Stop making things better!

Janice Lindsay

Janice Lindsay

I’ve owned this laptop computer for only 19 months, but I’m already grappling with learning the third major version of its operating system. The older versions possessed no flaws that I detected. The new ones are just, allegedly, better. Did anybody ask me if I wanted better?

Every time Big Major Computer Company (BMCC) makes a big major change, my life gets more complicated. For one thing, whenever they give me something to improve my life, they seem to take something useful away. Maybe my old photo files become obsolete and I have to convert them to the new format. Or helpful functions that were once obvious go into hiding. Or I must figure out how to undo new features to get back to the old way that I liked just fine.

One tiny example. In the recent past, I could write a text in a word processing document, then copy that text into an email exactly as I had created it, formatting and all. Now, with the new system, that function is gone, or it’s in deep hiding.

But they did give me a new feature. Now, if I receive an email from a friend, a cute little circle appears within the email. The circle contains her initials. Of what earthly use is that? She’s my friend. I already know her initials. Besides, the initials appear right next to her name.

Did millions of computer users clamor to have their friends’ initials appear in their emails, and demand it so loudly that BMCC could not ignore the clamor?

I think not. I think techy people brainstorm what might seem clever and interesting, then BMCC produces it without asking ordinary people like me.

It has been a while since I discovered some delightful innovation and said, “Wow! Look what I can do now!” Now it’s, “Groan, what are they doing to me this time?”

For the third time in 19 months, I will order a Missing Manual. I bought the first one when the computer was new, the second when the operating system was updated, and now it’s time for number three.

The Missing Manuals, for those who’ve never heard of these life-saving volumes, are published by O’Reilly Media, Inc., in Sebastopol, California, whose tagline is “the book that should have been in the box.” (Remember when computers came with manuals? Now you can find “how-to” online, but try learning to do something on the screen while reading instructions on the screen.) The Missing Manual explains how to do everything, from the very basics to the complicated new features people like me couldn’t hope to use because just perusing the instructions gives us the vapors. And the manuals explain how I could now perform a task eight ways from Sunday, though one simple method would suffice.

And don’t get me started about my tablet. I haven’t even owned that as long as I’ve owned the computer, and I’ve already suffered through a bunch of operating system updates, including an update to an update because there were flaws in the previous update.

And every time BMCC changes the operating system, the app makers and software designers must create updates, too. So I’m caught in a game of updates dominoes, with yet more potential for dubious betterment.

Everybody, please, halt! Take a breather. Give us poor ordinary users a rest. We won’t complain if you stop making our lives better for a little while.

We need a new book, How to Leave Well Enough Alone: The Missing Manual. I would personally donate a copy to BMCC.

contact jlindsay@tidewater.net

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=56720

Posted by on Nov 30 2014. Filed under Byline Stories, Editorially Speaking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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