Tipping Pitches: Technology: The Choice to be Disappointed


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Technology: The Choice to be Disappointed

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Last week, I stumbled upon a gem of an editorial on SFGate.com called Why are you so terribly disappointing? by Mark Morford. To say that the article resonated with me is an understatement. I retweeted, shared on Facebook, and have re-read several times since then.

The purpose of the article is to rant about people's propensity to complain about everything. Everything. We Americans, as Morford says, are a "miserable bunch." We are cynical about everything. Don't trust anyone. Are disappointed in the greatest achievements.

It wasn't clear what it was that triggered Morford's diatribe. He covered just about everything that Americans have been known to bicker about, often unnecessarily. Admittedly, about half of the article is devoted to politics, and you may be at odds with his point of view here.

But all of us should be able to relate with the other half. In particular, he took on the immediate backlash to Apple's iPad:
I calculate it took about seven minutes, give or take, after Steve Jobs finished introducing the shinypretty iPad before the whiny attacks on the wondergizmo began flooding in, how it didn't have this or that expected feature, how it can't do live video chat, doesn't have Flash, the bezel is too big and it won't double as a meat thermometer, how it doesn't really revolutionize much of anything despite how it's, you know, this gorgeous 1.5-pound slab of aluminum and glass that works flawlessly and can perform roughly one thousand tasks in a more fluid and astonishing way than any device of its kind in history.

So true. The iPad isn't perfect. It's not a phone. It doesn't offer multi-tasking. It doesn't have a camera. It doesn't allow for inputs without an adapter. It doesn't have e-ink.


This is the key. The thing hasn't even been released yet. It's phase one of a first generation device. We've yet to hold it in our hands and work with it to see just how great or terrible it is or can be.

Maybe it's not as fun to read a book on the iPad as it is a Kindle. But it's not a Kindle. It does so much more than a Kindle. I guess the complaint is that it does a lot well, but isn't the best at enough.

The humanity!

If you expect the iPad to be the greatest device ever created by man, that it will be everything for everybody, you are choosing to be disappointed. I've chosen differently.

Personally, I think it looks pretty freaking cool. But what is apparently cooler is to ridicule Apple for coming up with such a flawed, revolutionary product. All the cool kids are doing it, so pile on.

Don't want one? Don't buy it. But I have a feeling that many will.

The expectations were set so high that the collective response was colossal disappointment. We were expecting it to be everything for everybody, to replace the laptop and the phone, to save the print industry, and maybe even make us more desirable to our significant others.

The iPad may still be awesome, but in ways we don't yet know. It may be the perfect computer to use around the house. It may be the ideal traveling companion. And it may be the inexpensive computer solution for the classroom.

And maybe, just maybe, it will help out the print industry. But let's give it a few months. At least wait until it's released to the public. Personally, I'll wait for the second generation to come out. Maybe then it will include a phone, a camera, and multi-tasking.

Anyway, Morford goes on, his diatribe building to a beautiful crescendo:
But we don't stop there. Not only are we disappointed, we need to express it. Vent it. Hiss it and spit it and hurl it like fistfuls of mental manure at the great wall of hey, screw you.

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama's speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother's cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can't help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.

He wasn't kidding about the dog breeds blog. Click on the link. It really doesn't matter what it is, message boards and comments sections of blogs often reflect the worst in us.

Anonymity is a beautiful way to express ourselves openly with a veil of privacy, but it also allows people to completely remove the filter and display the most insensitive, unforgiving, unrelenting, hateful qualities of humanity.

To be honest, it doesn't bother me that I have such a sparse following on this blog. I don't need to deal with the malcontents.

I rarely comment on blogs, but the one place I frequently provide my opinion is on sports blogs. Let me tell you, it's no Woodstock. It's a clustersuck of verbal terrorism.

I am a Brewers fan, and reading the complaints from the unrealistic small market fans sometimes makes me regret my loyalties. Even after 25 years of failure in a system that favors the big market spenders, a large vocal minority (?) is all too willing to stamp management with "incompetence" after an 80-82 season. Nothing, short of a championship, is ever good enough for these people.

Morford's article is a favorite of mine because he touches on a subject that needs to be discussed more. We don't need to continue to accept the anonymous web as "just the way it is."

My fear is that this unfiltered response is becoming so readily accepted that it is beginning to spill into our personal lives. Even on Facebook, a world in which we lack anonymity but don't stand face to face, direct attacks are becoming more common. Just read the comments section following a new post from the Facebook fan page. You can even see it in the political debates and passive aggressive comments attached to shared links and status updates.

Do me a favor. For a day, for everything or every person you criticize, find two reasons to publicly support or encourage. Before you jump to a snap conclusion, step back and think about the larger scale.

We don't need to be such a bitter, disappointed bunch. We have a choice.


Mandy Blumreich on February 04, 2010 said...

My co-workers and I watched the live blog of the iPad premiere last week (they are all Apple lovers) and there was immediate dissatisfaction with it. I found myself defending it with many of the same arguments you list above, even though I have no personal stake in this product.
I often have a hard time understanding why people always choose to look at the negatives. Why wouldn't you want to look for the good in things. When I give voice to this opinion to others, I'm often referred to as naive or a Pollyanna. This possibly made sense when I was in HS and college, but I'm 35 and a parent, and I have plenty of life experience now. I know that there are negatives in life - that companies, friends, family, and even products, will disappoint you - and yet, I choose to focus on the positives as much as I can. If this makes me naive, then so be it.
Not to be a hypocrite either, I do my fair share of complaining, but it always leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

greebs on February 08, 2010 said...


Just kidding. But I can't believe I'm the first to comment like that. Morford is usually pretty good (though sometimes he veers off the rails himself). But the reaction to the iPad was so overwhelming, I started laughing. My good friend said, "Wow, that's a failure of a product launch." I stared at him and then said, "IT HASN'T EVEN LAUNCHED YET."

Our society loves failure, and loves calling the shots. Sort of sad.

Jon Loomer on February 08, 2010 said...

Best comment ever!

I'm sure part of the reason I always side with companies like Apple (or nearly always) is that I've been on the product launch side. I realize that this is just the first phase and that many improvements will come. I also have been the recipient of comments on blogs and forums, and it gets a bit old after a while. You can read just so many over the top conspiracy theories and knee-jerk reactions before you get jaded to the whole "community" thing.

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