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Article: When It’s Not Fun Anymore

by on November 15, 2023

I’m going to be putting this site on a little hiatus through January. I’ve been at this for almost twenty-five years, much more than half of my life. I get excited about people making cool things and new gadgets that empower us to create. However, I’ve felt for the past year or two I’ve gotten away from that and it’s a good time to step back and re-center.

For what it’s worth, I debated about sharing this little venting session, eventually deciding in favor or sharing. While you may disagree, that’s absolutely fine. I’ve always tried to be honest with my thoughts on this site. I have a feeling at least some of you may be feeling the same way.

I think being an enthusiast about technology by default makes one an optimist—I think of the devices that I use the most and how my elementary-school-self would have his mind blown. The company making the Macintosh LC IIIs in our classroom made a pocket computer that takes amazing photos, can play every song ever made, watch almost every movie or TV show known to man, and pulls it out of thin air on a connection that is faster than what is going into the entire school building?! That’s the kind of stuff that made me get into this.

Instead, we’ve sort of gotten into this dystopian, late-stage capitalism doom loop. There’s idiotic billionaires acting like they’re the saviors of society through vanity projects, rather than the useful work of actual philanthropists of the past. There’s sometimes the assumption that anyone interested in tech wants to be like that. Every company is focused on “maximizing shareholder value” to the point that any joy and humanity is squeezed out of products. There’s no respect for users when it comes to privacy and being good stewards of our data—I had that hell with trying to delete accounts with some companies. In short, the monetization people won out and sometimes it feels like there’s no room for art or care.

I’m tired of everything seeming to get worse and more expensive, followed by patronizing emails explaining that this is better for me. For some businesses, the argument is “you can save money by using our app,” yet it wants access to every aspect of my phone. I’m sorry, but fast food doesn’t ever need to access my contacts or photo albums. In the past, I’ve been passionate about streaming services, as it seemed to be the dream of à la carte TV and mixed two things that I’m heavily interested in: tech and media. Instead of focusing on quality and content, it was a race-to-the-bottom to get subscribers, a proliferation of generic garbage (I’m looking at you Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery), and then price hikes and more price hikes. Ad-free tiers only exist to sort of tease us, while the money to be made is in ad-supported content. While I haven’t entirely unsubscribed en masse, it hurts to see the direction things are going in.

In terms of privacy, it’s frustrating how everything is becoming an inkjet printer or smart TV—a device that is a more tech-infused version of something we already know, yet the manufacturer can make it creepy and subscription-based. I’m not looking forward to buying my next car as no one seems interested in building something simple that can take me the handful of miles to work (sadly I’m not in an area where a dumb little scooter could work).

Social media used to be a fun distraction, but Facebook Meta has gotten too damn creepy, X Twitter has been almost run into the ground, and Reddit is run by a bunch of jerks. I enjoy Mastodon, but I’m not racing to get on every new service that shows up. Even though it’s part of the news cycle, I’m a bit sick of anything going on at Meta, what stupid thing happened at Twitter, and what the hot new Twitter replacement happens to be.

Beyond that, we’ve gotten into a routine of buzzwords being the only driver of technology. I’m the last person to hate on new ideas, but we’ve had instance after instance of a solution looking for a problem and it’s just tiring. Cryptocurrency is terrible for the environment and proponents seem to think it can replace money when way too many retailers still haven’t moved on from magstripe card readers. NFTs seem like a way for influencers to drum up business. Artificial intelligence has some utility, but it’s exhausting to hear every company try to cram it into their sales pitch—I sat through a sales pitch for PCs at my day job and the manufacturer was trying to sell their bloatware as AI that will make my job easier. For the past week, the tech press has been talking about a half-baked chest-mounted phone pin that is worse than your phone or even smart watch in almost every way, but is a new form-factor and prominently features AI.

It’s okay to be skeptical about inventions that may not be for everyone, but there are also products that you wonder if anyone will buy. It’s not dismissing the effort or the design process, nor is there an understanding that it might be a stepping stone. I think because the smartphone market is mature that there’s a segment of the industry obsessed with finding the next smartphone. Maybe there doesn’t need to be one so soon?

If you’ve stuck around through this point in my post, thank you. I think this pessimism that’s crept in is exactly the reason why a little break will do me good. I really don’t like seeing so much in this field as hostile and disappointing. This site isn’t going anywhere, but I think it might be nice to step back, figure out what matters to me, and then restart. I suspect you, dear reader, would much prefer that, too.

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