Death of a Power User

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As I write this I am sitting here between a Windows 7 Professional x64 laptop and a Windows Developer Preview, aka Windows 8, x64 laptop.

There are literally hundreds of various tech blogs out there right now concerning the new Windows 8 with its radically different Metro User Interface and why it is either amazing or wonderful or why it sucks and people hate it. As such I am not going to go over that here.

I will briefly state that I do kind of like it. It’s amazingly fast. It boots in fewer than 30 seconds which was previously unheard of for a Microsoft operating system. It’s pretty slick and radically different than every version of Windows that has come before it. It’s simple, straight-forward, intuitive, and ‘just works.’ (Aside from expected bugs since it’s not even Beta yet.)

“It’s simple, straight-forward, intuitive, and ‘just works’. ”

That statement is the reason for my blog rant here. Now before I continue I want something understood. I consider myself a self-proclaimed ‘Power User’, a total Microsoft fan, and a supporter of technological improvements.

I consider myself a Power User because I thrive in a tweaking, adjusting, customizing, troubleshooting my PC software and hardware type environment.

I pride myself on having to work for the performance I get from a PC. I figure if my computer runs well it’s because I’ve earned it by “making it mine” and bending it to my will.

I work for a circuit board manufacturer so I am intimately familiar with the advancement of technology and I support it completely.

Now back to that statement. “It’s simple, straight-forward, intuitive, and ‘just works’.”

I’ve seen a trend slowly happening in the industry since back in the Windows 98SE to early XP days that is steadily increasing, as shown by this new Windows 8 Metro UI, and it actually saddens me a bit.

The ‘Joe on the Street’ average consumer is not a Power User. They want a device that is easy to use, simple, and works right out of the box. They do not want to have to work for their performance. They do not want to have to think about their devices. They want it to “just work”.

This is shown by the huge success that Apple had achieved in the industry because their devices “just work.”

This success has rightly driven every other company to follow in this logic and start designing systems that are simpler and just work.

This is the trend I spoke of earlier. Industry popular demand has driven a need for companies to start making everything simpler. The devices are lazier. They’re awesome, yes, but they require no thought at all to operate.

The demand of consumers is so high that not only are devices becoming simpler to operate and not require any sort of customizing but manufacturers are even removing the ability to customize their devices even if you wanted to.

Phones have to be jail-broken or rooted in order to customize them. Software doesn’t even have Advanced features anymore. Operating Systems are being designed so that everything a user could possibly want is right at their fingertips.

I am a Power User and I am dying. As an ideal, at least, not literally.

I am being phased out and replaced by “simple, straight-forward, intuitive, and just works”.

Advanced skills necessary to customize technology are being replaced by the demand of the average consumer to be able to just take a device out of the box and use it.

This saddens me.

This, IN MY OPINION (so keep your flaming comments to yourself because I’m still allowed my own opinion) is a sign of Reverse Evolution.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in Evolution, abandon your beliefs and think as if Evolution is true and consider this example:

It is millions of years ago. I’m some little amphibian creature. I see dry land up above the water I’m in and think it might be cool to go check it out.

But, eh, right now I exist without having to do anything. I live a simple, straight-forward, and intuitive life. Life is easy and it “just works”.

…………….. Guess what …………………

*poof*

You, the reader, no longer exist.

You have been replaced by “simple, straight-forward, intuitive, and just works”.

You are the victim of a society that wants everything spoon fed to them. That doesn’t want to have to think or work for their performance.

You’re ‘dead’, metaphorically speaking.

Mark this day of your reading this post. In 10-15 years from now, remember it.

In 10-15 years from now, hell maybe even less, mankind will have automated systems that do nearly everything for them.

Your children or your children’s children won’t even know what the term ‘rooting’ means.

They most likely won’t even know how to read, write, or do basic math because technology will have provided them automated tools that do all that for them.

Now you tell me. Do you seriously consider that “progress”?

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5 Responses to Death of a Power User

  1. Yes, I do consider it progress.

    The same death knell has been heard from practitioners of every other art form out there once it became “too easy” for others to practice.

    Let me preface my argument with a story that has a lot of parallels to what you’re talking about:

    I used to hang out at a coffee shop which is pretty well known as a hang out spot for artists, professors, grad students, etc. I’d hear the same discussions in little pockets here and there, something along the lines of:

    “Well, shit – photography just isn’t appreciated anymore. You have digital SLR’s and now *anyone*, including Joe Schmoe, can take great pictures! And what about us, the people who are more in tune to the art of developing photos in a dark room, the people who have to setup our cameras and wait for just the right moment?”

    But that’s just it – digital SLR’s have democratized photography and lowered the bar for entry, and while the amount of crap has likely gone up exponentially, you still have practitioners careful enough to craft a great picture and push the boundaries of what they can do on a new medium.

    And that’s what I think the computing industry is like these days, too. It’s much easier to operate a computer today than it ever has been, it’s way easier to do more things with less thought, but that should be a sign that there’s now a new way of operating computers that still requires us, the “computer geniuses”, to pave the way and innovate.

    TL;DR: don’t worry about it, it’s simply opened more opportunities for innovation elsewhere in computing.

    • Mike Rigsby says:

      The only problem is, using your good example that you listed, what happens when no standard SLR manufacturer can sell a camera, to anyone, because no one wants to go to that amount of trouble. Demand drives Supply. Once that happens, and it will, those photography experts are either stuck with 10 year old cameras or they’re now learning how to ask people if they want fries with their order.

      Inevitable death of things and something more popular comes along but still not something I need to be happy about. I personally won’t look sexy in a McDonald’s uniform.

  2. Mike Rigsby says:

    I’m definitely not saying that “Power Users will cease to exist”. What is ceasing to exist is the skill and scope of what constitutes a “Power User.”

    An analogy: Take a free range wild animal, like a tiger. Traditional it has hundreds of miles of area to range free in and control. Now put a fence around that area. Every few years, bring the fence in a few miles closer. Eventually that tiger won’t even realize what it’s lost and he’ll still feel like he’s in control of his area. Younger ones will not know anything different. Usually in this analogy there’s some really old animal sitting at the edge of the fence staring out at it and lamenting because it actually remembers just how much freedom he used to have.

    The majority simple needs user are driving technology demands and to me that contradicts the concept of “high tech”. It’s turning into “meh tech”.

  3. Although i can sympathize with what you’re saying i don’t agree with the conclusion.

    Imho what evolution means is that what is at first only available to a select few becomes available to general masses over time. This inevitably means that the select few (not necessarily the same as before) will have to look for other, newer ways to be able to set themselves apart from the masses again. In doing so there is a continues push to look for new ways to improve.

    I think it’s a good thing that there is a continues transition from ‘power users’ to ‘it just works’-Joe’s because this way ‘power users’ will also have to keep pushing themselves and the technology. I used to be a power user on Windows XP, and with Windows 7 now i can still do quite a few things that the ‘it just works’-Joe isn’t able to. The performance differences might not be as big as they used to be on Windows XP, and the definition of a ‘power user’ might have changed but if i wouldn’t keep pushing myself I’d long be out of work as an IT professional.

    But that’s just my 2 cents worth.

  4. I’m going to do exactly what I did when Vista came out, and go to $bigbox stores and fiddle all the Windows desktop demo units until they look like Win2K ; turn off all the effects, styles and so on. then run out giggling like a small child.

    On a serious note, Microsoft is seriously going to hurt itself if it doesn’t address that Power User base somewhat. I like Linux just fine; I like Windows just fine. I can play them like a concert pianist. (I HATE this ^%&%#! Mac I’m on-arg).

    If I don’t get the full complement of tweaks and tools and fiddlers with Win8, I’m not using it, full stop. There’s nothing Win 8 does for my desktop that XP’s seriously missing, and they’ve had 10 years to work the kinks out. Otherwise its LInux and Gnome/KDE for me.

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