventors (eg open source).

    Thanks again for the post, it was great to read.

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