Demystifying the Digital World – Part 2 – Background

The next part is this series was inspired by a recent article from Anil Dash, “12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech.” First, who is Mr. Dash? According to his own website, he is “a technology entrepreneur, activist, and writer focused on making the tech world more humane and ethical.” He is also the CEO of Fog Creek Software, a company that has been on the cutting edge of creating humane and ethical tech for almost two decades. I’ve written about Fog Creek’s advanced business practices in this blog.

Mr. Dash’s article, while long, makes several points that are helpful in understanding why the digital world has become so complex. He states, “All of the changes in our lives that happen when we use new technologies do so according to the priorities and preferences of those who create those technologies.” This means that people creating the products that we struggle with everyday are people who live their daily lives in such complex technical worlds that they don’t see the complexity anymore. The engineers who designed that TV remote with 25 buttons don’t see 25 buttons, their brains immediately filter out all but the four they need to operate it effectively.

Mr. Dash also explains that, “Tech is often built with surprising ignorance about its users” which is certainly self explanatory given the need for the thousands of “How To” websites on the Internet. The article goes on to explore several other related topics such as how tech companies make money and how this affects our experiences with their products as well as why understanding these concepts is important to changing tech for the better.  In summary though, the responsibility is on us to balance the usefulness of each piece of tech in our lives with its demands, then taking steps to reach a healthy balance. The first step is deciding which are the most critical projects to tackle.

  • Are 12,000 “precious” photos scattered across 5 computers stressful?
  • Are there 4,328 unread emails split between several email accounts making it impossible to find anything?
  • Are passwords written on dozens of sticky notes stuck to the bezel of your computer monitor?

With so many topics to cover, clearly not every article in this series will be useful to everybody, but we will start the next post with the elephant in the room, getting rid of Microsoft Windows if at all possible. This tech product is the one that seems to cause the most tech-stress in people’s lives. Interestingly, the time is long past for people needing a traditional computer. So “We need to talk about tablets.” Did you know you can get a Chromebook for under $200? There are trade offs of course so don’t go out and buy one just yet, but even these basic models can handle email, documents, photos, web surfing, and other tasks with ease.

Of course, this entire discussion assumes that you did your homework from the last post and recently backed up your computer. If not, go get a hard drive and do it. I’ll wait.