TurboTech: Some positives and negatives of '09 tech

Todd "Turbo" Watson lays out the things he likes and doesn't like about technology in 2009.

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Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), developerWorks Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



23 December 2009

Thundering voice: It's time for ... TurboTech!

TurboTodd: I've been out on vacation for the past week so that's why you've not heard much from me. It was some needed time away, and it got me to thinking.

I'm not going to make any predictions about 2010 this year. And I'm not going to talk about what happened in 2009, either. You were here. You saw it. Or at minimum, you probably heard about it. Whatever "it" was.

Turbo Todd won't grouse (well, not much)

Listen

But what I AM going to do is talk about the state of technology. Things I hate. Things I like. Things that tick me off. Things that make me want to throw a big phonebook across the room. That is, if I still had a big phonebook.

This is, of course, no complete list, but it's all I could remember for now.

No. 1. Lack of persistent authentication

This one falls into the "things I hate" column. We're 15 years into this commercial Internet revolution thing and still, I have no way to persistently authenticate with a single user ID and password across multiple Web sites. Life's too short to remember all those user IDs and passwords, and I have to keep a spreadsheet with all those passwords just to remember which one goes with which site. And sorry, I don't wish to place the full authentication bet on Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect or anything else that's vendor-specific.

And unfortunately, OpenID seems to require a degree in computer science to figure out.

Can nobody figure this one out? Really?

No. 2. The illusion of Internet privacy

In the "ticks me off" column. When Facebook announced its recent privacy policy revamping, they basically pulled the equivalent of giving its global user base a giant wedgie. The default privacy setting was "everyone," illuminating the pure nakedness of your personal information for all the world to see.

If you wanted to keep personal things personal, you had to go out of your way to take action and regain some semblance of control over your personal information. Which, of course, Facebook is using to monetize its site.

I don't have an issue with their monetization; I DO have an issue with the constantly evolving privacy regime that consistently lowers the bar on privacy and devalues user information.

No. 3. Overzealous digital intellectual property protection

AKA, iTunes. In the "makes me want to throw a phonebook" column. I bought the music -- I ought to be able to move it from one computer or device to another. And I'm just talking now about the Apple devices. With no hassle!

I rented the movie. I ought to have more than 24 hours to finish the thing. When I rent a movie from Blockbuster, it doesn't suddenly expire because I hit "play" and then hit "pause" for 23 hours.

I love Apple products but the DRM [digital rights management] drama needs to find a new ending and soon.

No. 4. My iPod Touch

"Things I like." The DRM complaints I have above, aside, I also give credit to Apple for the iPod Touch. It has become my new best friend, particularly considering the amount of travel I've done in the past couple of years. My Touch has become my favorite e-reader, portable jukebox, portable movie screen, portable gaming machine, portable communications device -- all in one. It keeps me from getting bored in the most boring of circumstances. Say, that 15-hour flight from LA to Hong Kong in coach.

No. 5. Amazon.com

Definitely "things I like." I've been an Amazon customer pretty much since day one. Not once have they ever let me down or pissed me off. Nor do they abuse their opportunity to market to me. I still dig their personalized recommendations, even if I don't buy from their recommendations. And their site experience continues to be easy to use and with a solid, persistent memory of me as a customer.

Why don't more Web sites take a clue from Amazon? I mean, seriously.

No. 6. Techmeme

Also "things I like." As a parttime blogger and a full-time technology news junkie, I depend on a lot of different information sources and RSS feeds to try and keep up with it all and fail miserably most of the time. But Techmeme has for several years been a kind of a tech news barometer that I can always count on to keep me up to the minute. Though some have critized its algorithmic engine and over-dependency on the big blogs, I find that it's typically got the "pulse" of tech news which is just what the TurboDoctor ordered.

No. 7. My Blackberry Bold

Put this one in "things I mostly like." Since I got the Bold in January, I've been impressed with the performance and the screen and the swiftness of the 3G connection. I've also enjoyed most of the apps, but I still hate the fact that I can't do a cloud sync of my contact info -- read: phone numbers and the like -- and that the Blackberry browser continues to be subpar. Nor can I sync my iTunes with it even with the Blackberry Desktop Manager for the Mac.

Those issues aside, it's my virtual lifeline to the world when I'm on the move, which is often.


No. 8. Tech company arrogance

Definitely "phonebook" material. Tech company arrogance is the worst kind of arrogance there is. IBM® had it back in the day as did Microsoft®, Yahoo!, and a long list of others. For those big boys on the tech block these days, know that we in the industry have a very long memory, and life won't always be as good as it is for you right now. That much you can count on.

Just know that a little humility goes a very long way.

And the position of strength you find yourself in now will one day be one of significant weakness. Don't invite your customers or competitors to one day abuse the latter by your abuse of the former.

No. 9. Social media as the second coming

Look, I drank the social media Kool-Aid way before there was a name for it. I was an early Cluetrain advocate and always felt and still believe [that] the basic mantra that Searls, Locke, and others laid out way back in 1999 had a lot of wisdom.

However, social media is only as effective as the smart and intelligent individuals behind the blog or the Facebook page or the community site. The constant firehose of BS, PR, and propaganda loudspeak via the social media only crowds the already information-overloaded social-media freeway and encourages those simply trying to navigate their way from point A to point B to quickly search their GPS for alternative routes.

Get a clue: Get on the cluetrain and understand social media's role in the overall marketing ecosystem.

But DO NOT put it in the pantheon category of second comings — you'll be sorely disappointed.

And finally: No. 10. People who tweet too much

You know who you are. Some of you people really need to get a life. "Joel! Put the iPhone down and get off the babysitter!" Remember that scene from "Risky Business?"

I'm serious. I like to tweet. But heaven forbid -- all things in moderation. Some of you folks literally don't seem to do anything else, and I worry about your mental and professional health. Does your doctor know that that's all you do is tweet? Your boss? Your significant other?

Hey -- it's OK. To just put the device, or the PC, down and go outside and take a walk. Preferably a very long one. Don't worry, the Twittersphere ain't going anywhere.

This is Todd "Turbo" Watson, logging off.

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