Defeated Today, But Not Tomorrow

I feel utterly defeated today. It’s 20-minutes after 11pm and I’m wondering where the day has gone. Where did it go? I had this wicked to-do list planned sketching out all the important tasks I was going to plough through and I’d still have time to hit the gym, make dinner and clean out the fish tank. Yeah right, who am I kidding. I didn’t even come close.
The house is silent now. My 7-1/2 year old son is tucked-in bed and I can finally muster a few lingering moments of clarity before I head off to bed and think about my future and the insignificance of this day. Thanks to the persistence of digital information I’m sure this blog will be running in some crude capacity 30 or 40 years from now when I’m a frail old man. I’ll probably look back and have a good laugh.

Oh let me see, it appears I squandered the better part of 1/2 the day calling around so-called “official” Hewlett Packard computer parts/service “resellers” searching tediously for a replacement hard drive for my unreliable 2-1/2 year old laptop that decided to spontaneously stop working last Wednesday.
When my computer started acting up noticeably Wednesday afternoon at the office one of my co-workers suggested rather decisively that the problem could be resolved if I simply got a Mac. This immediately got me thinking (again) about finally ditching the mainstream toolset (i.e. Windows or Mac OS, Adobe CS, MS Office, Skype, Gmail and generally everything produced by Google) and build my own computer from scratch running Ubuntu or some other Linux OS flavour. Then I think how the tech industry locks us all in and how difficult it can be to break away from the mainstream wares.

Like other people working in the digital/marketing/design/communication field (that is, I sit in front of a screen all day) I rely heavily on my computer hardware and software working properly to earn a living. When something breaks and I can’t connect and feel I can’t get any meaningful work done it’s incredibly frustrating. You know the feeling. But hey, the silver lining: I was smart and remembered to back up all my work/files, so nothing lost —only my time.
Sure, I can be creative with just a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and my imagination. I think Bruce Mau once said in his manifesto “creativity is not device-dependent”. No doubt, and I certainly don’t need a computer and software to materialize my ideas. But give me a bloody machine that works once in a while!
I spent an hour earlier this evening writing a lengthy email to some nameless support person over at help@hp.com (probably some nondescript call center located off North American soil) explaining how I wasted my afternoon trying unsuccessfully to find an HP reseller who could help me locate the laptop components I so desperately need replaced.

I’m sure they could care less about my trivial predicament.

Am I surprised this whole process is made difficult? Not at all. The tech industry, and generally all other consumer product segments, are built around the engineered obsolescence model in which a product is purposely designed with a limited lifespan (e.g. functional and aesthetic attributes) to ensure future sales continue.

Now, where else did the rest of the day go? Oh yes I remember, over 1-hour or so back and forth in emails with a recruiter regarding an upcoming opportunity. That’s right, I was consumed (temporarily) writing several emails outlining my relevant experience in the digital field, also highlighting a recent campaign for one of my clients. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a phone chat or a meeting. No. Can you just please outline your experience in area XYZ in an email and we’ll get back to you.

Where else was my time spent today? Oh, of course, those pesky Basecamp notifications. Yes, email notifications from Basecamp concerning obscure projects several of my colleagues may be working on yet I have literally nothing to do with. Those are a great. What a time suck. Delete – delete – delete.

Onward.

Tomorrow I will seize the day and pound it into a beautiful symphony of layers. Tomorrow I will prevail. Tomorrow will obey my vision.

Barriers To Audience Engagement

this application will be able to huh?It’s nothing really new. You visit a Web site, read an article or consume some bits of content and, depending how much coffee you’ve drank, feel compelled to leave a comment.

“Join the conversation”, “share this post with your friends and followers” are the mantra of those looking to build an audience in what’s become a fractured digital landscape saturated with countless options vying for our attention.

What follows next (still) baffles me. Please sign-in with Facebook, Twitter, or [insert prominent social network here] to leave a comment on our glorious Web site.

Ok, if you insist. Hmm… I’ll choose Twitter.

Web-site-you-want-to-leave-a-comment-on would like to access your Twitter account and “Update your profile“, “Post Tweets for you“.

Oh wait. Let me think about that one for a moment. Hmm… No.

Incredibly there are many sites still employing this rather severe mode of access and APIs that want untethered access to everything under the sun, including your firstborn child.
Content administrators who subscribe to the argument of forcing users to sign-in with their social media credentials would likely say it’s the most effective way to ensure everyone leaving a comment is a real person. Automated bots and trolls on the other hand conspire to pollute discussion threads with bogus or low quality content, so these protocols are necessary the moderators would argue.

Perhaps so, but sites imposing strict rules governing audience engagement, for example, requiring users to log-in with their Facebook credentials or only a few other cherry-picked social networks, is an unfortunate measure for dealing with the mountains of automated crap now circulating the Web. I’m afraid resorting to these tactics only discourages authentic audience participation.

Because You Watched…

because you watched

Reading Yoav Aner’s blog this morning I’m reminded how many applications, particularly the mobile variety, have the capacity to creep us out by appropriating our personal information. Whether it’s compiling recommendations based on our usage behaviour, accessing our physical location, or trolling our contact list, the expectation is that our software experience is somehow enhanced by the unscrupulous broadcast of our personal information.

Netflix is a prime example of a service that tries way too hard with the concept of personalization. Not really creepy, just more of an annoyance.
If I happen to watch an episode of Doctor Who Netflix starts filtering my menu with list after list of science-fiction related movies and TV shows.

Because you watched… Conan the Barbarian our clever algorithms have determined you’ll be interested in seeing Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise. Really? I’m curious, what’s the logic behind these seemingly arbitrary recommendations.

Because your 7-1/2 year old son logged in under your profile and watched an episode of Transformers: Rescue Bots we think you’ll be interested in watching… The Smurfs.

Because you watched… Waiting for Lightning, the documentary covering the life of legendary skateboarder Danny Way, here’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Walking Dead, and Jack Reacher.

Here’s what’s popular on Facebook:  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Walking Dead, and (surprise surprise) Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise.

Ok, Netflix really thinks I should watch Jack Reacher.

Please no. Stop it. Stop trying to learn what I’m interested in viewing. Please just allow me to search by genre (PS3 interface) and decide for myself.