The flip side of consumerization -- or why everything suddenly seems to be broken
Personal technology doesn't seem to work as well as it used to, and people are starting to get upset about it.
Last week, John Battelle ranted that Apple products are no longer simple to use, and gave numerous examples, from contacts to photos to the mysterious "Other" crud that's taking up a lot of storage space on his iPhone.
Then today, Microsoft developer evangelist Scott Hanselman wrote that "everything's broken and nobody's upset," citing many of the same examples (including the iPhone "Other" stuff) as well as lots of new ones, like slowness in Gmail and bad web sites crashing IE9.
(Image credit: Yaili via Flickr.)
I've had many similar experiences -- duplicate contacts that never get resolved, weird disappearing emails and calendar entries, browser plug-in alerts that make no sense, auto-updates that slow performance to a crawl, and the madness of trying to organize and maintain the proper album cover art on nearly 4,000 songs in iTunes.
What's going on here?
Hanselman suggests that software developers are favoring speed over quality, or have forgotten how to do QA testing, or lack passion to create perfect (or even half decent) software.
I think it's simpler than that.
Call it the flip side of consumerization. Just as consumer technologies are sneaking into the workplace, average consumers are being asked to deal with the kinds of technical complexity that used to be the domain of professional IT workers.
Think back before you had a smartphone. You probably had a personal computer at home that you used for a few simple tasks -- sending email, storing pictures and music, online shopping, maybe paying taxes or playing a few simple games. Sometimes you'd plug a Palm Pilot (remember?) or digital camera or iPod into the computer and transfer information back and forth. You probably had one or two Internet services that you used regularly, and you probably had to get information in and out of those services manually. You entered your email contacts by hand. You uploaded pictures one at a time. And so on.
That was probably only four years ago. At most.
Now, almost everybody's walking around with at least a second full-featured computer in their pocket, which we swap out for a new one every two or three years. A lot of us have a third computer -- a tablet -- that we use at home. Many of us now have a computer hooked up to or built into our TV. Plus, all those other computers that everybody in the household keeps bringing home.
These devices are all constantly gathering data -- pictures, usernames and passwords, information you enter into apps and online services, movie and book purchases, and so on. They're all connected to the Internet and to each other nearly all the time, and exchanging reams of data with a wide variety of services.
Suddenly, we're dealing with a lot of really complicated problems that will sound familiar to anybody who's worked in IT:
This week, a National Transportation Safety Board judge dismissed a $10,000 fine that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had lodged against a photographer who had used a drone to take aerial photos for the University of Virginia. The judge found that the FAA hadn't actually issued any enforceable rules regarding the use of commercial drones.
If you've got a Windows XP machine -- either at home or in the office -- consider yourself lucky. In the past, you'd upgrade to a more recent Windows operating system without a thought. Today, you have many options.