Media Musings & Meditations

Observations and discussion about technology, culture and spirituality. As new technology developments and trends envelope the Internet and our "wired" culture we all need time to reflect and process the implications on our society, our relationships and our spiritual practices.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Plug and Play

A few weeks ago I decided to get an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed reader so that I could link to my favorite news and technology websites and get the latest information updates forwarded to me.

My first step was to look for a free/open source version of the tool I wanted for Mac OSX. I found one that looked impressive from the icon, that resembled a Mozilla/Firefox product, right down to the description and interface. The only problem is that I couldn’t figure out how to get the thing working. The functions were not easy or intuitive. I even stooped to reading the instructions! (I know, I know…) Even then, no light of understanding came on. I finally decided, in frustration, that there must be an easier product out there somewhere on the Web.

After searching some more I found an open source RSS feed reader called Vienna. The difference was “like day and night.” Vienna was easy and intuitive. I was up and running in minutes with no instruction manuals or tutorials needed. It’s simple, not all that flashy, but I love it.

I know you’re overjoyed that I can now accumulate and read my RSS feeds, but the reason I tell this story is to illustrate what I believe will be the key to software success now and in the future -- “ease of use/ease of learning to use.”

Our society has grown impatient with the complex voodoo language of technology from the days of Microsoft’s DOS code and complicated setting changes. We want the friendly, easy to use technology of Star Trek instead. That’s why Apple continues to gain customers. They have embraced the idea of making technology components all “plug and play,” that is you shouldn’t have to learn new languages and incantations to get to consumer electronic devices to work together, they just plug together and work.

In the software arena, we don’t what to have to take a 12-week boot camp workshop to learn how to use our new software programs. We want to be able to get on and figure out how to at least get started right away. Technology and software change too frequently now for us to have to employ Herculean efforts to learn to use programs. The companies that understand this concept and make their products easier to use, and will, in my estimation, start passing by the big, complex software dinosaurs out there that haven’t got the point yet. I am looking forward to a simpler future!!

Monday, May 01, 2006

When does the learning stop?

In a little less than two weeks from now our university will be turning the class of 2006 loose on the world. Many students will rejoice the end of their studies, celebrating freedom from textbooks, classes and exercises (echoing the anthem-like refrain from Alice Cooper's School's Out - “Schools out for summer, schools out forever”).

But it won't be long after the confetti settles that these graduates will learn another great truth, that the learning never really stops. There's just a change of venue. For example, there are many lessons to be learned during the process of finding and starting a new job. Observation and study will help new hires learn how to fit in with the company culture and practices. As years unfold, the employee's continued advancement will parallel their acquiring of an unfolding curriculum of job skills.

In my area, web design and interactive media, we must constantly read, research and study to keep up with the latest software and hardware. Before we master most programs new ones replace them. Licensed professionals like doctors, lawyers, and CPA's, must, (with the regularity of migrating geese, of fish swimming upstream) go to classes & seminars to keep their credentials up-to-date. Learning continues the earning. One IT professional I know will, at any given moment, be studying for his next in an unending succession of technical certifications. Even our spiritual life requires study. As a Christian disciple (which means student) I'm called upon to learn about Jesus, adopt his teachings, and imitate him.

Learning is linked to life itself. We could, like some try to resist and run away from all this study and learning. But I think the key is recognizing that learning is a part of our experience as humans. Rather than hide from it we should harness the opportunity to better our lives. That's why I recommend people seek out jobs doing what they love. Become committed to causes they feel deeply about. Acknowledge areas of our life where improvement can take place. The result is that when these endeavors require study we will tackle the task with passion and excitement like we pursue a hobby or favorite pastime.

My hope for the upcoming graduates is that they are blessed with a career and life that provides lifelong learning about subjects that excite them. And when will learning end? Not in this life!