Thursday, August 30, 2018

Frustration with technology

Yes, I get frustrated with technology sometimes, but that's not what I'm crabby about today.

Today I'm crabby about other people's technology skills -- or rather, their lack of same.

My local fiber and textile art group is getting ready for a show and we want to prepare a gallery notebook with information on each piece in the show.  We have asked members to submit the info and a photo of their artwork; I'm in charge of compiling the info for the notebook.  I want the notebook to look professional, so I want to copy everybody's information into a single document and make sure it's all formatted the same.

We thought it would be easy -- provide a form in a Word document that people would fill out (so all the information would be there in the right order to be copied and pasted into my document), give directions for submitting the photo (don't have to crop or resize, just send us the image straight from the camera).  But it's not.

We are surrounded with technology, everybody with her various devices and connections, and yet to judge from the responses to our call for entries, a lot of people cannot use them for what I consider to be ordinary activities.  They can't figure out how to get a cellphone photo attached to their entry form.  They don't know how to tell whether their photo has been saved as a .jpg or a .dat file. They don't notice that their computer automatically resizes photos to a handful of pixels when sending email.  They send their info in a Pages document or a PDF instead of a Word document.  They don't have Word on their computers and can't open or can't fill in a document.  They don't know how to work around by typing their info into an email.

I know I'm a curmudgeon, and I know I'm way more dedicated to the written and printed word than most people are.  But I worry that ordinary, everyday capabilities that every educated person used to have are now endangered, washed away in the flood of cellphones and tablets and Facebook and Instagram.  The tech industry has enabled this by equipping many smaller devices with alternative programs, perhaps easier to use for minimal tasks but incompatible with the grownup programs like Word on which the business world operates.  And people who own these smaller devices often retire their actual computers, on which grownup business tasks would be much easier.  Meanwhile, the proprietors of grownup programs discourage people from using them, by charging continuing user fees instead of allowing people to buy the programs outright.

As a result, people can easily do minimal things on their phones or tablets, but they can't produce any kind of work that is compatible with the grownup world.  Is this progress?  What do people use when they have to write a letter?  (Do people write letters any more?)  What do they do if they need to print out a biography or an artist statement or a page for a gallery notebook?  What if they are asked to give a presentation to a group?  How do they keep track of their artwork and their show entries?

And I try not to even think about how the "informality" of text and email, plus the "convenience" of voice-recognition dictation, has turned us into a nation of inarticulate, ungrammatical misspellers who never think to proofread before they hit the send button.

I try to be tolerant of people who feel overwhelmed by learning new tasks, particularly older people like myself.  There are tech tasks that I have resisted, preferring to play dumb and hope my kids will step in and do it for me.  But if you want to participate in a serious art activity and can't do things on a computer to enable you to enter a show or take good photos or whatever, then I think you should find a friend or hire a geek to help you.

Now back to retyping my gallery notebook, since I can't copy and paste from what people have sent me.


  1. You can doubtless touch type, which means that it will not take you as long as it could. Boy, do I agree with you, as similarly a curmudgeon. Even eschewing smaller devices and working only from pc or laptop, I am finding that updates are restricting and slowing down my otherwise straightforward processing. Even my husband, now retired IT software architect throws up his hands similarly about his own former business.
    Hey ho.

  2. I have not had Word on my computers since 1997, but my word processors are perfectly capable of saving a document in Word format.
    Why, oh why, does no one (appear to) hire proofreaders anymore?

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  3. I can't think of a word that describes how people have become. My granddaughter in law just took a test to find out the sex of her baby. We asked her to call us when she finds out. She said "I'll Facebook you". NO CALL. Ok, I'll text you. Today's generation does not want to speak on the PHONE let along type a proper letter. My youngest grandson (21) does not want to call in a Carry-Out food order. He will only order on line. It's pretty sad.

    I never want to give up my desk top, but I admit I resent Win 10 that caters to the world turning to Apps. After all MS let us there then let us off the leash.
    xx, Carol

  4. It's not today's generation alone. I'm 65, and I've hated the phone all my life. I LOVE being able to email people and order online and NOT TALK. I love the future. (I wouldn't hate texting if I could touch type on the phone, but there.)
    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  5. "… has turned us into a nation of inarticulate, ungrammatical misspellers …" My sentiments exactly. Well put Kathy!

  6. I can type things into a document--I don't have a clue as to what it is--it's just there on my iMac. I have never used a Windows product and never intend to do so. My phone is for a Time when I have an emergency and need to call for help. We have a land line at home.

    At work I used a RED sharpie to correct spelling on every note posted on the company bulletin board. Even the ones written by the owner.

    I love the internet, emails and blogs. But I would always prefer in person.

  7. I feel your pain. I just completed a similar exercise with my own group, and it was like pulling teeth. Had to put together 30 signs in identical format, to hang next to same number of quilts at a big show where our group has been invited to do an exhibit. Lots of waiting, explaining, reminding, editing and retyping. What part of "no more than 130 words" is difficult to understand? And yes, the requirements for serious shows do involve computer skills. And alas, I think we may be shouting into the wind.

  8. Thank you. And I like your designation of "grownup world". It's not just technology that exposes this type of person who ignore instructions. There have always been and still are people who submit quilts sans hanging sleeve, either saying they didn't know how or (what I've been dealing with from contemporary quilters and even art quilters exhibiting in my art council's fiber-themed shows) "Oh, just use pushpins or regular pins. That's how I hang them at home." Arrrggghhh! Grow up!

  9. I live and die by my email, both at work and at home. It is amazing to me how many people check theirs maybe once a week.

    Some of the problem is change fatigue. Even though I'm fairly techy, I am SO TIRED of learning something and the next time I go to do it, it doesn't work. The cords to the new printer don't go to the old gadget and a new cord or dongle must be ordered, the new phone doesn't use the same process as the previous one to download pics in a certain size. Or you set all your settings, and some stupid phone or Win 10 "upgrade" has now effed them all up and put them in a totally different place so what took 5 minutes, will now take an hour and a half to sort out.
    I work all day at the computer. I have zero interest in trouble-shooting mine as to why this or that no longer works, because as soon as I do, there'll be another upgrade. It isn't worth my very limited free time.

    So I could get you my text with no trouble, but pics? I can get them on instagram, so there's that. I'm sorting out a new photo printer right now and I'd be surprised if you COULDN'T hear the cursing. Sigh. How can it NOT get them off my phone. That is what it's for! Ugh.

  10. I so agree with the frustrations of today's technology that I was screaming yes! yes! yes! as I read your post. We tried to use an online entry form for our quilt show and nearly had a mutiny. I love the convenience of email but do miss writing and receiving "real" letters. So I try to not give up this treasured way of communicating.