Digital Culture Technology Uncategorized

BEHIND THE WIZARD

April 29, 2017

Few regular people understand the back office of technology. They rant and rave about their app not doing this or their mobile device not doing anything on that website. They are uninterested in what it took to make it do any of those things in the first place, and the complex relationships that fire and misfire every day during our interaction with the internet. Technology is much like the social system that built it, some play well with others, some will crash your hard drive.

I settled into my co-working space one morning, it was a national Czech holiday, so I decided to take my day job to a fresh setting. I was grateful for a break from my open office existence, amongst people unaware of my secret life as a writer. Here amongst fellow Prague writers I could bring 100% of myself to work. Powered up, my laptop failed to connect to the WiFi, a previously seamless act.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS

My highly encrypted, highly protected work computer balked at joining the shared connection at my co-working space. I’d had no problem connecting this laptop to a number of places, including my home, London Heathrow, and a coffee shop in Seattle. My semi-technical friends would at once take this as someone’s fault. I, however, understood the many variables in these equations, and that there was some important difference in all the technology points that were connecting here (device software, operating software, router software, internet provider, firewalls, Windows permissions, the energy of the Universe) and if I could figure it out I could have access to all the information on the planet, on this device.

My partner rants and raves every time something she wants to access the internet, or stream on TV, we rely on a VPN, or on her new tablet (which she has often admitted is a miracle), is suddenly not available. I can’t even begin to explain to her the lines of code, and new ideas that are needed to keep all this shit running. Software Genius A innovates and Device Genius B, C, D, E… have to catch up if they want to keep riding that technology wave. My partner doesn’t understand the dozens of calculations I went through to pick out the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 as her replacement for the three-year-old Kindle Fire HD. She’d outgrown its limitations and I was excited to take her to the next level of internet experience. Not to diss the Kindle Fire, and its much-improved progeny, but it was an Apple and a Samsung that made the final cut in my analysis, which was completely customized to this one individual.

 

The analysis of a device forces you to compare operating systems, chip manufacturers, battery life, camera quality, compatibility with the world of apps and their cost, add-ons, and storage devices. It was an agonizing process comparing battery life and pixels. I read dozens of reviews on tech magazines, which I only trust at a high level, and reviews by actual purchasers on amazon.com and Czech, alza.com. It’s both a collective and individualized journey to acquire a consumer technology product.

IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS

My websites proved to be a part of a similar technology decision-making maze. WordPress was the easy choice, the only choice. This was a company that understood the customer, which meant it delivered ease and high quality. The rest of the web design ocean was filled with sharks and jellyfish. I already shared my hosting service decision process. That choice had dozens of others embedded in it.

Next choice, MailChimp my winner from a pool of mailing list services. Now Hostgator said I had to choose an app to access my webmail, and offered a bunch of add-ons that I don’t even understand. There was a CPanel and FTP access. More things I need to understand to move forward.

Then I struggled to select a Template. It was clear from the reviews that the functionality and ease of use of my website depended on this choice. Thankfully, I could save myself from a poor choice with Site Builder, and the other world of widgets that are at your disposal in the WordPress universe. The problem was every time I watched a YouTube video they used a different list of Widgets, all, they claimed, indispensable.

It didn’t take me long, after days of reading “How-To” articles, trying to grasps things from add-ons to widgets, that I realized I didn’t want to learn any of it. You don’t have to want to know everything about technology to use a Smartphone I had no desire to build a website, I just wanted to have one, that worked.

When you pull back the curtain in Oz it’s not just a Wizard behind it, there is a loosely managed horde grabbing at the joystick of the magic city. While I eventually figured out how to connect my work laptop to the co-working space (don’t ask me how – you know we never write that stuff down), I still haven’t solved the mystery of affordable, high-quality web design.

Simple Web Design?

What seemed like a simple exercise that millions accomplish every day has eluded me. My forays into Upwork as a client completely flopped. I fended off a digital troll who appeared out of cyberspace sensing a tasty victim, offered to build my site for a reasonable price and delivered almost nothing. My friends’ suggestions netted poor results. Six months after setting up my Hostgator account, and two months after the launch of my book, Two Broke Chicas, I still don’t have a nicely designed, functioning website. My friends are beginning to look at me with less sympathy and more suspicion. What is my part in this debacle? Lesser women have book websites and blogs making money for them. What’s my problem?

I DON’T KNOW. Can’t figure it out myself. Am I cursed? Is the Universe just trying to make me patient while I wait for my Web Messiah to appear? I just hope she isn’t just being born in a manger because I need this thing up and running right now?

HELP! Digital Universe deliver.

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