Why I'm sick of technology
I've been increasingly annoyed in my day-to-day with technology over the past few months. Mostly in the context of apps and websites both on mobile and desktop.
Maybe the pandemic has made me depend on tech more for entertainment and escapism. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe I'm more tuned in to bad design patterns as a front-end developer. I dunno. What I do know is that I'm not the only one dealing with these problems, and it feels like these annoyances have accelerated recently. I sat down for just 10 minutes and tried to dump out everything I could think of from just the past month or so that I've realized is just obnoxious.
The sad thing is that we've gotten so used to how things are that we've just accepted it as normal. But somewhere along the way, I just hit one too many X-buttons on a popup asking for my email for a newsletter, and I got triggered real bad. So, here's my annotated list of just ten or so minutes of thinking about bad experiences we have to deal with in today's tech landscape.
Things that I'm tired of:
- Logging into websites on mobile (and dealing with 2FA on mobile)
- Downloading and setting up every individual municipality's parking apps for 10 minutes after I found parking because its either the only option for the parking meter, or the on-board systems for the parking meter are busted because why would they bother fixing it when they paid for the app contract
- Opening an app only for it to load and display a banner saying I need to reload for an update
- Email newsletter popups
- Having to look for and uncheck mailing list opt-ins during sign up for a service, only to get spam from the company anyway
- Unsubscribing from newsletters I didn't sign up for, and half the time it doesn't work anyway
- Waiting any length of time for an application to load in TYOL 2021
- Waiting for an app's loading screen to finish, only to then be presented with a loading spinner because now they have to make a request to their server, so I'm still waiting for it to load
- Seeing a spinner forever and not knowing if the network request failed or not because half the time the app was never built to gracefully handle errors
- Having to go out of my way to have ownership over my data in apps I use, because every service would rather keep your data in their own format on their servers behind a subscription because thats more profitable and retains users better
- Ads. Anywhere. Ever. I have zero patience for that shit now. Adblock everything.
- “Smart” devices being front and center, to the point that quality non-smart versions of things barely exist, but then that smart thing is just another venue for all of the same things I'm tired of (constant updates, notifications, loading screens, etc)
- IOT devices that are appealing as convenient but then turns out mesh networking is hard so everything is routed through a central server anyway so all IOT requests take forever to go through and fail half the time anyway
- Trying to quickly look something up on my phone's web browser only for a fullscreen popup saying that if you want to read more you need to install the app
- Paywalls, especially on news
- “Accept cookies” banners EVERYWHERE
- A thousand chat applications and none of them interact with each other and increasingly SMS fallback works worse and worse
- The fact that to avoid any of these annoyances means getting even more annoyances from subpar software with little to no support behind it and a massively increased barrier to entry for most people (think self hosted solutions, open source apps, etc)
- The fact that we have so many subscriptions to manage that there are subscription services whose sole purpose is to help manage subscriptions
- Dealing with audio input/output device management on a computer – or worse, trying to walk someone else through that who doesn't know what is going on when you're just trying to have a video/voice call
- Spam phone calls, and the fact that literally anyone can just… call you? And ring your phone? And the only way to opt out is to use some kind of call blocking functionality which risks missing possibly-important calls
- Commercial VPNs having successfully rebranded themselves as necessary for the average person after all the work we did to get https everywhere (yes VPNs can still do some other stuff but 99.5% of the time its not any more secure, just changing who is able to look at your DNS lookups and traffic volume)
- Updating my TV's OS
- Having to deal with literally anything involving Bluetooth, especially pairing audio devices
- The fact that everything increasingly has a microphone in it, but voice assistants are still terrible and creepy. Doubly worse that the common response to that fact now is just acceptance of the creepiness.
- Filling out billing information. And 50% of the time autofill fails in some way
As far as I can tell, the root cause is money. Virtually everything I've listed can be tracked back to companies seeking to endlessly increase their income. Most of these issues come down to one of a handful of things:
- Consolidate data into the cloud so the company can charge you access
- Moving app logic to servers so the company can retain control over when and how the app is used
- Refusing to modernize monetization techniques and instead sticking with ads and tracking because its way easier to keep pretending your app is free rather than ask for payment in exchange for services rendered
- Generally lazy craftsmanship in the development of an app because its easier to cut corners than explain to investors why your app launch was delayed
- Just generally and honestly seeking ways to squeeze money out of apps
I don't think any of this is unreasonable given the scenario we find ourselves in. Companies first and foremost want to make money, that is how the world works. But the result is that these devices that are supposed to be tools that make our life easier instead become these obnoxious money pits.
So please, if you are a developer, product manager or even investor: we need to make a concerted effort to actually improve quality of life, not add new venues to deliver a death by 1,000 cuts.
And if you're a user of tech (which, if you're reading this, you are): I hope you have identified a few annoyances of your own. Take a moment and report those to the app developers. Maybe even uninstall a few apps and alert the developers as to why.
Users deserve a better UX. Even in my experience with companies whose entire branding is based on UX (such as Apple), I'm hitting these obnoxious problems.
And if I have to install one more damn parking app, I'm going to lose my mind.