Tag Archives: shiny objects

the trouble with baseless tech predictions, or did i miss google+ killing facebook?

Oh, those heady crazy days when any technology is introduced. I remember the original buzz (not to be confused with Buzz) over Google+, as a wave (not to be confused with Wave) of excitement swept through social media as people asked anyone, everyone they knew for an invitation to the new community.

Some early coverage and commentary took the oh-so-levelheaded tone of OMGOMGGoogle+IsGoingToKillFacebook, despite any tangible evidence or empirical projections. So what happened since?

Facebook is still alive, and confounding users with incremental redesigns, as usual. People complain about said redesigns, as they always do, then move on and keep using the service.

And Google+ has nice membership numbers, although postings I’ve seen have slowed precipitously. The recent announcement that Google+ was now open to all, no invite necessary, was greeted in many spheres of social media with a collective yawn, as if the site were already yesterday’s news. Perhaps in part because Facebook has already rolled features to counter G+ assets. Some of the same folks who trumpeted the ascendance of G+ now treat it as a punchline. Its hangouts, message segregation via Circles and Google tie-ins still hold promise, but the hosannas have long since stopped rattling.

So is Google+ primed to surpass and supercede Facebook? Not today or tomorrow.

Will Google+ eventually pass Facebook in terms of membership or primacy? Cannot predict now. Ask again later.

Actually, the “Cannot predict now” and “Ask again later” phrases I took from my Magic 8 Ball. The Magic 8 Ball says that a lot.

And you know: We should say and acknowledge that line of reasoning instead of making grand and unfounded declarations. We — earlier adopters, the technology press, the general social mediacracy — should stop pretending the latest shiny object is the New Facebook or the Next Twitter. And for the sake of all that is good, anyone who uses the term “game changer” for a brand new technology should have their iPhone confiscated.

Because the future of technology is a lot of things — surprising, exciting, complicated and unpredictable. It’s NOT as cut and dried as saying “this new technology is cool, my friends are excited, so it’s going to be the next [insert the previous next thing].” Because no one really knows. We cannot predict now. Ask again later.

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stop treating QR codes as shiny objects!

QR (quick response) codes, you may have heard, could have many beneficial uses by enabling smartphone users to scan them to unlock additional interactive web content. Sadly, too many people still seem to treat them as a shiny object — something to be used for the sake of appearing trendy, not for practical purposes. I point to this conversation from a colleague at another college (offered anonymity) as an example:

Department: “We’re going to post QR codes at the shuttles stops so that people can use them to access the shuttle schedule!”

Web person: “Couldn’t we also just post the shuttle schedules?”

Department: “Ummm ….”

Pop quiz: Which is more convenient for a user: A piece of paper they can read, or a symbol they may or may not know is a QR code, and that they can only read if they have a QR code reader and a smartphone? You could provide both, but at the very least provide the former … at least if you prize actually letting people find out about your shuttle schedule.

Sadly, that’s not the worst example I’ve heard involving QR codes. Someone at another college told of a proposed PDF with a QR code that, when you scan it made your mobile device try to download — wait for it — the exact same PDF.

No. No. No. No. No!

I can’t stress it enough: Goals first, then tools. Don’t treat QR codes as shiny objects. They are gateways to additional information, not replacements for necessary information! The first college that sends out acceptance letters to prospective students that forces them to scan a QR code to learn whether they are accepted or not should lose its accreditation on the spot!

When I interviewed him last fall, the always impressive Tim Jones of North Carolina State rightfully termed the potential use of QR codes as “enormous, and we’re working with several departments and organizations on campus to develop some interesting ways to use QR code check-ins.” Imagine, for example, accessing additional information on a play, actors or the director from a program, or gaining a building’s office directory, history and local social media posts via scanning a QR code.

A good example at our campus involves QR codes on event posters that bring up a page when users can purchase tickets online. At #hewebroc, we had QR codes that allowed attendees to go online and fill out evaluations (with a chance at winning a prize). At lunch this week with the organizer of our campuswide Quest academic symposium, which often includes fretting over last-minute changes after the printing of the program, I suggested a QR code connecting to a web page with late-breaking updates.

I’ve heard lots of creative and inventive ideas that can really benefit users. What they all had in common was they involved solving a problem or fulfilling an action, as opposed to a desire to use a QR code for the novelty of it.

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