Taking time out for a little navel gazing

A recent Letter to the Editor suggests that my columns of late contain a detectable note of phobia regarding technology. (Please see letter on the facing page.) I would like to thank Mr. Grover for taking the time to write. His comments solidified an impression that has been gathering form in the nether regions of my own mind.

I too have had the sense lately that my view of technology has been changing, that I am becoming a little more sceptical, perhaps even cynical, regarding this industry. It’s nothing specific, just a growing sense of doubt related to where all this stuff is heading.

In the last six months I have written that Borland’s deal with Corel made little sense, that e-mail is as much curse as boon, that Palm’s decision to employ Claudia Schiffer as a spokesperson was silly, that virtual people are unnecessary and a little scary, and that in general this industry is quirky and often a little illogical.

Okay, so it’s not too shocking that Mr. Grover is concerned about my outlook. I have perhaps been a bit of a downer.

But I should state for the record that I am not the least phobic about technology. Truth be told, I am still among the legion who think technology is cool. Sitting in on two recent product demos, my first thoughts were not “This answers a real need in the business world” or even “The design and implementation of this seems somewhat unsound.” In both cases, I did eventually have those thoughts, but for both my first reaction was “Cool.”

I would also like it stated for the record that if the word “cool” hadn’t been the first to pop into my head then I would in fact be a pretty lousy computer publication editor. If you are not intrigued by all technology and particularly interested in good technology then you have no right editing Canada’s largest national computer pub .

So why have I been wondering about my relationship with my subject matter, and why does at least one reader have concerns about my attitude?

I think what can come across as phobic actually is evidence that even starry-eyed observers eventually grow up to realize all these ones and zeros have to provide some concrete benefit, or at the very least that technology not slow us down or annoy us as it tries to serve our interests.

In this growing-up process I am following the footsteps laid down by many of our readers, people who got into technology because it was damn interesting but who now realize their jobs revolve around delivering a return on corporate investment.

Let’s face it, the mantra that “IT exists to drive business, and not the other way around” is itself a tacit statement that technology for its own sake cannot be trusted.

Luckily for all of us, that fact does not leach all the excitement out of this industry nor deprive us of an appreciation for the power of this new world. It does not remove all the cool.

What it should do is make us a little wary. I hope my columns, and ComputerWorld Canada’s content in general, reflect that wariness without indulging in cynicism. And again, my thanks to any reader who takes the time to comment on my performance.