The “Columbo Moment” Is Killing Me!

October 19, 2006

Or: Why This Is Not A Tech Blog

Recent new visitors to this blog who bothered to explore beyond the Digital Life entries will see that prior to those posts there was hardly anything tech here.

And that is what I originally planned.

Hardly any tech at all.

But I went to Digital Life, got excited, and decided to shaaaaaaare.

I don’t expect to do that again. The sharing part, that is.

I’ve written tech in a variety of functions for over 25 years. I’m sick of it. I never intended to do tech writing/coverage. It fell on me.

It’s not just the boredom of it, or the thickheadedness of some companies, or the eejits who comment on what I write, or the sociopaths who stalk me, or the being surrounded by people in suits who give me the creeps.

It’s none of that.

It’s the “Columbo Moment”.

It’s that, “Uh, excuse me, sir, could I ask you one more thing?” [zipped audio file]

And its opposite, someone from a tech company asking me, “Oh, did anyone tell you about this feature?”

I went to Digital Life planning to spend part of one day (even so, I did upgrade my ticket to a multi-day passport). I wound up attending all four days. Mainly because what I saw of both the Pepper Pad 3 and the Sony Reader — neither of which I had expected to be there! — led to “Columbo Moments.”

Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

I needed to ask Just One More Question after mulling things over. Or I was told Just One More Thing that caused me to have to rearrange all of my conclusions.

It’s like being a hamster on a treadmill. It doesn’t stop. I’ve just had enough of that.

Jeff Kirvin recently wrote a series of columns [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6] about how to customize the home screen of a Windows Mobile phone. When I saw those articles, I fled. In an email exchange in which Jeff recommended I read his articles, I replied in my typical (un)diplomatic manner that, “I want to DO WORK, not dick around with toys!”

And that is how it is.

I have things I want to do, a non-tech set of interests that have for too long been given much less attention than they deserve, and — especially in the wake of the (ongoing) Nokia 770 debacle — I don’t want to be considered a fanboy shill for companies who waste more money in one day than I accumulate in an entire year.

Which brings me to a Very Important Point about this blog. There are certain trends afoot in this world that I think are just underhanded and evil. One of these is the “Pay Per Post” scheme where bloggers are paid to write up bullshit glowing reports about products in order to sucker all of us out of our money on behalf of their desperate corporate masters.

I have never been and never will be that kind of person.

When I’ve written about something with enthusiasm, it’s been my enthusiasm, not a fake emotion manufactured on behalf of some ad agency, product placement firm, or the like.

And when I have “bashed” products — such as my strafing of the Nokia 770 — it’s been nothing more than telling the truth others don’t have the courage (or foolishness or alleged rudeness) to state. I can also tell the truth because I’m really not in this field, so I don’t have to worry about offending someone I might want a job from down the road. (And if they do get offended, they shouldn’t be in their professional position anyway.)

Pepper twice offered me a review unit. Twice I said No. I don’t want to devote perhaps weeks to using a Pepper Pad and then have to spend several days writing about it. I’d rather buy one if I want it and if people happen to ask about it, I can relate my experiences. No hassles, no obligations to Pepper, no black hole to suck up the time I’d rather spend doing non-tech stuff.

Once I have finished my Digital Life loose ends post and the upcoming Sony Reader series, I intend to go back to having a blog with hardly any tech in it.

The rest of you can go play Lt. Columbo.

I’ll be content just looking as tatty as he did.

Hemorrhaging the Neural Net

October 19, 2006

So this evening I went to the New York Public Library to pick up one book that’s waiting for me.

I wound up leaving with six books.

I didn’t go there seeking anything other than a single book. Nor did I expect to leave with more than that solitary volume.

Then I thought I should check their online catalog, LEO, to see if they’d gotten in anything else by K.A. Bedford (they hadn’t).

Then I thought I should give the shelves a quick browse. And, in different places, in areas unrelated to specific subjects, making Dewey himself spin in his resting place, I came up with just one more book I wanted to borrow.

In all, it’s about five pounds of weight. But I don’t want the weight, I want the weightless information.

Which brings us to a problem all ebook vendors must face: How can this experience be replicated online?

Microsoft, which loves to torment, uh, challenge interviewees, can use this as a test to discover the best code-jockeys for stochastic programming.

Devise an algorithm for a library of ebooks that will result in a patron leaving with the following titles:

Little New York Bastard: A Memoir by M. Dylan Raskin

Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story by Steve Wilson and Joe Florenski

West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief by Steven Kotler (who I heard on The Joey Reynolds Show)

False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverance in Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes by Robert L. Fitzpatrick and Joyce K. Reynolds

Indecision (A Novel) by Benjamin Kunkel

The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth by Fred Reichheld

Now the tragic ending of this wee tale is this: Microsoft would indeed use something like this. Someone somewhere there will grok the concept. Sadly, the place that needs it right now won’t.