Dan Appleman: Kibitzing and Commentary

My personal blog

On Device Convergence and Human Nature

This week, Wired posted two articles on device convergence: Five Gadgets That Were Killed by the Cellphone and Seven (More) Gadgets Killed by the Cellphone. I responded in my Examiner.com column first with Five Gadgets that were supposedly killed by the cellphone, but aren’t dead yet and today with Five gadgets that won’t get killed by the cellphone.
It wasn’t really until my second response that I really tuned in to the real philosophical difference between my approach and that of Wired. I get a sense, reading the Wired columns, that there is a fundamental approach that convergence is good and inevitable, and that ultimately cell phones will become good enough and powerful enough to effectively obsolete everything else.
Now, I’m enough of an Science Fiction fan to concede that someday this may be true – it’s quite possible that in a century or so we’ll all have cell phones embedded in our skulls providing full 3D sensory communication and gaming experiences, while shooting photos through our optically enhanced eyes and quietly irradiating our brains.
But barring breakthrough of that magnitude, it seems to me that the Wired columns, like those of many authors, are far too focused on the technology and not nearly enough on the people who use it, and how they relate to it. For example: it’s easy to look at teens and young adults and how they have adopted and use certain technology and assume that is the future for everyone. But you can’t really extrapolate that way until you’ve seen what happens once they get older. The constant text messages and Facebook posts of the young 20-something professional might be replaced by something else once she’s a harried mother trying to maintain a career.
I invite you to visit my column at Examiner.com, where I’ll always try to remember that the people are more important than the gadgets. And I’ll continue to post here on my blog additional commentary that doesn’t quite fit in the column itself.

Can you really rent-a-coder?

Over the past year or two I’ve kept an eye on the various online consulting sites – Elance, guru.com, RentACoder, oDesk. I’ve actually used RentACoder once (as a buyer on a very small project) and was satisfied with the results – though I suspect I spent more time writing the spec and managing the programmers than I would if I had done the work myself.
I do think we are likely moving into a recession the likes of which our parents and grandparents talked about (shhhh… let’s not use the D word). But I also think it is a very different world – and whatever ends up happening will not be like the 1930’s. One of the big differences is, of course, the Internet.
These online consultant sites (and more that I expect will appear) are part of the difference. I expect more people (not just software developers) will find themselves taking on project based jobs as compared to employment as things get worse.
Yesterday I wrote a column introducing these four online consulting sites – if you are not familiar with them you might want to check it out.
For those who are familiar with the concept, and perhaps with one or two of them, you might be interested in my follow-up column that compares key features of all four sites.
I’d be interested in hearing of experiences you may have had (good or bad) with any of them.

Gadgets, gadgets and more gadgets

Ok, I’m a geek. I love gadgets. But, I have a confession to make – I’m a flawed geek.
You see, a true gadget nut loves gadgets for their own sake. If it looks cool and has great features (the more the better), it’s great – that’s all that matters. Cost, value, reliability, technical support, practicality and usefulness – these tend to stay in the background; minor details to be excused or explained away.
I’m too much of a skeptic to be a true gadget freak. I think an intuitive and easy to use gadget with fewer features is far better than a fancy complex gadget with tons of features (most of which you’ll never use anyway). I’ll take six month old technology if it will save me 50% off the latest and greatest. And in today’s economy, I really want to make sure that every dollar I spend is worthwhile.
I’ve always wanted to write about gadgets, and I finally found the right opportunity. I’ve become the National Gadget Examiner at Examiner.com. It’s an interesting concept – a sort of virtual newspaper that seems to be succeeding at attracting competent people to write about their topics (I’m speaking of the other writers, called Examiners – you can judge my competence for yourself).
I’m certainly having fun at it so far – gadgets is a broad topic (at least as I interpret it), and I hope my skeptical (and cheap) attitude will strike a chord. I invite you to check it out at Examiner.com: Gadgets Examiner.
I’ve been cross-posting the articles to a new blog: TheThriftyGeek.com as well. I’ll also be using that for more in-depth articles that don’t fit on the Examiner site.