Technology

This One's for the Skeptics

By / Jan 29, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Trepidation among tech executives is natural, because, let’s face it, if you went for every idea someone presented to you, you’d have a lot of bad ideas on your hands. Don’t let a spare comment lead you astray.

There are no lazy approaches— just things that make sense for your association and things that don’t. Don’t avoid something just because someone calls it lazy.

There’s a lot of stuff on the internet, and it’s all trying to sway you.

Like political sites, tech sites often have columns of their own, some of which are written by the very people trying to sell you stuff. And not all of them can be right 100 percent of the time.

That thought hit me earlier this week while reading a couple of pieces I ran into online. You encounter a few lines here or there, or an author with interests different from your own, and you might get the wrong idea about what’s good for your organization. Which leads me to the first piece that got me thinking …

“Is Responsive Lazy?”

One of the more interesting claims I ran into recently was made by Richard Bloom, the COO of the mobile tech company Onswipe, which produces touch-specialized mobile websites for its clients. In an argument on building for tablets, he was down on responsive design.

“Over the last year, responsive web design has grown in adoption and has become the method many publishers are pursuing to ‘optimize’ for mobile. But this is just a Band-Aid approach and, to be frank, is just plain lazy,” he says.

While, mind you, there is an inherent conflict of interest in a statement like Bloom’s—ultimately, he wants you to go with his product, which doesn’t use responsive design—if an association exec runs into a statement like that in his or her daily reading, the exec might have the opposite thought from the one Bloom is anticipating.

Well, if responsive design is lazy, we just don’t have time to handle this new thing right now. Maybe next year.

Skeptical claims like Bloom’s are understandable, but they don’t help. They don’t realistically anticipate the issues actually facing small associations with small budgets but a desire to do more. (Responsive design can also be done holistically, keeping in mind each platform, for what it’s worth.)

It’s not a Band-Aid approach if your association does it the right way. It’s a foundation. To put it another way, there are no lazy approaches—just things that make sense for your association and things that don’t. Don’t avoid something just because someone calls it lazy.

“Is the Cloud Insecure?”

On the other hand, sometimes you run into something that might actually tell you something you need to hear.

That was the impression I got from Dave Girouard, a GigaOm contributor who wrote a piece on cloud computing last week. Girouard has deep experience with the cloud—he worked on Google Apps during a period when the idea was just taking off—and as a result has a a ton of useful war stories that are definitely worth heeding.

“As a consumer or corporate buyer of cloud computing, your task is ridiculously simple: Make sure the best people are working on it,” he explains. “And in fact, those engineers working on Gmail are so good that sizable outages are extremely rare these days. Yet whether it’s service reliability, data protection, or regulatory issues, there remains to this day an insane resistance to cloud computing that is quickly becoming the ‘Darwinian litmus test’ for companies in every industry.”

Girouard brings up some important conversation points in his piece—reasons why the cloud, despite all the years we’ve had to warm to it, still doesn’t get the love it deserves.

But even in this case, the advice—while better than a simple one-sentence dismissal of a rising technology—has an asterisk on it. As Google’s former president of enterprise, he comes to his argument from the perspective of a company vested in cloud computing.

Which doesn’t make his advice bad, but it’s worth keeping in mind the biases and opinions of the writer. What makes sense for your own situation is what matters.

Use Your Own Judgment

A few years ago, a University of California study estimated that the average person reads 100,000 words per day, online and in various other forms. That’s a book a day that flies by us—so much info that we could never parse it all. In the age of the tweet, things are getting even faster.

One sign of a great leader is the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and make great decisions based on the best information available.

In other words, out of the 100,000 words you see each day, focus on the ones that truly matter.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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