Technology is Evil! Long Live Technology!

— 5 minute read

I've had a post in draft form for awhile about how people use text messaging to ask you to do stuff for them - but David Sparks sums it up pretty good here:

Using a text message to ask someone to do something substantive, like write a sales proposal, doesn't make sense. It is too hard to capture big projects out of text messages. If you are assigning or requesting work, I would argue that rather than send a text message, you should be writing an email (or sitting down with someone) where you can provide a more thorough explanation, giving your recipient a chance to better understand the assignment and have a nice easy platform to get it started from.

He goes on to talk about how he captures and records any to dos or next steps from a text - Apple doesn't make it easy to actually act on a SMS/iMessage - but I really wish people would stop sending requests that belong in an email or phone call through a text message.

(Ok, I'll pull my post out of the draft bin and jump off David's post. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that.)

To me a text message is a low level form of communication. You use it to:

  • tell someone you're arriving late for a coffee meeting because of a train.
  • figure out what your spouse meant by “a few potatos”.
  • ask if there’s 6 or 7 people at the office so you know whether to grab a dozen donuts.

If your request involves the other person having to do just about anything else on their computer/device - send an email or phone them. 1 For example:

  • Wanting to make summer plans for your extended family? Email everyone so they can look at their calendars and have time to respond.
  • Booking a meeting with a new client or customer.
  • Letting someone know about a sickness or illness in the family.
  • You want some to send you a file, photo or do something that you know requires them to be at their desk or computer.

Let's Pile a Rant On Here For Good Measure permalink

I get tired of people who shun using technology blaming new technologies for the problems they seem to bring. But the real probem isn’t the technology itself, it is the people who use it that are the problem. People who don’t think before they act. Who don’t question the technology and look not only at its 2 benefits but also its negative effects.

Which reminds me of a recent post on Cameron Moll’s site where Cameron quotes Neil Postman’s excellent book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology:

Most people believe that technology is a staunch friend. There are two reasons for this. First, technology is a friend. It makes life easier, cleaner, and longer. Can anyone ask more of a friend? Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful.

But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend…. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that. Nothing could be more obvious, of course, especially to those who have given more than two minutes of thought to the matter. Nonetheless, we are surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo.

I remember reading Technopoly back before Twitter, Facebook and all the intrusive web technologies we take for granted today were around. The most invasive technology back then was text messaging, blogging and fancy digital cameras that offered a glimmer of what was to come. Reading Technopoly back then was a bit like putting on sunscreen before heading out on a hot day - some mental protection for the future.

Completing the link train back to the source of Cameron’s post is this quote from Frank Chimero’s blog:

But, technology is only as good or bad as what we use it to do, and I don’t think anyone who works in tech gets into the field with malice as their intent. In fact, usually the opposite, which is why I like this business. Hell, I’m one of the the folks in technology, so none of this criticism excludes me—I only suggest we stop looking at technology as the primary way to fix problems, and stop turning a blind eye to its negative consequences and to the new problems it produces.

I love that peers I look up to in the web/design industry are thinking critically about these things and not rushing blindly into the future. It gives me hope that just as the tools they’ve built and designed filter down to the masses, the spirit of questioning technology will as well.

  1. I’m not even going to bother talking about people with their face down into their phone when you’re in conversation. That deserves a left cross everytime. And its not just a "youngins and their phones" issue. The 50+ crowd has just as many problems putting down their iPhones as the 12 year olds do. 
  2. Thanks to @askvirginia for pointing out my grammar issues. I really appreciate when folks do that. Really. Not sarcasm at all. Really!