Published on: June 11, 2009Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
A little over a week ago, I got an email that has sort of been gnawing at me…so I thought that I’d do what I so often do here on MorningNewsBeat…think it through out loud and see if I can reach some sort of conclusion.
The email was responding to a quick note that I wrote apologizing for the fact that much of the previous day’s posting was seen in italics, which made it a little harder to read, especially for aging baby boomers. After I apologized, I said that part of the problem was that I had not seen italics because I work on a MacBook and use Apple’s Safari browser, which actually fixed it for me. As I said then, I have no idea how this happened, but couldn’t help but feel “happy to be a Mac guy.”
The email, from an MNB user named Alan Lamb, read as follows:
This is a very common problem when we depend on technology, and it leaves us vulnerable. I see so many people using GPS in their cars that it's got to the point where they have lost contact with their environment and simply follow the computer generated instructions. If the machine fails they have no idea where they are!
When your Mac 'fixed' your error, it actually fooled you into thinking everything was fine, but still left you with a post that didn't display correctly for a vast majority of your readers.
In a similar scenario, poorly written browser code often looks fine if you use MS Internet Explorer, but fails on other browsers that follow html display standards more closely.
You may be "happy to be a Mac guy" but if it degrades your ability to communicate clearly, why?
When we give up attention to details it seems to make our lives simpler, but in the long run it leaves us open to failure.
Now, I get his point – that an over-reliance on technology can actually disconnect us from reality, and that this is something about which we must be vigilant. And that’s a fair position.
And, I guess I can be accused of allowing technology to put me in a position where I did not communicate clearly, and that maybe I was inattentive to details. That’s probably something I should work harder at.
But, to be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is … other than simply doing my best and counting on the fact that if the copy is in italics or if there is a misspelling or some other sort of error, people in the MNB community will quickly let me know and I’ll be able to fix it. I like to think we’re all here for each other…and I never mind when people offer corrections. In fact, I used to give away t-shirts to people who caught misspellings, but I couldn’t afford the postage!
Of course, when the recent problem with the italics took place, I was on the road, so I wasn't able to respond to the emails very quickly. I guess I could give up traveling so that I’m always around to fix mistakes, but that doesn’t sound like a good use of my time and energy.
(Besides, traveling around the world and giving speeches about retailing and consumer trends is how I make a living. And I’ll digress for a moment here to point out that if you need someone to speak at your conference, meeting, business dinner or even a wedding or bar mitzvah, give me a call at 203-662-0100. Operators are standing by.)
I’ll be honest about something else. I am happy to be a Mac guy … even if the fact that what I view as superior technology occasionally causes a misstep. Great technology doesn’t just seem to make life simpler…it actually does make life simpler, though there are, of course, some glitches from time to time.
As I reason this through, I come back to what I think is a mistake in Mr. Lamb’s reasoning…a mistake that is illustrated by the very fact that we’re having this conversation. Technology doesn’t have to disconnect us from reality. In fact, used properly, it creates greater and more resonant connections. My screw up with the italics pales, I think, compared with the hundreds of emails I get each week, and the opportunities that this technology-based business has created for me to meet new people, see new places, learn new things and enjoy new experiences.
I think this same logic applies to so many ways in which technology is applied, whether it is the GPS in a car, the scanner in a checkout lane, the RFID tag on a product, or almost every other kind of technology innovation. All these things - when used as tools that heighten our knowledge and expand our communities rather than as crutches that isolate us from reality - make our lives and our workplaces richer and more fulfilling.
I’d put that both in boldface and italics, but I might mess up the coding and be back to the beginning of this discussion.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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