Sunday 21 December 2014

The 6 biggest technology lies in Irish life

Published 14/08/2014 | 02:30

There are some impressive tech lies in Irish life.
There are some impressive tech lies in Irish life.

The most common tech porky pies we tell and the reasons why.

1. “This call is being  recorded for training and quality assurance”

The recording bit is true. But the whole ‘training’ and ‘quality’ bit is stretching it. For many public-facing firms, the real purpose of recording customers is to ensure that callers stay civilised. “You wouldn’t believe some of the abuse  people give help centre staff,” one telecom executive told me recently. “If people think their call is being recorded, they can still be rude but they may hold back from being threatening.”

2. “That’s it – I’m quitting Facebook”

This week has seen a fresh volley of the most over-used lie in tech given fresh impetus. Facebook’s new “outrageous” Messenger app has had the usual effect of verbal (but not actual) protests over feared privacy abuses. This time, we say, we’re getting off the Facebook train “once and for all”.

But not only do the vast (vast) majority of people using Facebook not delete their accounts, the service is still growing in Ireland.

According to the most recent Ipsos MRBI tracking poll on social media subscriptions here, Facebook use continues to creep up – now at 62pc of all Irish adults. Even the waves of elderly parents logging on has not put us off posting selfies and sharing kitten videos.

3. “And it’s perfect for families.”

Yes, but only if your family likes the shabbiest products on the market. More often than not, “perfect for families” is shorthand for ‘cheap, poorly-powered and lacking most high-end features’.

Like the ‘family’ tablet that costs under €150 but has a dull screen that is unresponsive much of the time and freezes at least once a day. Or the ‘family’ laptop that comes in at a wallet-friendly €300 but which throws up a barrage of intrusive, irritating ‘trial applications’ as soon as you switch it on.

Why manufacturers equate ‘family’ with ‘low quality’ is a matter of puzzlement.

4. “We’re developing a new way of storytelling.”

It sounds warm and personal, doesn’t it? Except it’s a just a cold bit of jargon that has very little to do with actual storytelling.

Where once we had ‘collaboration’, ‘innovation’ or even ‘conversation’, now ‘storytelling’ is the hottest jargon-du-jour in that bit of industry where tech intersects with marketing. It’s just the latest fluffy, Mad Men attempt to defrost otherwise dull communications processes between companies and their customers.

The term’s most dramatic rise is in the sales and branding side of businesses, where formerly flat-sounding ‘Powerpoint presentations’ are now ‘storytelling experiences’. Online start-ups of all colours have also embraced the term enthusiastically. Whether a series of slides outlining the firm’s Q2 targets really has that Kipling-esque touch is open to debate.

5. “We’re currently upgrading our website”

It used to be merely irritating; now it’s simply unprofessional. Having a half-finished website is too often the stock-in-trade of many small Irish businesses. And yet it is so often the pat answer trotted out to queries regarding online interaction with a company.

In reality, what starts out as a good intention in relation to a web presence is simply put on ice when the first minor challenge (such as deciding on what the website is supposed to do) presents itself.

Too often, it’s then frozen, with only the vaguest intention of ‘getting around to it’ again at some point. The result is an online calling card that smacks of the builder ‘Reilly’ from Fawlty Towers. Even firms that do eventually update their site seem to take months to do it in Ireland.

6. “I need that office- provided tablet for work.”

If the definition of a lie is something that someone simply doesn’t believe, then this one may not technically qualify for the list at first. But it changes very quickly. Indeed, it is apparent to most business people after about 72 hours that it what they thought was a laptop substitute is a pretty poor email substitute that they use for little else.

Writing documents? Presentations? Office management software access? We all faithfully promise to use tablets for this. And hardly any of us do.

Most research shows that business people use tablets for little else than internet browsing and email. And with the rise of five- and six-inch smartphones, tablet sales are beginning to actually fall.

Apple’s deal with IBM – for the creation of more business-centric applications – may recover some of the tablet’s business mojo. But as it stands, tablets have proven to be primarily Netflix and gaming devices.

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