Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Growing Chasm between the Tech Press and Users


Us technology folks (fans, users, critics and developers) are living in a time when there is no dearth of tech news. As you would expect, Apple is covered in great depth and breadth by the Technology Press. As a shareholder and Apple device owner, the feverish (borderline fanatical) coverage of Apple minutiae is a blessing and a curse: Apple stock moves based on Tech press sentiment as opposed to fundamentals. The flip side is that I am perennially aware of new features, product releases, growth potential, and a constant stream of rumors and theories on what Apple will do next. I read the following every day:
  • Hacker News
  • QZ
  • WSJ
  • AppleInsider
  • BGR
  • The Verge
I will occasionally browse through the Daring Fireball feed to which I am subscribed. Therefore, I consider myself to be a curious and informed reader. Since I am now purely a consumer/user of technology, I am increasingly interested in coverage that speaks to the "User" as opposed to the "Technologist" perspective when it comes to new product announcements and launches, both hardware and software.

One of my favorite writers covering Technology is Mr. David Pogue. Mr. Walt Mossberg is a close second. I like their style because they inject humor and whimsy into what is an otherwise dull (think of the color beige) subject. Mr. Pogue, in particular,  leverages his knack for making silly and ironic videos to showcase new devices and products, thereby demonstrating to users how he uses a new product or feature as opposed to mere prose. Their focus is the user, and how technology enables users to accomplish a discrete set of goals.

Unlike these two writers, a large percentage of the Technology press these days has shifted the locus of their coverage away from users and on to what technology can and should enable in the future. This contingent of the press seems to want a death match, a zero sum game almost, between the technology Titans  – Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Stripes and street cred are won or lost based on who predicts the winner of the next round correctly. The frenzied press coverage comes at us consumers in all formats 24x7: print, social media feeds, audio and video. This has to be a good thing, right? Increasingly, I don't think so!

Alas, the Tech Press, like Film Critics, have lost touch with consumers of technology. Most users with whom I have spoken don't even leverage 10% of the functionality in their current devices across all SKUs (mobile, tablet, laptop). They feel increasingly overwhelmed by what is available on the market, and are extremely skittish about Web-based/Cloud services. One such gentleman has four degrees, one being a PhD! When I asked him how he felt about more technology, he said he had enough to keep him busy. My wife and her family? The same response (except her 24-year old brother, of course). These folks could care less with the future of technology; they are struggling to keep up with what's already available!

Only one of the news outlets that I read balances the "User" with the "Technologist"; it is The Boy Genius Report. The writers do their best to showcase how users can make the most of Technology, regardless of vendor. Their practical articles mixed in with the chief editor's prognostications, compliments and diatribes strike a good balance without coming off as preachy, dour and heavy-handed.

The rest of the Technology Press should consider a similar approach or risk alienating a large reader group that can neither appreciate nor abide news that always makes it seem like nothing is good enough.

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