The right Technology for the wrong use-case!

Yesterday, @sweetsudha1 shared this hilarious evolution of Deepavali wishes over the years. 

As I laughed, I realized she had shared something very profound. 

Over time, Technology has rendered full-service transactions into self-service transactions. We are good with this transition – it saves us time, effort, and costs. We had to visit Banks for withdrawals. ATMs made this more accessible as we just had to drive over to the nearest kiosk with our Card. Desktops allowed us to do our transactions from home – so we didn’t have the bother of going to the ATM now. And today, Mobile apps enable you to transact anywhere – and you don’t even need to type stuff, you can just talk, and the App will do your bidding. It’s hard to see where this evolution isn’t helpful. Lower costs, convenience – on any parameter, it comes out on tops. You can extend this to other areas – taxis (hail a cab from your Uber app instead of going to the taxi stand), shopping (amazon as opposed to the store), food (have it cooked and delivered to your taste as opposed to visiting the restaurants). All full services are becoming productized – and we are the beneficiary.

But in her tweet, there is a fascinating context. Deepavali is a festival, a period of leisure and friendship. Leisure demands our attention – that’s what makes it worthwhile. You stroll to the beach – for walking – there’s no other reason. If adventure travel is your thing  – you do it because you like it. If you take the effort and the personal touch out of the interaction, you render the experience sterile. It’s worth ensuring that we don’t end up killing the experience while attempting to productize a hobby!

Companies like IKEA use experience (drive to the big warehouse on the outskirts of town, choose and transport the furniture components to your home and then build the table yourself) as their differentiator for business too. The customer pays for the experience of building stuff – for the customer’s experience and sense of fulfillment.

I’ll leave you with that thought. I feel we should be careful about productizing “personal” experiences out of the equation. Doing so may risk robbing us of our identity – we come alive when we interact with people and celebrate – we are a social animal after all!

Would you agree?

Sharing in the electronic world, why are we making it so tough!

Let me confess, I am a big kindle fan – and have been one for a couple of years now. The endless collections, speed of procuring the books, and the “paper-like” feel the device provides – all I am sure contribute to this positive vibe.

Last week, however I discovered a non-feature – a feature that should have been there but for some reason has been pushed to a roadmap (as the amazon.in representative on chat support informed me). Here’s what happened – I stumbled upon a book that a colleague (and friend) had been very eager to lay hands on – and decided to give him a pleasant surprise by gifting the digital version to him – only to find that I couldn’t gift books on amazon.in (amazon india) – yet – now why would they not consider that a high priority feature? Aren’t books designed to be gifted/ shared/ discussed together about in the first place?

As I got thinking about it, I realised our “digital world” had created multiple barriers for sharing – in some ways painstaking so – which kind of defeated the essence of being digital. For isn’t digital all about being able to get what you want, when you want and how you want it?

If that seems a major crib, consider this:

1. My itunes songs cannot be shared (DRM!) – except on a few of my devices. The song at its core is actually sharable, some technologist has actually put in some code to prevent the sharing (piracy concerns huh?)

2. Likewise, I cant share my books on kindle. One of the greatest pleasures of book reading is to share it with like-minded friends – again while the book is sharable in its essence, a layer of security on top of the book renders it unsharable

3. My DVD player has the capability to play DVDs purchased around the world – except that it cant. Someone has written a piece of code that will restrict this – it can now only play DVDs bought in India. Who cares that I have purchased priceless stuff from UK, USA and other travel – caveat emptor huh! You just need to google in “unlock DVD codes” to find how many people are affected by this decision….

and the list goes on. I understand that there is a sense and need for curbing piracy which is at the root of all of this – so there’s a defence alright.

But then wasn’t the “digital economy” an exercise about “investing in trust” in the first place? How can I expect to entrust apple and amazon with my credit card details and not expect them to trust me in return to use their assets in the “right spirit”?

As I look around, I realise there are alternative approaches being tried. Amazon prime is an excellent example – it allows you to share/ rent stuff on subscription basis – but is available only in the US. Leanpub.com offers DRM-free, multi-format books that are easy to share. So maybe the world is changing – and its time we embarked on this journey now? Thoughts?