Skip to main content

My Personal Tech Biases

The surest way to get into an argument might not be a discussion of religion or politics. No, the real heated debates, at least online, deal with those really important matters of bias:

  • Windows, Linux, or OS X?
  • iOS (iPhone / iPad) or Android and Chrome (or maybe Windows Mobile)?
  • XBox or PS3? (Sorry, Wii)
  • FireFox, Chrome, IE, Safari, or other? 
  • PHP, Perl, JavaScript, or ASP / .Net?
  • Objective-C, C#, or C++ with Qt?

You get the idea. If you really want to read arguments, read technology blogs. These are passionate people arguing vehemently over technologies that often come and go faster than an Italian national government. The lifespan of some fruit flies seems longer than the life of a cell phone generation.

My students have grown up with the same attachments to modern technologies that I have for fountain pens and mechanical pencils. (I love a good pen or pencil.) Getting a student to switch from Mac to Windows or from Windows to Mac can be nearly impossible. I've had one tell me she'd never work at a place with Apple systems. Talk about passion.

This attitude leads me to explore a basic question: what are my technology biases? Do those biases and expectations effect how I teach?

Here are three of the biases I recognize in myself:

Apple. It really is more about the experience than the hardware. I complained about the shift to Intel chips, but when things kept on working, I decided Apple (Steve) knows best what I need. My first Apple experiences were with an Apple IIe. How could I not love one of the companies that introduced me to computing? OS X is the Unix I used in college, with the option to ignore it. Also, I believe System 7.x and System 9.x (only minimally related to OS X) were the move innovative personal computer operating systems, setting the trajectory for today's GUI experiences. Perfect? No. But innovative.

Keyboards. Though I am an Apple fan, I prefer a command line when I want speed. I use Terminal (I switched to Bash before Apple did) and can't comprehend life without shell scripts. Automation is worth the initial effort. I use MySQL via Terminal -- not via some GUI thing. I am also a keyboard shortcut maven, even within OS X applications. I type "alternative characters" faster than I could ever insert them via a menu.

Pascal and BASIC. Yes, I still like the old "procedural" languages I learned in the 1970s and 80s. I'm willing to update those preferences to Delphi's Object Pascal and Microsoft's VisualBasic (through 6.x). For all their power, the C-family of languages never thrilled me. Don't even get me started on Apple's insistence that Objective-C is the be-all, end-all of languages. Apple should have maintained the Carbon frameworks and allowed some competitive language tools. Microsoft's C# is elegant; too bad nothing will pressure Apple to offer an alternative to ObjC.

I'm sure I have other biases and that those affect how I interact with technology. Do you have any tech biases?


Popular posts from this blog

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

Let’s Make a Movie: Digital Filmmaking on a Budget

Film camera collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 5, 2015 Deadline
July 2015 Issue

Every weekend a small group of filmmakers I know make at least one three-minute movie and share the short film on their YouTube channel, 3X7 Films.

Inspired by the 48-Hour Film Project (, my colleagues started to joke about entering a 48-hour contest each month. Someone suggested that it might be possible to make a three-minute movie every week. Soon, 3X7 Films was launched as a Facebook group and members started to assemble teams to make movies.

The 48-Hour Film Project, also known as 48HFP, launched in 2001 by Mark Ruppert. He convinced some colleagues in Washington, D.C., that they could make a movie in 48 hours. The idea became a friendly competition. Fifteen years later, 48HFP is an international phenomenon, with competitions in cities around the world. Regional winners compete in national and international festivals.

On a Friday night, teams gathe…

What I Studied in Graduate School

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superposed onto some guides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Asked to summarize my research projects...

Curiously, beyond the theses and dissertation, all my work is in economics of media and narrative. I ask what works and why when offering stories to audiences. What connects with an audience and can we model what audiences want from narratives? (Yes, you can model data on narratives and what "sells" and what wins awards and what nobody wants.)

Yet, my degree research projects all relate to design of writing spaces, as knowing what works is also key to knowing what could be "sold" to users.

MA: How poor LMS UI/UX design creates online spaces that hinder the writing process and teacher mentoring of students.

Also: The cost of LMS design and compliance with legal mandates for usability.

Ph.D: The experiences of special needs students in online settings, from commercial spaces to games to learning spaces and which spaces are best desig…