niamu

Brendon Walsh
Living in a Technology Bubble

Living in a Technology Bubble

2010-06-08

This is something that I've been contemplating for several months now and have refrained from talking about here because it often makes me feel elitist and upset with so many people.

Recently though, I decided that living in a tech bubble is something that does need to be talked about and discussed because one of the main reasons it upsets me is everyone's inability to comprehend the lifestyle.

Where it all began

Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton were co-hosts on The ScreenSavers back in the old days of TechTV when my family was still stealing US satellite programming. This program was a huge revelation for me. I had been interested in technology before, but never before on the scale that was being presented on this show. There were mod segments and security news and even LAN parties on set.

And so this show became apart of my daily routine. I learned a lot and began to hunger for the latest gadgets and software as these people on screen did.

A couple years later the Canadian network G4 bought the TechTV network and fired most of my beloved hosts and cancelled their shows. They would go on to create the major podcast networks that we know of today as TWiT and Revision3 where content is even more granular and covering many more topics that mainstream TV networks would never have allowed. A show like Hak5 for example.

And so it went. I fell further down the rabbit whole for many years. All the while, attending high school, and then college with some very special, like-minded friends. It was not until recently when I emerged into the working world that I realized how small my bubble was and how rare my friends were to come by.

The Workplace

Currently, I work for a K-12 school board in Southwestern Ontario. I guess I should have known better what was in store after so many of my escapades with school computers before.

The place is built on ancient technology. Files are moved around through email attachments. Web browsers are forced to be on IE6 for "security purposes." Comically, they even tried to enforce IE5.5 on the Mac that I work on. Everything is done in Powerpoint. No really. I've had people send me simple pictures wrapped in Powerpoint. It's that ridiculous.

Worst of all, there is a major push from within to make moves to Web 2.0 and such. So I am called on to build complicated directories of online information where PDFs will be stored (yeah, I know) and these people don't even understand how to use a computer offline.

Kids These Days

The above stuff doesn't bother me as much as how people react when I actually fix things for them and get work done. I must have missed the meeting where we decided to replace "thank you" with a sigh and utterance of the phrase "...kids these days".

This bothers me on a number of levels. First, it means that you really don't appreciate what I've just done for you. A little disrespectful, but I can live with that given even I find it hard to explain what I've just done in layman's terms. The part that bothers me more is the "kid" aspect.

I am not a kid. Nor am I a teenager. I'm nearly 22 years old. All of that crap about how kids know to make computers work and know so much more just because they are young is nonsense. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The worst example of this was when a co-worker told me that one day I'd be in his shoes. Old and no longer up-to-date with the latest technology while kids pass me by with their fancy new iPods or whatever. That really got to me. Getting older does not mean you get dumber. My proof - as if you needed any on such a ridiculous falsehood - is Leo Laporte. He's aged all this time through an ever-changing tech industry at an exponentially faster rate of change all the time and he is keeping up as well as anyone could expect. Getting old does not mean that you don't know what's going on and being young does not mean that you're an expert.

Family Perception

I can't be the only one who's experienced this. My parents have mentioned from time to time that I ought to pick up a sport of spend more time outside. Of course, on some health level they're probably right. But I don't think that's really what bothers them. If you met me for the first time out on a street, you probably wouldn't question my level of fitness at all as long as we aren't about to have some kind of track and field match. (Even then, I'm fairly confident I wouldn't be last in an average group.)

No, for my family and friends I think it's more about some level of insecurity about not knowing what goes on in my tech world. They don't really want to know, but it does make them feel a little uneasy. Especially when money starts to get tossed around. Surely, there can't be any reason to have so many cell phones and computers and gadgets they'd say. And I am left trying to explain the need for some obscure feature that they couldn't possibly ever hope to understand.

I had this experience very recently when my parents wondered why I needed to get a Nexus One when I already had two iPhones and a G1 Android phone. I foolishly tried to list all of the new features like Android Intent. This never works out well, but I still try every time.

What it really comes down to is everyone else trying to recruit me to their athletic bubble, or drinking bubble, or whatever bubble. Just because their bubble is bigger and more accepted, they feel it's their right to take me from mine.

I'll leave you with this very apt quote from Steve Gibson as I am writing this.

There. I made it all the way through without a single reference to bursting bubbles.