Tag Archives: utility

Could you Live Without Email or the Web?

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How many people do you believe have used email? If you had to give a percentage off the top of your head of US citizens that you believe have used email, what would you say? According to a survey, about 20% of US heads-of-household have never sent an email. About 18% (20 million) of households don’t have Internet access. Approximately 30% of people have never used a computer to create a document. Wow. I had no idea! I wonder why Internet access isn’t considered almost like a public utility of sorts. Think about it. We have access to the public library, and there are computers there. We have the ability to grab television and radio broadcast signals over the air. We have water and trash services that we pay for as a standard. It just seems like it would be a detriment to any household not to have Internet access today.

If we look at Technology as an enabler, rather than a cost, we may be able to get further ahead as a society. This is what I suggest to people when they ask me about Broadband options. I always recommend that people get online to save money. Imagine saving a portion of your monthly bills. When you start buying things online, you’re no longer confined to the selection on your local store shelves. You can save serious amounts of money on goods this way. You’ll save time, by shopping online or even just to communicate in general. Everything boils down to a cost. What is your time worth?

I look at text messaging in the same way. I could pick up the phone and call someone. What if I just get sent straight to their voice mail? To me, it’s more convenient and time-saving to just send a text message much of the time. I look at paying for that unlimited texting service as a cost of convenience, and of communication. The less communication options I have, the more I feel like I’m just not connected.

If you don’t embrace a new way of communicating because you can’t, that’s one thing. If you don’t embrace it because you won’t: That’s something else entirely. Technology is becoming increasingly pervasive. Email is anywhere and everywhere, literally. It has its downfalls, certainly. That doesn’t keep me from recommending it to literally everyone.

What do you think about all this? Do you think this much of a digital divide should exist, between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’? Is a computer and Internet access so difficult to get? Or, is this more of a fear that people may have? Send me an email to [email protected], or leave me a follow-up comment on this post and let’s hear your thoughts.


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Users vs. Developers

In prepping for my talk at BloggerCon tomorrow, I thought I’d incite a riot tonight. Most of the world won’t be there, but you can tune into the live stream at some point right after lunch (when I’ll be leading the discussion). I put all of this in tonight’s Lockergnome report for the Windows Fanatics channel, but I figured it was worth repeating here… where I’m likely to get flamed out of existence.

What would the world of software be like if the inmates were running the asylum? I’d argue a lot more useful, and a lot more beautiful. But users are usually in the back seat when it comes to the evolution of a utility – from beginning to end. We have all the control in the world, but few of us ever choose to exercise that power. We are expected to treat developers like they’re gods – but they’re no more important in this cycle than the average user. Let me put it to you this way: software is useless if there isn’t anybody using it. There are certainly users who are content to take whatever programmers hand to them, but I don’t believe that this Utopian level of interaction will exist for too much longer. The world of software is getting larger by the day, and more people are finding new and different ways to improve lives with digital code. I got sick and tired of meeting programmers and developers with attitude, so I decided to get an attitude myself – as a power user. I expect better, I expect faster, I expect smarter, I expect more.

Base functionality is crucial – but I would argue that software should look twice as good as it runs (which should be fast to begin with). I’ve been labeled a “nitpicker” for pointing out font inconsistencies and pixel discrepancies. But if you don’t complain about the things you’d like to see change, how do you ever expect them to change? Developers develop, users use – but it’s up to both parties to communicate with one another. When I see a new piece of software that holds promise, I call out its shortcomings in the hopes it will be closer to perfection with the next revision. Programmers believe that they’re in charge – but I believe the true power lies within the user. Years ago, when I started Lockergnome, there were few people writing publicly about good (or bad) digital tools on the desktop or the Web. The blogosphere has since exploded with a flood of positive and negative opinions – and if you’re not a part of that revolution, then you’re missing out on an important part of history. I’ve seen countless developers struggle to get their apps recognized – but most of those same programmers suffer from an overinflated ego and miscalculation of a uesr’s wants, needs, and desires. Users don’t talk – but I’m asking you to start flappin’ your electronic gums for the sake of making the software landscape better for all of us.

FWIW, I love developers – couldn’t live without ’em. Can’t live with ’em, either. 🙂