Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

Beware the pundit

April 1, 2005

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I am sure you have seen this before. A new technology is announced and it takes only moments before writers across the globe start to predict its demise. There is a rush to discount the new technology in a hundred different ways, explaining, in great detail, exactly when and why it will never work. I wish I had such foresight. Imagine the riches that would follow if you were able to know these things with such certainty. Of course, as you already know, most pundits are wrong most of the time. This is one major reason I steer clear of such “pile-ons”. I would much rather help people find the technologies that work for then instead of worrying about those that may, or may not, fail.

The Will Rogers Effect

I am sure some folks would describe me as the Will Rogers of technology. Supposedly, I have never met a technology I didn’t like. This is untrue, of course. There are plenty of technologies I utterly despise and never recommend to my clients. The truth is, I simply practice the ancient rule, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Unless a technology is damaging or dangerous in some way, I am not going to go out of my way to complain about it. If the technology is horribly flawed, it will fail all on its own, without any help from me. In many cases, though, the technology is simply directed at a very small market segment. Some pundits take this to mean that the technology itself is flawed. I would beg to differ. If a piece of technology helps even one client be more productive and profitable, then it is worth something.
The real truth is, all technologies need time to find their legs and their markets. An early shaming by pundits can drive out good technologies before they have a chance to prove their worth. You need to be aware of this whenever you read a review or an article. Just because version 1.0 didn’t have every feature under the sun, doesn’t mean it won’t grow into something wonderful down the road.

Note the bias

Whenever you are seeking advice from anyone regarding technology (as with anything else in life), you need to be aware of any bias that might be coloring their comments. Despite the efforts to make Mac and Windows computers co-exist peacefully, some people are still fighting that battle. Ask a Windows user about an Apple technology and you are likely to hear a screed. Of course, it also works the other way around. Ask a Mac user about Windows and the screed will be just as harsh. Make sure you are directing your questions to the appropriate people.

In the same way, make sure you are reading the appropriate columns, articles and magazines for your questions. Many columnists have clear preferences in their technology and you need to take this into account. This doesn’t mean you ignore the harsh words about a technology, only that you consider the source. A columnist might bring up excellent points in their dismissal of technology, even if those points don’t add up to the same conclusion for you. Think of technology articles as movie reviews. Perhaps the writer complains about the slow pace of the film, but you happen to like slower-paced movies. This could be a perfect film for you, if you consider the source and their, probably, well-known bias.

The Eeyore

Of course, there are some technology pundits out there who fall into the “Eeyore” category. They delight in trashing every new technology as it appears. Why do they do this? No one knows for sure, but perhaps they gain some personal or professional validation when a technology does fail. It is simply a matter of odds that more products will fail then succeed, so predicting failure is naturally going to net you more success in your predictions. This can make it seem as if they have a finger on the pulse of the tech community, even though they are playing the right odds. Personally, I would be more impressed by someone who could tell me what products will succeed. That would certainly be more useful.

Perform your reading and research with a critical eye. Understand the bias in every article or column you read and you will gain a better understanding of technology and the technology market. Don’t let pundits blindly lead you down a path. Make sure that you find out for yourself. A successful high-tech career requires getting the input of others, but also applying your own experience and intelligence to any technology decision.


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