Sunday, April 10, 2011

An egg cooker... and the need for single-purpose as well as multi-purpose

100411_ Olly's egg steamer

Recently Olly came home with this egg cooker. She does that... brings home wee gadgets for the kitchen. This one is really special... it cooks eggs.

How could this be "really special" I hear you cry? because it cooks the eggs better than if they were cooked in a pan... in water... on the gas.

I'm not sure why its better... it just is. The eggs are cooked to our view of what a perfect egg is... golden runny yolk and a tender white. Which is, by the way, awesome on a buttered Irish soda farl with a wee spot of hot sauce.

I digress.

What has also impressed me about this egg cooker is its singularity of purpose... it doesn't do anything else. It cooks eggs and it cooks them perfectly. That is it.

We are becoming more and more used to multi-purpose devices. I'm typing this post on my 13" MacBook Pro that is definitely a multi-purpose device - for surfing the interwebs, listening to music, watching videos etc - consuming and creating content.

Beside me is my iPad... and my iPhone - both excellent (in my opinon) multi-purpose devices.

However, beside me too is my camera... my Nikon d60. Its a single-purpose device - it doesn't shoot video and only takes still images.

Notice I said "only"? Its as if I am excusing its failing... "Yeah... it only takes still images".

I personally think it captures excellent still images. (I am not saying I take excellent images... but making the point that the camera, in my view, does a grand job and when its off... its because I am off.)

Sometimes I think... in all our technological advances and grasping for growth... we put too many things into a device.

We have too many expectations.

I coined a phrased yesterday called "notifitractions" ... this is the distraction that comes when your technology seeks to notify you of something. If you have a smartphone with push notifications "on" or you use "growl" on your Mac... you'll know what I mean. Its the technological equivalent of a small child tugging at your clothes to ask you something. Its pleasantly annoying when you are in the mood for them... and down right distracting when you are trying to be in the zone.

Notifitractions disturb our concentration... and our concentration, as my boss reminds me, is a very, very, very scarce resource... at least mine is... ***squirrel***

They are a symptom of "connectivitis"... the disease that comes from being connected on the internet for too long a continual period of time... like bed-sores but virtual. (Credit to @tenstrings for that phrase).

As a result of even the mildest of connectivitis... we have too many expectations. We expect our tools to do everything... and do everything awesomely. Think about it... the criticism of the iPod is that it doesn't have this or do that. No one stops to ask... why? Not why they are not there but why they are expected!

I recently saw a bluetooth-enabled Casio G-Shock watch... that receives and then presents notifitractions from your smartphone. It was an awesome application of technology... and I could see myself using it... when I surreptitiously sneak off to the toilet whenever an email comes in whilst I am at work.

Surely a watch should be a watch... and do chronological things awesomely... to the detriment of anything else?

If you have ever tried to use a "databank" in a digital watch... you'll get what I mean. They should stick to telling the time... and forget about all the extras.

Does anyone actually need a bluetooth-enabled watch? Does anyone actually need phone numbers stored in their watch? No... didn't think so.

I have taken to reading eBooks on my iPad when I am out of wi-fi reach. Why? So that my enjoyment of the story isn't spoiled by the ***bing***bing***bing*** of notifitractions.

Yes... I should just turn them off... as I have done with my iPhone... or switch off the wi-fi when I am reading in the house. I know... I should... but then I wouldn't get the benefit of them when I need them (I hate the hassle of switching things off then on then off again... yes, I know, I have first world problems!)

Maybe I will delete Twitter (which is the main culprit) off my iPad. I don't need it when I have my iPhone beside me... or my MBP.

I think the issue is that I allow these notifitractions into my life in the first place.

A book, for example, is the perfect single-purpose device. Yes... you can consider the fact you can prop up a shoogley table leg, provide insolation to a house or burn them for heat as other uses of books... but these are not the main use. The main use is for a book to be read... to impart knowledge and provide an experience.

Maybe this is why the Kindle has been a success?

It does one thing... and one thing well (we'll ignore the browser).

I guess when you have something that does what its meant to do really well... and you use it for that purpose... then there is no need to disgard it and upgrade.

This is then the point where our consumption becomes considered... when we think about what we want and what we have... and really consider what it does and whether it will do what we need it to do.

Its also where we could start to consider minimalist ideals... and look to strip away all the unnecessary bells and whistles... to focus on the purpose of the device and the value it brings to our life.

In this way... we may be able to see even the most rampant multi-purpose device as having a degree of sleek singularity.

Well... it does for me.


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