Simplicity

I wrote before about the benefits of the low tech solution, how sometimes repeatedly clicking until the right result appears on screen is not the best approach. At times technology does create more complications than it solves, webmail blurs the line between home and work and people outsource our connections with other humans to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. These tools can provide ease and convenience but the tradeoff is added complications in the lives of their users.I love technology, I often find myself a cautious early adopter eager to try new products  if I can create a solid argument that they can better my life, forge stronger offline connections, and add simplicity without adding clutter to an already technologically over-saturated life. As a reporter and as a user new “Web 2.0″ technologies and networks are often vying for my attention, attention they will never receive.

“Web 2.0″ is largely a marketing term without an official definition used to refer to any “web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.” An article on TechCrunch listed three more “buzzwords” which are often used by new products to market themselves to users: “‘disruption,” “revolution,” and “democratization.” I will add to this list “complexity” and “dehuminization,” although you will never hear these words in an advertisement.

Google is a leader is dragging users into new products, not because the users necessarily want them, but because it is Google, and it is increasingly difficult to avoid daily interactions with Google. By adding information to the Google servers it can create a stronger advertising profile (not something which benefits me since I do not care about or want the ads) and know more about each user to provide “better” services.

Google Calendar is one of their products which provides a great service to its users, while providing information about its users private, daily routines to the company. Google’s service wirelessly syncs data across devices and users propelling it ahead of its paper counterparts, however some users choose to rely on a paper calendar, a physical entity on which dates and  times are written in ink.

A recent article in The New York Times examined the differences between a paper calendar user and the users of electronic systems. The article also examined the differences in the two tools themselves, highlighting that paper is private while electronic is shared not only with the company, but also with other users of that calender:

Part of what raises the paper team’s hackles about electronic systems is that others may become privy to an afternoon’s haircut or a therapy appointment. But electronic calendar users often thrive on the convenience that comes from synchronicity.

News organizations rely on these electronic systems, and those that use Google apps give their staff the opportunity to create numerous calenders, share them with different members of the organization, and then embed them into their own Google calender effectively blurring the lines between work and home even further. I am guilty of this sin, of blending my work and home calenders in the name of simplicity, but ultimately I created complexity.

On its face, a single calender interface appears ideal, however when in that interface I have too many choices, to what calender do I add an event? Who can view that calender and what information can they view? Undoing what I have done is impossible, it has become too engrained in my life and unfortunately part of my workflow.

While I cannot solve the problem I have already created, and can do nothing for other users I can do a better job of regulating my technology use in the future and listen to my own advice about adding new technologies. More is not better when it comes to technology and each step into the digital is a step out of the real and away from simplicity.

 

 

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