Are you paying technology penalties? And I don’t mean when your computer shut down, your internet connection dropped, or you lost a three paragraph email before you could send it?
In 2006, Royal Van Horn wrote about what he called the technology penalty, what happens when you do something using technology that you could do easier, quicker, or more efficiently without using technology. With the massive changes in technology in the last nine years, certainly technology and the positive benefits for using technology have changed. But so have some of the penalties.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate technology and use it everyday. But there are times when using it is definitely not to my advantage—when it takes longer, when the issue is not resolved, and when the old-fashioned method simply works better.
Here are several of my technology penalties:
1. Nothing like a paper calendar. Ok, I admit it. I may be hopelessly out of date, but I still appreciate my personal planner that allows me to keep my own physical calendar in my hand and NOT on my devices or in the cloud. I have a full-size calendar that shows a month at a glance, exactly how my brain works! Each day has plenty of room for appointments and reminders and erasures. And occasionally I need to look back at a previous year and that seems to be much easier to do with the paper calendar, at least for me. While my calendar is too large to fit in my pocket it does fit nicely in my backpack that I always carry. To be honest, I am included in several cloud calendars but I don’t actively use them. No need to haul out my phone to check my calendar on a screen that hardly allows me to see one day let alone an entire month of activities. I know, there are millions of people who use their devices for online calendars, but for me it is a tech penalty I am not interested in. Best yet, I get a free calendar as a gift every year from my financial planner. Net cost. Zero!
2. Call, don’t fill out forms online! Yikes…this one really drives me crazy. How about using online connections for ordering information or taking care of customer service issues? Just last night my wife and I were trying to cancel our Amazon Prime service, that like millions of others, we had used as a trial period and then let roll over into a yearly charge. How much did we use our Amazon Prime last year? Nothing. Nada. Not one thing. And it cost us $79 for the year. So, why pay for another year when we were not using this service? Plus, the cost was going up from $79 to $99/year. Ok, we thought, it should be simple to cancel online, after all this is Amazon. Not so easy. In total, Connie and I spent at least 60 minutes logging in and being told that we were NOT Amazon Prime members (which we clearly were). So, we could not follow the directions to cancel. All efforts to work around this issue led to a cycle that got us nowhere. Took another 10 minutes to find out how to contact Amazon customer relations and finally called someone to straighten it out. The customer service rep was polite and helpful and we were done.
Here is another example. L.L. Bean is well known for their terrific customer relations. Why would I ever waste time ordering a new shirt or a pair of khakis online when I can call and talk to someone who can take care of my transaction in a fraction of the time? If a size or color is not available, the real person settles my problem immediately and satisfactorily.
3. Another significant technology penalty in my estimation is unfocused and random searches that go nowhere. Here is an example. I just Googled, “How much snow has fallen in Maine this year?” and received 35,100, 000 responses in .59 seconds. Of course, the vast majority of those responses do not answer my question. Most have something to do with snow—historical records, many newspaper stories about snow storms, ski reports, and millions of other stories about road salt, blogs about cooking in cold weather, and any topic you can imagine related to…snow. Page 1 has several potential answers to my question but even by page two of the responses there are articles and information from four years ago. These responses do not answer my search question.
To be useful, a general Google (or any other search engine) query needs to be more focused than merely throwing out keywords and hoping for the best. Otherwise your tech penalty is wasting your time, not knowing how to find what you need, and wondering about the reliability of the information you do find.
We’ll do more on “power searching” in an upcoming post but for now here is one thing you can do to narrow your search focus in Google. Almost always I set the time settings under “Search Tools” for a reasonable time framework. Unless I am doing historical research, I typically want the latest information for my search, so I usually set “past year”. That eliminates anything more than a year old and limits my search in a way that is helpful. Here is a good article for some basic search information.
Summary…These are three ways that technology penalizes me. I’ve learned to stick with my physical calendar and it still works for me. As much as I do not like to make phone calls, I realize that it saves me large amounts of time and is much more efficient. Finally, I am a much smarter searcher than I used to be because I know what to look for and how to frame my search. As I’ve said before, searching is the new basic skill of the 21st Century.