Canadian Security Magazine

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The lies of technology

Benjamin Disraeli stated there were three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. I would like to add a fourth: the lies of technology.


March 7, 2011
By Canadian Security

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Don’t get me wrong, I am not some kind of troglodyte forsaking technology and yearning for simpler and kindler past. Technology can be a great enabler to enrich our lives from a personal, social and professional perspective. However, what I do have a problem with are the promises from software and hardware manufacturers who make claims that if we just buy their product our lives will be simpler, easier, better, or more exciting. As such, I have put together a list of what I consider, based on personal experience as well as conversations with others, the most egregious lies that have been sold to the public.

•    The ‘help desk’ lie.
Or as I like to call it the ‘no help desk’ is the one that we as consumers probably have the most experience with. Just about every technology company these days has a so-called help desk and if you can actually drill through all the electronic layers to occasionally speak to an actual human being they may or not help you. I find it ironic that help desks, that are staffed by and large with people with an interest or understanding of technology but very often with limited social skills. 

This is nice way of saying lots of help desk people are social morons who are incapable or unwilling to humanize what is often a very frustrating experience. I  mean the reason why customers call a help desk is because they need help with some element of the use of technology. These people are frustrated, angry, disappointed or confused about some thing and may not be in the best frame of mind. They reach a technician on the other end of the phone who often isn’t the easiest person to talk to under the best of conditions and quite often the result is even more frustration. 

Has a help desk technician ever helped me? Sure, lots of time but more often, I have hung up in anger and frustration due to their condescending, confrontational attitude. I would suggest that help desks actually become staffed with people who are more into helping others as opposed to showing how technologically superior they are.  Another issue many of us have experienced is that quite often if you are dealing with an internal help desk, a ticket is generated. I have experienced many times that a ticket is opened and 10 minutes later another ticket is sent claiming that the problem has been resolved. The only problem is that it wasn’t actually resolved but these help desks need to meet their pre-assigned customer resolution times.  I have too many experiences where I had this happen to me and my problem was never resolved.  I quickly learned to stop phoning the help desk for all but the most serious issues.    

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•     The ‘we care about you as a customer’ lie. This lie is closely aligned with the help desk lie.  About 99 per cent of the time, when I call a help desk, I get a pre-recorded message along the following lines.  ‘We care about you as a customer and value your patronage’.  The message goes on for several minutes about pressing various keypad numbers in order assist in determining the nature of the problem.  My response is ‘if you cared so much about me as a customer, then why am I talking to a machine’.  To add insult to injury, more and more companies are migrating to voice recognition technology.  The problem with this is that the bloody technology just does not work.  You repeat your response over and over, each time adding a bit more of frustrating tone.  If you are lucky enough to finally talk to a human being you are so frustrated that the initial conversation denigrates into a venting of the crappy customer service.  

•    The ‘we need to upgrade’ lie.  

This lie is based primarily on two issues. First, a lot of techs simply are in love of the concept of an upgrade. It is one of their reasons for existence after all.   Enough said on this. Second, the software manufacturer needs to justify their existence and make more money so they pump out the next version. They add more useless bells and whistles that 99 per cent of the user population has no need for or cannot use, or tell us that they are stopping support within a short time of the previous release.  We are thoroughly on this technology treadmill running flat out.  When Microsoft released its completely revamped 2007 suite of products it was like starting all over again.  I had to relearn everything.  And believe me, there were plenty of other people who were just as frustrated as I was.  I just want to turn on my computer and user it the way I always used.  I don’t want spend time relearning how to open, save, and change a file. For me a program is a means to an end. It is not the reason why I boot up a computer.  I think the manufacturers have forgotten this.  

•    The ‘security features are built into it’ lie.  
You would think after having 25 years to get it right that software writers would figure out how to make a secure program. But here we are more at the mercy of hackers and other criminals whom seem to be able to do whatever they please. Maybe I don’t understand the nature of software and it is easier said than done but after the billions of dollars that some of these companies have made, you would think that they could release a program without six million bugs in it.  

My point about all this to the manufacturers is stop lying to us and stop selling us junk we don’t need. However the reality is that asking these companies to leave things alone and let us just use the technology in its present form would be like expecting a pig to stop wallowing in a trough. Fundamentally these companies care less about enriching our lives as they do enriching their bank accounts.  It used to be that the ‘thing’ was how technology would or could help the user.  Now, the technology is the thing. We are all on a treadmill and the treadmill is going faster and faster. As consumers we need to be more demanding and discriminating and stop tolerating the garbage that is being sold to us. There is a growing frustration amongst end-users. The companies that will succeed in the future will be those that actually respect the consuming public.


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