The 5 Levels of Technophilia and Silverlight

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I used to work for a man named Larry Weiss at Citibank, who did a number of magical things (including creating the best ATMs in the world in the 1980s that still surpass anything I’ve seen other banks do yet!). 

One concept that he talked about a lot (I have no idea if it was original) was the 5 levels of Technophilia, which he described as a pyramid but probably is better described as a bell curve and in fact a quick Live-Search turns up many such images.

quintiles

Doesn’t matter; it was his labels, and more important his one sentence examples (which I’ve paraphrased and updated) that I cared about:

I – First Buyers 

Technology for its own sake. Gotta’ have it. They’re the ones on line right now buying the new iPhone

II Technology Lovers

“Show me any any good reason, and I’ll buy it.” These folks already have FIOS and HDTV and don’t understand why anyone thinks that is odd.

III Technology Comfortable

“If there is a good reason, I’ll buy it, but show me the reason. After all, there is some cost to learning, some hassle to maintaining, but if you overcome my hesitation then I’m happy to buy.”  These folks are buying DVRs now and considering a GPS for their car.

IV. Technology Resistant

“I don’t like it, I don’t want it, but if you can really convince me that I have to have it,  I’ll complain a lot, but I’ll buy it.”  This is my mom.  Has a VCR, won’t take a DVD player as a present. 

V. Go Ahead, Pull The Trigger, I’m Not Using It.

Forget it, they don’t even have answering machines.

 

 

So?

I’ve found these quintiles to be totally   arbitrary and inconsistent, and yet a guiding principle for the past 20+ years. The fact is, I’m a Quintile I, my wife is a Quintile III and most folks fit pretty easily into one of these descriptions.

Here’s how I know I’m a Quintile I.  I leave my GPS on all the time, even when I know just where I’m going. Why? Because I am totally gassed by what it is. The fact that this tiny little box is sitting in my car is just too fantastic. Think for a moment about how it works (which I only know to a first approximation:

Satellites in the Global Navigation Satellite System continually transmits messages to the tiny box in my car.

Each of these messages encodes the time the message was sent, as well as the satellite’s precise orbit and the almanac of the orbits of all the other satellites. Given signals from four satellites, that tiny box not only computes its position in 3 dimensional space, but also the exact time so no precise clock is needed.

Consider that the calculations must take into account not only that the signal travels at the speed of light through space, but is slowed by the atmosphere, and, more, the on-board clock speed with relation to an earth-bound clock is altered both by the special and the general theory of relativity and this must be taken into account by the satellite engineers if the GPS is to be sufficiently accurate.

On top of all of that, once you have your position, you have only just begun, you next must include a complete mapping program, algorithms to compute getting from here to there, UI for describing where you want to go, and when you want a different route or to find a gas station on the way. And then it talks, and it does so usefully, giving good directions with plenty of notice, and reinforcing it by showing the alternative roads and clearly marking my path with an arrow.

Best of all it does not complain when I miss a turn but quietly reroutes new directions. And this box costs about $150 and weighs less than a book of maps.

TomTomOne

My wife (Type III) is happy to use it. She agreed we need one for each car. But here’s the thing: when she doesn’t need directions she turns it off. It is a useful piece of equipment, a utilitarian device, but it has no aesthetic for her.

To me, it is a nearly inspiring work of technology. It is intrinsically fascinating. It is, I would say, pretty close to awesome. 

Epilogue.

Watch out if you identified with my ramblings above! 

whyswsucks In the wonderful book Why Software Sucks, David Platt relates that he often asks (at his presentations), how many of the geeks in the audience drive a stick shift (or would if their spouse would let them). Some huge percentage does. But the rub is that only a tiny percentage of the overall population does.

His point, and it is a good one, is that we (that is geeks) tend to be type I or II, but we’re building software mostly for type III. That is well worth remembering, especially when confronting software like DeepZoom – software which can suck you into its own power causing you to lose site of the correct order of operations, which is this:

1. Figure out what is needed,
2. then figure out which technology can best be applied to the problem. 

When we reverse that order, we die. And we should.

So…

So… So… As Silverlight matures, and as we come to understand it better, we will go through phases in the tutorials and videos, etc.

  • Just trying to get started
  • Trying to catch up as things keep changing
  • Mastering the skills
  • Applying the skills and diving deeper
  • Stopping and asking, is this steak or sizzle?

Meanwhile the world is changing, other technologies arrive, promise, fail, surprises happen, opportunities come and go… the thing I find exciting about Silverlight is that it is not nailed to the deck; it swivels, it rolls and thus as things change, Silverlight should be able to morph into the tool that is needed. We’ll see, but I suspect we will look back at this not as the early period but as the very very beginning.

Should be fun.

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty is an independent consultant and programmer with three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects. He is the author of 2 dozen books and multiple Pluralsight courses, and has been a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP, Microsoft MVP and Telerik MVP.
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