Life is getting slower. At least on the vast Interweb. And I blame those diabolical Swedes.
Now every few years we go through these cycles of ‘reach’ vs. ‘grasp’. For a while, ‘hardware’ rules. Life is zippy. Pundits bitch about how our computers are ‘under-utilised’ and bemoan the ‘boredom’ of software. Then we go through a phase where there’s all this new, trés cool software which leaves our various devices gasping; and us waiting. Sadly, we’re going through one of the latter phases now. And call me old and in the way, but I was kinda digging the ‘under-utilised’ phase. Now all I seem to do is wait for my virtual world. I figured it was just a part of this normal cycle. However, I have come to believe that the current torporous phase is actually a part of a vast marketing conspiracy; inspired by the fiendishly clever guys behind Ikea. Damn them… and their modestly priced shelving systems… to hell.
That’s Quite A Theory
Oh yes. It started when I began looking at the new Myspace and it is, if anything, even more revolting than the ‘classic’ Myspace. I say this as objectively as I can given the facts that I have almost no ‘presence’ there. So when they forced every
Just got a fancy new phone. Looks swell! Everything swirls, floats, bobs and fades in and out. Very cool. Call me ‘midde-aged-aged-man’, but I can literally count to three sometimes waiting for this thing to ‘switch modes’ so I can make… a… PHONE CALL!
At first, I thought this was just another part of the ongoing trend towards style over substance. The guys who re-frocked Myspace decided that various cool ‘effects’ were more important than creating a snappy experience. Same with my snazzy ‘Android’ phone. The guys who did the UI must have felt like wild graphic effects are engaging enough that it’s worth sacrificing what I used to be able to take for granted with a phone… Grab it and start dialing.
I see all these political posts about ‘typical Americans’ wanting to return to a simpler and more straightforward way of living. But… stick with me here for a second… Judging by the items marketed to (and purchased by) your average person, I don’t think people really want that. I think that the corporate psycho-product-designers have concluded that packaging is still way more interesting to people than what’s inside. And there just isn’t the horsepower in my phone; my internet connection; my computer to make every interaction like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
Skip To Here For The Point (Damn That Ikea!)
But it’s deeper than that. And here (finally!) is the point I wish to make. And yeah, there’s a music tie-in: When I go into a store, I go for what I want. I have always tended to steer clear of places like Ikea which are designed to slow me down and make me wander about in an English Puzzle Maze of cookware and cheap furniture in order to find the Klaatu set of salad spoons I was looking for.
Then it hit me. That Ikea model feels a lot like the overall Interweb experience. Could there be a connection? I wonder if the slowness of the new Myspace as well as other web sites (and my phone!) is intentional in the way that Ikea floor plans are. There’s so much crap going on while one is waiting for what you really want, that you’re far more likely to get diverted into some other avenue of ‘discovery’. And not necessarily creative discovery (like a new band) but ad discovery. Because frankly most of the diversions end up taking one to some sort of bandwidth sucking come-on that takes a person away from discovering new content. And that’s how Ikea is. You cannot walk out of there without spending $300 on crap; simply because you can’t get to the $10 item you actually need directly.
Maybe it’s just a vain hope, but I think that this strategy will ultimately backfire. I think that ‘slow’ will kill Myspace. (OK, it will kill it faster than it’s already being killed.) I think this intentional desire to slow people down so they can watch more ads will not work. I’m not sure yer average Joe will be aware consciously why it’s a turn-off, but I am pretty sure it will be mysteriously drive them towards alternatives that don’t require waiting.
On the other hand, the number of people I see at Ikea every time I drive by there must include a lot of friends who hate the place as much as I do.