I’ve worked with customers and around technology long enough to see something disturbing happen. I’m not sure when it all started. Maybe it was always there but only exacerbated by the 24/7, always-on nature of today’s news machines. But regardless of how it began, this trend right now has the potential to destroy everything it touches. What is this trend?
Our impatience and cynical criticism of anything new that isn’t absolutely perfect.
We’re like Statler and Walforf from The Muppet Show whose sole role was to throw barbs at the performers (except most of us armchair pundits are not quite as witty or endearing as our Muppet counterparts). Oh and I’m not throwing my own criticism out to everyone else but me. I’m putting myself squarely in the middle of this trend. As an anthropologist, I can see the fingerprints of cultural entanglement all over this problem. None of us are immune from feeling impatient with technology (or really any customer-related experience) that doesn’t meet our ever increasingly high expectations. And therein lies the key problem.
We’ve assumed a sense of entitlement which is nothing more than consumer empowerment gone awry and to the extremes. We think we’re entitled to a perfect first product with no flaws. Witness Exhibit A: Dell’s try at building their first tablet, the Streak. Yes, I was a beta tester and have been using the Streak for a few months so can attest it has some significant issues. But I hope Dell doesn’t pull up stakes and quit because of all the fierce condemnations they’ve received from several tech publications. Instead, I hope they have guts and a long-term strategy that sees this as a building block.
Exhibit B (and actually what provoked this post) is how fast we’ve decided that Apple’s Ping is a failure. Dammit, it just started…and yet here’s a perfect example of how quickly the critics will descend on anything new. Anyone who has started to look at Ping should have instantly recognized it is an emerging work in progress. And whether it ultimately works or not, it deserves a chance to try and make it.
And here’s another one about Ping as a spammers delight. Yeah, Apple’s engineers should have foreseen this. But anyone who knows how tech products get to market also knows the challenges of sealing up every single hole in a first release. The beauty of web-based apps is how quickly things can get resolved once they are put out into the wild.
And lest you think I’m defending Apple and Ping, I’m actually defending the product’s right to get itself into the consumers’ hands and make necessary adjustments through time. And to do that, we have to be patient as consumers and not
expect demand perfection from the get-go. If we can’t manage to do this, we’re looking at a very unattractive future possibility:
The idea of new takes on a different, ever increasingly derogatory meaning. Fewer and fewer companies will decide to take risks and build new technologies for fear of getting blasted (at best) or ignored (at worst) because they didn’t meet increasing standards that become nearly impossible to meet in first iterations. And then we are only the poorer for our own lack of patience.