There are many ironies at tech conferences. The litany of bombastic boasts which fail before your very eyes provide a mild ongoing source of comedy. (I recently enjoyed Microsoft’s big talk about flawless translation and multilingualism… while the text version of the speech scrolling across the big screen oscillated between mild apostrophe errors and virtual gobbledegook.) But this is just small fry.
But what really sticks in my craw – and gets me selfishly riled up – are the kind of tech errors which impact me. This is most glaringly felt when the internet goes down. Or worse still, the internet isn’t actually broken – it seems fine – but just doesn’t work properly.
You can imagine the scene. You have shipped yourself out to some foreign clime. This might sound exotic to the uninitiated but the reality is just your job, twofold, in a different place. Work sur la mer, if you will.
The conference is packed. The keynotes are long. The conveyer belt of individuals to talk to is endless and each conversation generates yet more work. While the regular day job just keeps on giving. (Bear with me, I know this sounds like marketing collateral for some kind of all-singing all-dancing productivity tool. But fear not. The payoff tech solution will never come. Technology is the biggest problem of all.)
In fact, a bag full of varied tech devices makes the situation 100 times worse. Armed with massive expectations you innocently begin by attempting to answer a spot of email on the hoof via the phone. The experience is sluggish. This is irksome, but forgivable. And so when a slightly longer window of time arises, you’re sure to crack open the laptop.
This is the point at which irritation begins to convert into blood pressure inducing ire. It is so small, so silly, but this is the dull reality of piles of work that need ploughing through and technology – the thing which you’re being sold so aggressively – is failing you miserably.
On the laptop everything seems good at first. The internet opens. Your first email sends. But this is merely a casual taunt from the omnipotent machine overlords who have come to rule our lives. Just as you get stuck into a great heft of the filthy-work-stuff the connection drops out entirely. Outlook tells you it is trying to connect. The wheel of death appears instead of the internet…
It is hard to make technology work – I get that. But these vast hotels and conference centres are purpose built for events such as these. And frankly, if the technology companies can’t manage it, who on earth can? It seems, as ever, the promise vastly exceeds the reality.
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