The Technologist’s Big Lie

I use tihs line in several presentations. “Whenever some technology ‘expert’ (hey like me) gets up here and tells you that a technology will ‘save you time’ that should raise your red flags. This is a codeword for ‘I am lying and blowing smoke'”.

It is a Big Lie. The Technology itself will not save you any time. It will just sit there. It will consume your time as you get to learn it, and climb some slope of usability that may eventually get you to a point of being efficient.

And this whole concept of “saving time” is often whipped up into those (again a lie) headlines about “Technology _________ is Costing Business 5.6 Billion Dollars a Year on Productivity”. If you dig at any depth, you will find some grossly simple and overstate math- if you make an assumpyion people spend X amount of hours at work (twittering / facebooking / watching youtube) at some average wage Y with Z total workers, we get 5.6 Billion. How does anyone actually buy such flaff logic?

About the only thing I feel confident saving time is effective use of RSS to monitor your information resources. But there is a pitfall here too. Actually it came to light for another technology, when I listened to a podcast of some ‘expert’ in ‘speed living in a web 2.0 world’ referred to Tivo/DVR as saving time -assuming that if for each hour of television you watched, you might save 25 minutes of commercials that are zapped.

Makes sense on the surface.

This totally ignores the likely case if you start using Tivo, you will likely be storing (and watching or zapping through) more shows than you watched before on TV 1.0! The same goes for RSS- it may lose its efficiency as I add hundreds of new feeds, taking longer for me to skim, and creating more depression as I feel more and more “behind”. The efficiency is only there if I maintain a static flow of content.

My point is to be sure to check those assumptions carefully at the door before accepting them at face value. Most of these involve generalizations of a moving target at the control of one of the most irrational and inexplicable devices, us human beings.

So keep your eyes open wider for more of these Big Lies. They are everywhere.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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