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Early Adopter Frustrations

New technology has always piqued my interest. I love gadgets and being the first to use new websites and services. It’s cool. But. And there’s always a ‘but.’ Early adoption also brings very frustrating limitations.

Knowing how close and yet how far away I am from getting my communication needs met is one of the biggest annoyances of early adoption. Let’s take today for example. I’ll soon be heading into a conference with Kid #1’s teacher. My husband is home with Kid #2. I’d like to live stream the conversation so my husband can join in. My Nokia N95, Verizon EvDO service, Cradlepoint Personal Wifi Hotspot PHS-300 and any live streaming service like Qik, Mogulus, Kyte (just to name a few of the hundreds that are popping up) would allow me to do this easily. But. And there’s always a ‘but.” Here’s where I run into limitations, both technological and social.

Firstly, Technological: I don’t know of any service that allows a private, password protected live stream. There may be one out there but I haven’t heard of it yet. I’m not keen on the whole world knowing that my kid talks too much or hates math. In our workaholic culture, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a big need for these password protected streams in both personal and business circles. This is one very good example.

Secondly, Social: Live streaming, or hell – even just recording – isn’t widely or even remotely accepted in many situations. Imagine how taken aback your kid’s teacher would be if you set up a video camera on a tripod during your conference. Even if your teacher is cool with it, you’d have to wonder if he didn’t sugarcoat his evaluation for performance’s sake. Security cameras are one thing, personal recording is another.

The tech barriers will be broken soon, once my friends at Qik.com figure out there’s a bigger need for password-protected live streams than for open ones. I have faith in the technology catching up quickly.

People, on the other hand: Not. So. Much.

Ah, well. When in doubt, roll back the progress. Go low tech. Maybe I can get away with using my cell in speakerphone mode…

What frustrates you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ARJW 9 June 2008, 9:02 am

    Seriously, you sound just like me. There is a bit of a problem with how some tech is given these days IMO. Many times its just out there as a feature, not quite addressing a problem that people have. And therefore when we try and fit it into our lives, we come to these places where it just doesn’t work. There’s not much we can do on this end to fix it, but we can voice our issues in various places, and then shape things to be better for times and devices to come.

    My chief fustration, user experience design in the software on mobile devices has taken a back seat to the features. Meaning that I *need* a manual or a forum in order to fully utilize something. Rather than it being something that is easily findable and therefore usable.

  • Judi Sohn 9 June 2008, 9:11 am

    Great post. Now, I do 99% of my communication with my daughter’s teachers via email. It’s natural, it allows us to have an exchange about issues without the hassle of scheduling meetings or worrying whether my daughter will deliver (or read) a letter I’d send in. A couple of years ago, schools frowned on using email to communicate, now they actively encourage it. Beg for email addresses from parents at the beginning of the year, as a matter of fact.

    So I think that if technology actually solves a problem and doesn’t just change and innovate for change & innovation’s sake, then the world will catch up to us. We just have to be patient and keep trying. For all you know, your child’s teacher posts comments to Seesmic at night and would be able to offer suggestions on how to make the web conferencing work. You won’t know until you ask. Even a simple conference call using freeconference.com may do the trick so your husband can participate.

  • Bellepheron 9 June 2008, 9:22 am

    I cannot state that I am an early adopter of technology because of life circumstances tend to prevent me from obtaining things just because they are too expensive to keep up with the Jones’.

    I personally choose to follow the technology as best I can and wait around for it to lower in price and settle down. Early releases in almost all physical products tend to have problems, bugs, conflicts, lousy customer service. I could go on and on.

    I have taken advantage of the software application, Twitter, so I am an early adopter of it even though I’m a year behind a lot of people and I don’t intend to be as popular as Leo Laporte, etc. I do find it frustrating when things don’t work as they should, but it is something I choose not to worry a lot about. I have enough to deal with.

    I even have my own blog, but it’s sitting there doing nothing because I simply haven’t had the time to put something on it.

  • ARJW 9 June 2008, 9:27 am

    FYI: you can do a password protected live stream using a blog that’s password protected (WordPress) and a minimalist skin. I have an example a skin here: http://jellybeansplaypen.wordpress.com/

  • Lynette Young 9 June 2008, 1:58 pm

    Some people buy expensive clothes, shoes, or highlights in their hair. I buy technology. Geek mammas we are…

    I would love to be able to stream / video teacher conferences, but there is no way that’s going to happen, for all of the reasons you stated. I would even be wary of asking to put my husband on speaker phone during a chat. I want a RSS feed of my daughters school and class activities (these you can password protect). Eh, maybe our grandkids will have this stuff, because it doesn’t seem that ours will anytime soon.

  • Rick Wolff 9 June 2008, 7:34 pm

    Here’s a thought. Parent-teacher conference 1: mom has dad on the other end of a secure single-viewer livestream, a la Qik or whatever. Teacher sees mom holding up a box with a glass eye and red LED, into which they’re supposed to talk. Dad’s feedback is text, which mom reads to the teacher. Conference 2: a webcam-equipped laptop, either mom’s or the teacher’s, with a video picture of smiling dad at home. Teacher can now see and hear both parents. See the difference? I suspect the teacher can be disconcerted by other factors than security.

  • TheMacMommy 11 June 2008, 1:10 am

    A couple of things frustrate me, so thanks for posting this place to put them 🙂 1.) keeping up with it all! It’s so difficult on a single income. I do my best and try not to complain and be patient when it comes to the free stuff on the web. 2.) Altered expectations. If you always get back to everyone right away, they grow to expect that from you and it can create more problems for you in the long run as you take on more and more because you think the technology makes things easier for you. It can be a bit of an illusion at times. 3.) Technology as it applies to education: Case in point: my husband, as you know, is a h.s. physics teacher and he has the task of answering emails from parents. Many times this has to be done outside of the “office” since there is just not enough time during “normal working hours” – or whatever that means. Teachers’ plates are already so full and the amount of “early adoption” technology without support that gets shoved down their throats on a regular basis is disturbing. (I’ve seen both side – married to one side, been tech support on the other side) Some of the parents can be really irrational and overly-demanding but it’s better than the parents who are not involved at all. Many times parents & students forget that teachers are also people with lives and families that exist outside of school so the “what’s my grade?! am I passing this class? why won’t you do all the thinking for me?” demands get exhausting.

    Hubby is asleep, but I plan on asking him what he would think about parents using the kind of technology you describe. I’m wondering what his answer might be, but I know from previous examples he’s given me, I’m sure he, as a teacher, he would welcome it and try to facilitate involved parents like yourselves. Too many times, it’s the lack of any participation, whether low-tech, high tech or no tech at all; that is a huge problem in this day and age.

    I think so far as the privacy issues are concerned though, it is completely up to the parents’ discretion. Teachers and Admins are (or are supposed to be) completely transparent for the most part. Nothing to hide. Privacy on the part of the student is mostly provided by the school on the parents’ behalf as I understand it, but I’m with you on keeping it private for those kinds of meetings.

    So long as the technology does not cause any impediments on the communication from the teacher/admin to the parent, i.e., “oh wait, can you repeat that, my stream died. Oh wait, hold on, we lost the connection. Can we go back? Uh, hold on, it’s buffering.” then, the teacher/admin should feel perfectly comfortable in front of a camera. They are not supposed to ever have anything to hide and are constantly tested on performing in front of anyone as it were. Anyone at any time is allowed to observe a teacher so they are always on their game. There should not ever exist any kind of sugar-coating on behalf of the teacher and if you detect there is, then there is a problem and it needs to be addressed. That person should be a politician and not a teacher.

  • Chris Pirillo 15 June 2008, 2:00 am

    It’s not as fun as it once was to be an early adopter… there’s too many things now to adopt early. 🙂

  • PurpleCar 15 June 2008, 5:58 am

    Great comments, guys, thanks! As early adopters, people expect us to have all the invites to all the betas, know who is getting VC money, what will be the next big thing. So many usage issues are just coming at us so fast, it’s impossible to keep our ‘street cred’ up.

    I have said “I’ve never heard of [that app]” more times in the past few weeks than in my whole life combined. We’re on the tipping point of web apps and social networking. I’m positive that in a few years I won’t be running into a ‘feature ceiling’ anymore, that I’ll be overwhelmed by features like my grandparents were with VCR’s.

    Here’s an update: Last time I tried to qik (unsuccessfully, but that’s besides the point) I saw that they had installed a feature of “Private” on the stream. Way to go, Qik guys! I have faith you guys are gonna fix your bugs, because it isn’t just bells and whistles that makes a successful app. Knowing your users is key.