Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ridiculous Requirements for Knowledge

I filled in a questionnaire today and it asked what my favorite ad was. I demurred, but Rogers Cable has an entertaining one where the tech service rep shares a ton of bafflegab with the father of a family as he sets up their Internet and Cable TV Connection, including Wireless.
It is slightly funny, but it is also painful. The technician lets the father appear knowledgeable and the father defends himself. (If the ad is on youtube, please point to it in a comment.)
But it strikes me that now the industry I worked in is almost delivering products that shipped.
I have been a customer for over 15 years and it has rarely been pretty; we started with DIP switches on dialup modems, and then the cable modems were not a lot better and needed frequent rebooting, and then the Wireless Routers needed firmware upgrades and often complicated settings.
I was part of this problem (working in software) and I still found myself struggling with this garbage as a customer for days for myself, and often the same for friends.
Now the thing is once you got it going it was REALLY worth it so this crap had its value.
What I love right now is it seems things are almost OK - we need occasional reboots of various devices (which SHOULD be shameful) but laypeople, once informed they occasionally simply have to turn everything off and on again, should now be able to get their networks going, with some small amount of documentation (not the four screens of settings and experiments once needed).
I am hopeful that soon someone can just buy a computer, answer a couple of menu questions, and have a system doing what he or she expected right away.
This has been hard to achieve because of stunning technological advancements that challenge any attempts at standardization, and that is what creates this problem.
I think we now have a US Administration that is ready to try to stop advance and guarantee a lowest common denominator for a long time (which is what we had in the ATT/Bell monopoly). It won't be easy but the president seems oriented that way, except for making sure his Blackberry works (as it does today).
I am not sure how I feel about this. I personally prefer the complexity but I have never liked how it favored those of us who loved to guess and experiment.


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