Kool Aid

05 Jun 2007

I bought an iPod. It came with a bottle of Kool Aid.

I bought it despite the fact that it's expensive, fragile, trendy and underpowered, and despite the useless colour screen, manufacturer lock-in, proprietary interface cable and gimmicky controls. I bought it to replace a compact, reliable and expendable device that fills 90% of my need. Essentially, I bought it because everyone else has.

The funny thing is that I don't regret it. Sure, it's a target, but that just makes me run faster. And with my entire collection available, now I'm listening to what I actually want to listen to, rather than what I thought I might like a couple of weeks back when I last updated it. Seamless syncing of everything down to my position in the 30-minute french lesson mp3s is not only neat, it actually *is* useful.

It's funny how sometimes the millions who can't be wrong, aren't wrong.

But this is part of a larger trend. I'm working nine-to-five, which sucks, but sucks a whole lot less than being self-employed. I'm taking protein supplements, despite my firm belief that they are strictly for suckers, chumps, get-fit-quick scheme victims and serious Rambos. It took several weeks of persuasion from a personal trainer who presumably knows what she's talking about, but, though it's hard to tell if there's a benefit, they're at least not doing me serious damage.

And now, now I have a facebook account. I've always hated "social networking" and still do, possibly in the same way that chocolate-factory workers hate sugar. I prefer a few close friends to a wide network of acquaintances. I like to automate everything except my social life. If I want to know what people are up to, I'll damn well ask them. It's personal. It's meaningful.

But it doesn't scale.

I've spent years designing and occasionally building systems that let me ask "What's everyone doing tonight? Where are you, and where should we meet?". Facebook does that. It also gives me the basic details that I should remember but don't, so I don't spend the first three conversations with someone I've just met doing the same old ground over and over again - and it's not always me that's responsible. In a city of seven million, it can take a few months to get past a few meetings. But for me, the Killer App is being able to go from "... who was that guy, Alex's friend, Donald something, told me to email him about Croatia..." to an email address. It's not automation. It's leverage.

So I drank the Kool Aid. It tastes good.