I think I must look on things a bit too simplistically.
I am convinced that we ought to be able to fix certain things, but as we haven’t fixed them in a long time then it’s clearly not as easy to fix them as I think it is.
Here are a few of the things that I thought we would have sorted by now, but haven’t. This is only a few, because once I got started I nearly couldn’t stop:
Media Conversion Dongles
How many bits of cable do you have in your laptop bag that convert one thing to another thing? I currently have four, the most used being the USB-C to HDMI converter. I limit the volume that I carry for personal health reasons, but the combinations are potentially huge. It’s not even enough to carry something that covers the four major standards – DisplayPort, HDMI, USB and VGA. Each of these standards has its own set of variant, there are three different sizes of HDMI and another three different sizes of USB, and that’s not including USB-C.
Meeting Room Equipment Connectivity
You walk into a meeting room, before you is a table with various cables sticking out of various sockets. This is one of those fancy rooms with a touchscreen interface that allows you to select various things like the position of blinds, the inputs to the visual equipment and the depth of the carpet pile.
You notice that one of the cables aligns with the video output on your laptop (for once you don’t need a media conversion dongle). You plug your device in, you select the correct input on the touchscreen interface and…nothing. You check that your laptop is sending a signal, which it is, but…nothing. You select other inputs on the touchscreen thing and apart from a brief excursion to a strange TV channel…nothing.
This is an important meeting so you came early but the clock has decided to go double-time on you and your set-up time is fast running out.
Eventually you get a picture on the huge 4K screen at the front, but for reasons no-one understands you can only get it to display 1024×768 resolution as a postage stamp in the middle.
You decide to forgo audio.
Why is this so difficult?
Permanent Markers on Whiteboards
Almost every meeting room I have ever been into has a collection of pens available for use, but they are nearly always a jumble of permanent and whiteboard markers. Next to this scattering of pens is often a pile of paper towels and an aerosol can containing a substance to get permanent marker off a whiteboard.
Why isn’t there a standard for the size or shape of the pens to make it easy to differentiate between whiteboard markers and permanent markers? Wouldn’t that be any easy solution to avoid the problem?
Yes, I know they normally say on them, but people don’t always look and one of the drawbacks of the substance in the aerosol can is that it also removes the markings from the outside of the pens.
The browser is the basic access capability for the Internet so I would have expected it to have become a commodity by now, but I don’t think that a day goes by without me needing to switch between different browsers.
This wouldn’t be too bad, but the problems that I see with different browsers are all highly annoying glitches. I get part way through a process and something doesn’t look right, or something doesn’t load, or things just hang. I’d prefer that a particular browser failed to start a page than get part way through and then fail.
Why is this so, so, complicated?
I’m not, primarily talking about the physical handling of ink/toner and paper here although that can be a problem.
My challenge is the process of getting from device to desired output. I’m imagining all of those sheets of paper that you see around any office printer that contain one line of print on them. I’m also talking about those times when you just need one page of something, but somehow it manages to stretch itself out over five pages. Then there are those times when you send things to the printer and nothing prints, so you send it again, then you go to the printer and there are three copies of what you asked for. How does this happen?
Yes, I know I shouldn’t be printing anything, but there are times when paper is necessity.
Calendaring and Scheduling
How many online calendars do you have? I have at least 5.
Why so many? It’s because various tools form part of my scheduling experience and those calendars don’t work together. They each want to own the thing that I’m doing in their tool.
They each, helpfully, provide iCal export and import capabilities, but that’s not really practical and I shouldn’t have to be copying files around for something as basic as time management.
I can get a single view of all of these calendars together because there are tools for that, but that’s still not very helpful because no one can see my availability other than me.
I don’t think I need to explain this one.
Why do we still have passwords?
If you do any video conferencing you’ll know that we still have a lot to do in this area. We can barely get audio conferencing working in many situation let alone seamless and reliable video.
For a while I tracked how much longer after the scheduled start time audio conferences started – the average was 6 minutes. Compare that to walking into a meeting room and getting started (without equipment – see earlier comment on Meeting Room Equipment Connectivity.)
People have tried all sorts of technical solutions to these problems but the reality is, if we are honest, none of them are what we really hoped for when we imagined seamless video communications.
Open Plan Offices
I’ll leave this one here.
More Features = Lower Utility
There are many situations when I want to buy a new something but the new features that have been added to the latest model of the something make my heart sink. In many situations the new features take away from the primary purpose of the something.
I used to have a Bluetooth headset that only connected to one device. It was difficult to get connected, but once it was connected it worked. Then it broke. I bought myself a newer version of the headset with the promise that it was easy to connect and could connect to more than one device. This new headset does indeed connect to more than one device, unfortunately it gets confused about which device is playing sound and it’s almost impossible to make it switch. It even loses connection when it’s only paired to one device. The two-connected-devices feature destroyed the utility of the headphones.
I have more examples, but I won’t bore you with them now because this post is already long enough.
Are we really so desperate for new features that we are willing to compromise the primary reason for buying the item?
How about you?
I’m sure that I’m not the only one?