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Of technophiles, social networks, telecoms and neo-Luddites…

Wednesday, 19 November 2008 — by

In the world of technology, change is good, and comes thick and fast. I’m certainly no technophobe. On the contrary. I’m probably a technophile. But I also see myself as something of a neo-Luddite, too. Now you’re wondering how I manage to be both…

Last week, Google announced that Google Mail now offers voice and video chat. For someone like me, this changes absolutely nothing. Why? Skype works just fine.

And then there’s the technical minutia, like the fact that Google’s video offering uses the ubiquitous Jabber, now called XMPP:

“Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), a set of open XML technologies for presence and real-time communication developed by the Jabber open-source community in 1999, formalized by the IETF in 2002-2004, continuously extended through the standards process of the XMPP Standards Foundation, and implemented in a wide variety of software, devices, and Internet services.”

As an aside, which name sticks in your head; Jabber or XMPP? Thought so. That’s what happens when you let engineers near product names.

Skype, on the other hand, is a proprietary system. But from an end user point of view, who the hell cares? So long as the service works and enough of the people you know use it, Skype is sufficient.

There you go! I just made a business case for using Microsoft Windows. Oh, wait…

I’m a neo-Luddite and proud of it!

To qualify that statement, what I mean is, I’ve built my workflow, my clients and contacts are using broadly the same services / applications, which work and we’re all reasonably happy with. So why the hell change things each and every time a new whizz-bang application comes along?

A guy in my social network called Robert Sanzalone had this to say a while ago:

“Just logged into Skype for the first time in months. Beginning to question Chatterous. Will take a while to ‘ween’ people off Skype.”

Robert is a self-proclaimed technology evangelist and blogger, and if you have a very long memory, you’ll also remember he was the one who broke the news of Twitter4Skype, which is, as it’s name suggests, a tool that turns Skype into a Twitter client.

Here’s a guy who’s pretty much everywhere from the Pacific ring of fire, right up to colds of Canada. So having a good, reliable telecommunications infrastructure is essential.

However, as experienced as Robert is when it comes to telecommunications, VoIP and such like, in my mind at least, someone would have to show me some demonstrably major benefits to using Chatterous, Google Mail’s video services, or anything else for that matter, before I even considered going to those in my social network and suggesting we all, en masse, make the migration to the next new whizz-bang application that comes along…

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David Bradley → Wednesday, 19 November 2008 @ 12:36 BDT

I know where you’re coming from, but the whole point about early adopters is that they live up to their name. We let these guys try out all the gadgets and gizmos and tell us what’ so great, once the benefits above and beyond what one is currently using then become obvious then the rest of us migrate.

I must admit I’m kind of a neo-luddite early adopter myself, a hybrid character, I sign up, download, try out almost everything at least once, and then carry on using the original tools I was happy with. Except now that I’ve got into ping.fm there’s no way I’m going back to manual plurking and tweeting…

Andrew → Wednesday, 19 November 2008 @ 13:40 BDT

I am kind of the same. I’m not looking for replacements for what I have, just stuff to fill the gaps.

Wayne Smallman → Wednesday, 19 November 2008 @ 14:07 BDT

Hi guys! Thanks for the comments.

David, I suppose what we’re talking about here is convenience versus experience; forfeiting features specific to each web service for the convenience of a one-stop shop.

Andrew, maybe it’s something in the Yorkshire water? :-D

Ruth Seeley → Wednesday, 19 November 2008 @ 21:05 BDT

What I hear you saying is, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ :)

If there wasn’t a bit of the Luddite in all of us, we’d never get anything done.

Wayne Smallman → Wednesday, 19 November 2008 @ 23:13 BDT

Hi Ruth, I agreed with what you’re saying in principle, but you misunderstand me.

Change is always good. But change for the sake of change is — to paraphrase a very English saying — no good to man nor beast.

You might want to read my thoughts on what technology is

Robert Sanzalone → Thursday, 20 November 2008 @ 4:24 BDT

Super article Wayne! Thanks very much for the mention!

Yes, what you said was totally true on so many levels. I certainly learned a lesson by the Chatterous episode. It was like asking everyone to go to the party three houses down the block and no one moves. Everyone is fine have the party right where they were… and in this case it was Skype.

Skype started out as being the common denominator for my network. We started a chat room at a Gnomedex conference a few years ago by screaming across the conference room asking each other what chat client they used. EVERYONE used a different client except one.. Skype. Not that it was each of our favorite, but because it was the only one we ALL had, we decided to use it as our base of contact with each other.

I’m not sure where XMPP, Jabber or whatever the next shiny object will be. All I know is whatever is the one most people will be on, is the one most people will use.. no matter how shiny the others are.

Heidi Cool → Thursday, 20 November 2008 @ 4:42 BDT

I think it is all about finding the right tool for the right job. Choose your goal then determine if it can be reached using a hammer, a pneumatic nail gun or a hadron collider. It’s not so much about what’s new or cool as what works. Sometimes its the new MX1000 machine that goes bing, sometimes its the hand crank apple-peeler corer whose design has remain unchanged in 100 years.

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