Good news and bad news – Simplexity

The good news is that I finally bought a camera last week-end (I have named her Stella!).

I did heaps of research, lookStella!ed at review sites, checked textile blogs and narrowed it down between two – a Sony and an Olympus.  In the end I went with the Olympus for several reasons:

  1. They don’t do differential pricing by region i.e. the price is the same wherever you buy it (adjusted by currency), whereas Sony want Australians to pay over $250  more than Americans for the identical camera. Australians are getting very cheesed off with this approach which also happens on a wide range of tech goods and software etc.
  2. The Olympus had better capacity for wide shots e.g. to take photos a whole quilt with good definition.
  3. The sales staff didn’t treat me like an idiot and listened to my needs.

The bad news is that even though I went with the top of the range compact, rather than a SLR, the camera and the instructions seem fiendishly complicated.  I have started reading the online manual, but doubt whether I will ever fully understand how to use it.  Fortunately the shop where I bought it offers a free 3 hour lesson which I’m going to in a few weeks, so that may help a little.

I was thinking about why I find things like cameras, remote controls etc so hard to come to grips with when I was sorting out the pile of books that always resides by by bed.  I picked up a book that I bought a couple of years ago (I always have at least 6-10 books waiting to be read or finished) called Simplexity: The Simple Rules of a Complex World  by Jeffrey Kluger, and lo and behold there was a chapter called “Why are you cell phone and camera so absurdly complicated?” My thoughts exactly!

Obviously I’m not the first person to feel frustrated and a complete klutz with these types of things.  Simplexity considers why simple things can be more complicated than they seem, and complex things more simple.  So even if I am thinking “I just want to take a close up photo of a quilt that highlights the quilting” the technology required to do that is complex and is buried in several layers – hence the buttons, icons, and numbers displayed.

As Kluger says “The act of buying nearly any electronic product has gone from the straightforward plug-and-play experience it used to be to a laborious, joy-killing exercise in unpacking, reading, puzzling out, configuring, testing, cursing, reconfiguring, stopping altogether to call the consumer support line … . You’ll accept, as you always do, that there are countless functions that sounded vaguely interesting when you were in the store that you will never learn to use, not to mention dozens of buttons on the front panel or remote control that you’ll never touch, and you will feel some vague sense of technophobic shame over this.

Right on all counts!  I remember feeling the same when I bought my last sewing machine.  I wanted a wide throat on a domestic machine so that I could quilt easier – the only way I could get a wide throat was to buy a machine with literally hundreds of stitches which I didn’t need, and had to pay for!

Anyway, the moral to this story is to find a friend who knows about this stuff and get some help, and to tell companies what we want.  Kluger concludes “overly complex tech” has pushed consumers to the “had-enough point” and that consumers will end up getting what they want because we live in a competitive market.  I just hope it happens sooner rather than later!

The book, by the way, is a very good read covering topics from the stock market, human behaviour, sport and why we always worry about the wrong things.  Some good insights into the the things that puzzle us and the hidden ways the world really works.

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