Business Tech: Why I Hate Technology

I hate technology. You are the face of technology. Therefore: I direct rage and contempt upon you. If you aren't the hands-on support person, ask your hands-on support people about this. Part of the disconnect between IT and the rest of the company comes from the sense that we are the personification of tech.

When I'm in the hot seat, doing support, I get questions like "Why are we using Outlook? My friend's dentist's company uses Google Mail and they don't have these problems." One of the things we need to read into this question is the assumption that we picked the software in use. A lot of people in your company will blame you for the fact that the company has whatever program or process it is that you are fixing at the moment. My favorite is when someone with twenty years in does that to me when I've been on the job for a week. They know intellectually that I couldn't have been a decider, but emotionally, for them, I am the technology.

Likewise, when I help someone who just got a bigger monitor or a faster system, I'm their hero; even if I'm just there to load AccuTerm. For most users, IT is an amorphous blob. Being part of it implies that we are experts in every bit of it and that we are the arbiters of which hardware and software have been selected.

While I can't give you everyone's list of pet peeves and genuine hot button issues, here's a non-definitive sampling from my list of techno-hate. And, for the record, I don't blame any of you for these .

10. Tech is Destroying English

I verb my nouns now. I noun my verbs. Backup used to be two words, and it was used as a verb, not a the name of a process. I use abbreviations like VPN (Virtual Private Network) and SSH (Secure SHell) as if they were verbs.

We end things by hitting Start. We execute things. And anything we don't screw up, auto-correct screws up for us.

On top of this, we've gotten the whole world to speak differently. A friend, Charlie Hoover, recently asked a group of us online to come up with a sentence that makes sense today, but which would have made no sense to us twenty years ago. Here's one: Why does the calculator I'm downloading to my phone need in-app purchase permissions?

9. Three Screening

When I was a kid, I'd talk during the TV shows and sit in rapt attention for the commercials. Now, between my laptop, TV, and phone, too much of my life is spent staring at a screen. We've become a culture of zombies thanks to our always-on tools and toys.

To be fair, I'm a willing zombie. I just put down my smartphone after returning a call, playing a game, and checking my calendar. Now I'm on my laptop, writing this, before VPNing into a client to fix a data transfer problem. After that, I might catch up on a DVR-ed TV show or two while I finish that next step on the app I'm developing.

8. No One Reads (Because They are too Busy Reading)

Reading for pleasure seems to be a lost art. Why don't people have more time for literature? They are too busy reading (Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al.) to have time to read. When the social media isn't demanding our attention, the mountains of data at work does. The fact that I can now read a virtual version of a thousand-page report on my phone ends up obligating me to read a thousand-page report on my phone.

The boundaries between work time and private time are eroding. Leaving the office used to mean leaving access to mountains of paper. You couldn't be expected to bring all of that home, to sift through that much data. Now, the tools we have made it possible. Impossible had a better quality of life.

7. Glut

I speak fluent Proc, mvBASIC, Delphi, PHP, Javascript, etc. I'm passable in the C-Family (Java, C, C++, C#, Objective-C). I'm learning Python. I keep wanting to learn Dart but there aren't enough hours in a day. One size does not fit all; but seriously, how many ways do we need to write Hello World ?

There's also a format glut. Recently, I had to take Excel's (proprietary) format, convert it to (a semi-proprietary implementation of) XML, merge the results with a CSV, and validate it against a MultiValue PRODUCT table. If they'd thought to add one more format, perhaps a MySQL database to the mix, you would have heard my head explode. And this wasn't the only data transformation project I was working on that week.

Part of my livelihood comes from this chaos. Despite that, even I am tired of it.

6. Pronouncements of Death

MultiValue is dead: false. Mainframes are dead: false. Cobol is dead: false. Can we please stop bashing every tech that we feel might challenge the tech we like? As a technology journalist, I am tired of a whole category of technology reporting. Please stop telling me what six minutes worth of research — or less — has led you to conclude.

There are still millions of lines of counted flat files in use every single day. Very little in tech ever completely dies off. Photography didn't cause us to stop making oil paints and canvases. TV didn't close down every movie theater. New tech may cut into the popularity of — or even marginalize — older tech, but that's not the same as dead.

5. Techno Consumerism

Now that I no longer carry an iPhone, I find myself looking for an excuse to buy an iPad. My Android tablet is getting slow, so I want a new one. I own two (current) laptops but I still find myself looking at the sales. Now, if you'll excuse me, I still haven't finished tweaking my Raspberry Pi.

4. Electric Bills

I routinely run two laptops, a phone, a Bluetooth earpiece, a tablet, and a TV. They require a DSL modem and router. And I'm not the only person in my house. My carbon footprint is embarrassingly huge.

3. Politics

This isn't strictly a tech complaint. However, technology has made it possible for us to have a twenty-four-hour news cycle and the twenty-four-hour rumor mill. I can now read something that ticks me off about politics any time of the day or night . Even better, I'm no longer restricted to being upset about the U.S. elections because I have access to articles about political situations in every country in the world.

I'm not sure why I need to have an informed opinion on Toronto's ex-Mayor, or Australia's PM, or any number of people in the governments of England, Germany, and Greece, but I certainly have access to enough information if I wanted to form those opinions.

2. The End of Privacy

I look at a circular saw online. Next six webpages I go to, all of them about writing, suddenly have ads about — you guessed it — power tools. There are algorithms out there that think they know us. And, while they are sometimes right, well, let's just say that Amazon suggests books to me which I've written. Granted, I am interested in the books I write, but, by the same token, I probably have those books already.

Facebook stalks me. Google still wants to sell me that thing I looked at six months ago. Apple is sure that they have my musical tasted perfectly profiled. Netflix just suggested something to me that I'd never watch in a million years. We used to see the Internet as an anonymous land. All illusions of privacy are gone.

When you see an article about the NSA collecting phone records, remember that in the early days of telephones it would have been impossible. Technology is why they can sweep all that data together. The candle shop in 1885 couldn't analyze my buying trends. Now they can pay pennies per thousand clicks to suggest something I'm statistically expected to want.

And, for the record, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is literally lifted from the Nazi propaganda machine. The re-emergence of comments like that terrifies me.

1. Windows 10

My new number-one hate is the way Microsoft is handling Windows 10. Mandatory updates concern me. Presently, if an update breaks an application, the vendor can warn you not to take it. With the new Windows, you'll be forced to take an update even if it puts you out of business.

I've lost work this week to Windows deciding that their update was more important than anything I was doing. I'd hit return in a word processing document, only to find that a 'reboot now' window had popped up and stolen that return. Nothing like a shutdown without an opportunity to save my work.

In my mind, if I paid for this laptop, I get to decide what the priorities are. A world where the O/S is in charge doesn't work for me.

* * *

This is why I've stopped using all technology. Except for my phone. And Syd and I need the TV (and DVD player) to catch up on Game of Thrones (no spoilers, please). And I just leveled up another character on Marvel Heroes, so I guess I need the laptop and the Internet. Maybe I should tell everyone on Twitter about how I've given up tech. I'll get to that after I install additional software that I need to support my new client. ::sigh::


Charles Barouch is the CTO of HDWP, Inc. He is also a regular contributor to International Spectrum Magazine, a former Associate Editor for both Database Trends and for Gateways Magazine, a former distance learning Instructor for CALC. He is presently the Past President of the U2UG. Mr. Barouch has presented technology and business topics in front of hundreds of companies, in a wide range of product and service categories. He is available for on-site speaking and consulting engagements in and out of the United States.

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Sep/Oct 2015