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When Technology Tools Are in Control of You

November 6th, 2009 · No Comments


In the last month, I have had to replace a one year old refrigerator, a 30 day old phone, a two week old portable drive and a one-day old server. Technology is not always our friend!

When I first got involved in digitization (15 years ago!), I was sorely disappointed with the inefficiencies and struggles to get output as promised. I teach my students today that the information world is a difference place. We finally have tools that talk to each other, tools that can be modified through menus as well as hard-coding. This is a wonderful world of possibilities.

Tonight as I sighed and sat down thinking about all the time I have wasted on new products failing, I thought…”Am I right to be telling students that finally the tools are working for us instead of the other way around?”

In getting this blog up and running, we chose a simple template. We wanted it to be clean and easy for users and for us. So far, according to our change document we have encountered five unexpected problems that took a fair amount of time to fix (even with experts on staff). These problems all centered around incompatibilities to get information where, when and how we wanted. As information managers these seemed like simple moves and formats. We thought that we were not doing anything fancy.

I also tell my students to take as many technology classes as they can “stomach”, because the more that you know the smarter your decisions will be on which technology to use.

We are a pretty technical bunch but since each project is so different, and each institution is managing different types of information from any country and any time period in history, how can our information tools keep up to accommodate all human knowledge?

Open source is a start to integrating these tools but I still believe deep down that more librarians and archivists as programmers would make our tools much more common sense based.

I have seen many tools that sell well but their implementations are so short-sighted as to make the product unusable.

Here are some for instances:
1) All fields migrate from one database to another but only a portion are searchable!
2) The new Speech to Text feature gets every single word wrong and yet it is still for sale.
3) The new template for your site will not allow you to migrate data from your old template.
4) You can’t migrate your contacts from one phone to a new one
5) You can’t change your default directory when scanning.

These examples are counter-intuitive to good information management. Are there better products out there? In some cases, yes. This is why we need to be careful consumers. In some cases though, there are so many unknowns until you install your data that it is a painful “learning on the job” situation. In many more instances, your institution is already married to a technology and you just have to work with it.

Will things get better? Or is the question HOW will they get better?
I firmly believe that we (librarians and archivists) need to become more technologically astute and create our own products. The more we know will also allow us to push developers to better understand what we need.

We also as a group, have to really praise developers that are listening to us and that DO create products that are user and administratively friendly.

So, my question to you, is how best to do that?

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Category: New Tools