Probably the biggest hurdle with new technology is that it requires people to change to get the most out of it.
When you adopt a technology to help solve a problem—like, oh let’s say, team work—if you just drop the technology in people will use it like a faster version of the old technology. It’s analogous to what happens to new media: First there’s radio and then there’s TV, and TV shows are radio shows with a camera trained on them until enough time goes by that pioneers discovers the strengths of the new medium and develop it into its own thing.
In offices today we’re still in the early part of that transition—we have better ways to do things, but they’re stuck in their old workflows.
Like the dreaded e-mail chain, where everybody’s sending e-mails around like they’re little slips of digital paper. And then a document needs revising, so a Word document gets attached to the e-mails, like it’s a bunch of papers.
There’s no sane reason to do this in 2015, but all over the world this happens in offices every day. Because it’s such a natural analog. You’re using new technology to make what you used to do faster and more efficient, but forcing it to conform to old habits.
And in offices around the world, people open the Word file, read it, edit it, and pass it along, exactly like a piece of paper that gets marked up by different people.
It may still be a win since sending e-mails is a lot easier, faster, and cheaper than couriering paper around, but it’s still the same old process, only turbocharged.
The hard part about adopting a digital workflow isn’t to replace the manual tools—the hard part is to change the workflow.
People fear change. Most people at this point have realized the benefits of using a word processor instead of a typewriter, but that doesn’t change the writing process, only the physical act itself.
(As a sidenote here, the people working so hard on the Word team to add new features would cry themselves to sleep every night if they knew how many millions—perhaps billions by now—people use Word like it’s a typewriter with magic white-out.)
Which is profoundly sad—the state of computers and networks these days has the potential to revamp the process itself.
One obvious technology that has been mature and ready for the masses for a long time is shared documents. Let’s use Google’s implementation as an example, since it’s free and polished.
Google Docs lets you create and edit text documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the Internet, which is great for people who move between different machines a lot, or for people who simply want to be able to work on a document at work, then pick up where they left off at home without resorting to kludges like e-mailing themselves the document or remembering to put it on a flash drive. That’s a win, right there.
But the real win is that other people can be invited to collaborate on the documents. So different people can change things at the same time. Which means no more e-mailing documents back and forth. No more having to figure out who has the latest version, or the even worse scenario of spending your time editing a document only to find out it’s several versions old and all your work was for naught. Not a good feeling, that.
So why aren’t more teams using technologies like Google Docs when the benefits are so obvious?
Because they require a new process. Why mess with something that works—well, that kind of works—but is grossly inefficient?
This is the challenge for technologists and technology evangelists—getting people to understand why changing the entire workflow is sometimes necessary to get the benefits of the technology. It can be a hard sell.
Lord, can it ever be a hard sell.
Nic reports his experiences so far with voice computing from Amazon and Google and is a bit mystified at the reaction to Apple’s HomePod.
After a few weeks of using iPhone X I’m ready to join the congratulatory choir.
Nic is interested in smart homes. His contractor let him know how the wealthy are already using them.
Apple’s neglect of the pro market is causing a lot of gnashing of teeth in Apple-nerd circles, but it’s true to Apple’s vision.
There is unrest in the Mac community about Apple’s commitment to the platform. Some are turning their eyes to building a Hackintosh to get the kind of computer Apple doesn’t provide. Here’s what it’s like to run a Hackintosh.
Car nerds are dealing with some cognitive dissonance as car technology changes.
The Oasis is Amazon’s best e-ink reader to date, but it’s not good enough for the price.
Nic buys an Amazon Echo and is indubitably happy with the fantasy star ship in his head.
The problem isn’t ads. The problem is being stalked like an animal across the internet.
The DS416j is a nice NAS for light home use. Just don’t expect raw power.
The Core Dump is moving to GitHub Pages. This is a good thing, most likely.
Thoughts on Apple Watch after half a year of daily usage.
Predictably, the Paris attacks brought the anti-encryption crowd back out of the woodwork. They're at best being willfully disingenuous.
Things to consider when planning to build a site on a compressed time table.
Nic provides some basic not-too-paranoid tips for securing your digital life.
Installing Jekyll on an EC2 Amazon Linux AMI is easy. Here are the steps.
After wearing the watch for over a month, Nic has thoughts on its future. Spoiler: Depends on how you define success.
Turns out “it's just a big iPhone” is a stroke of genius.
Some technical terms still confuse people who should know better, like journalists.
How to host a static site on Amazon S3 with an apex domain without using Amazon’s Route 53.
People fear change, so new technology is used as as a faster version of the old. This makes technologists sad.
Nic loves his Pebble and looks forward to the Apple Watch, but realizes he’s in the minority.
Nic loves books, but he loves their content more.
Nic is worried about the fragile state of our technology and thinks you should be as well.
Nic tries to understand the WATCH. It doesn't go well.
Nic thinks home integration could be Apple’s next major category. Read on to find out why.
Nic is frustrated with his Kindle and would love to see Apple make an e-ink reader.
The iPhone was announced Jan. 9, 2007. It now occupies a huge chunk of Nic’s life.
Nic is very impressed with the speed of the iPhone 5S and iPad Air.
Nic buys a Nexus 7 to test the Android waters.
Nic outlines some of the risks of ceding comments on news stories to Facebook.
Nic is bemused by the sturm und drang surrounding the iOS-ification of Mac OS X.
Web publishing used to require heavy-duty nerditry, but no longer.
Nic is creating an e-book. He shares what he’s learned so far.