Why Thomas Hawk is my iPhone Canary.
[Thomas Hawk at work. Photo by Shel]
I sat smugly this morning reading Thomas Hawk's compelling five reasons not to upgrade to the new 3G iPhone. I stroked in comfort my the one I obtained in the quaint old days of September 07. Still works works fine. The battery lasts me up to three days. It has a killer app that lets me actuall talk in real time to another human.
Thomas reminded me of why I sometimes think I am Silicon Valley's latest early adopter. Most people I know around here seem greatly enamored with each and every "shiny new object." And around here shiny objects pop up like the movie theater's popcorn maker.
The term, "shiny object" itself reminds me of fishing when I was a kid. The shiniest lures seemed to hook the biggest fish. It was great for us kids, but the fish all wound up dead. It was perhaps then that I started shying away from shiny new things.
A few years back, Tara Hunt, seemed dismayed and disappointed that I preferred working on a Word document to Writely, an early Internet-based word processor.
"You are so Web 1," she said to me, her head shaking from side to side. Of course, Writely became a key component of Google Documents, and I now use it all the time.
Yet Tara's love of shiny objects can't dust the feet of my friend and erstwhile colleague Robert Scoble who pursues the newest of the new in technology; the same guy who stood all night in a line with his son to get the now antiquated version of the iPhone; the same Scoble who writes about shiny things with the same reverence that others might reserve for the discovery of recombinant DNA.
Of course, these are my tech friends. They dwell on one end of the worm hole.
I have other friends and they live on the other end of the wormhole. Most have never used an Internet-based app; rarely read email on a mobile device, started dabbling in social media via MySpace or Facebook. These friends hear the word "Apple" and think about a piece of fruit. They talk more about sports and politics with friends than Twitter and FriendFeed. On that end of the wormhole, some of my friends consider me some sort of pioneer in technology. I'm using technologies that may not reach them for another two years.
A long time ago I realized I was surrounded by many people more passionate about the composition of a product than I am. I am more curious about the actual use of a product. Also, I want to use products that friends and colleagues use.
Sometimes these products are not the best and I know it. Twitter is a recent example. I joined less than a year ago. A great number of old friends hang out there as well, and even better I have made a host of new friends--people with whom I share much in common yet I had not previous met them. But in the last 10 months, I have watched, first with alarm, then with amusement as little gaggles of Twitterville residents went of the Jaiku and Pownce, then Plurk and Indentica.
Each of my friends have made some noise about leaving, about finding better technology in the next neighborhood over. And I have watched nearly every one of them come tiptoing back as I hoped and expected they would. Why? Because that's where their friends hang out.
The thing about social media isn't about the cool enhancements that Flash allows, or the greater stability and scalability of PHP over Ruby on Rails. The thing about social is that it is ... social.
In social media I want to be where my friends are. In unsocial materials I want to use what the people I trust recommend.
Less than a year ago, I moved from a Windows-based Lenovo. The computer got damaged but before that I was quite please with it. But suddenly I needed a computer and got two messages from friends:
- Vista sucks. At the time, no major companies were offering Windows--the devil I knew.
- MacBooks rock. I could not help notice that on this side of the wormhole, everyone I knew seems to have moved over to Mac. And they speak with passion and love for OSX.
These two collective messages from people I know and respect was all the research I needed. These opinions were gathered from hundreds of hours of trial. I am grateful for these hours invested inadvertently at my behalf. I am also grateful for their generosity in sharing their experiences.
So many times, these friends have served as my canary in a coal mine. So many times they shout and scream the glories of some 3G iPhone, a great idea whose time may not yet have come. To Thomas Hawk, thanks for being my iPhone canary. I'm sorry for your frustration. But I'm grateful that it was not my frustration. You just persuaded me not to buy a 3g iPhone.