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Follow up to Geek-Speak

Okay, a couple of days ago I posted about the Jon Udell thread over on Scobelizer, and his recent comments on blogging from Word 2007.  This led to a very interesting conversation with Jon, who was kind enough to reply here to my comments. 

One thing he said that really caught my attention was this:

“This would be an interesting experiment: Find a civilian (non-geek) friend, and watch the Knowledge Navigator video with that person. How does he or she react? Hopeful and inspired? Or jaded and cynical? I fear the latter but I’d like to be proven wrong.”

Soooo…I sent the following email, with a link to the video, to some friends and co-workers and asked them to comment (see the email below.)

I’ll post the replies, below, as they come in.

Take a look at the video and tell me what you think.

Original email:

Hey all,

Wondering if I can ask you a favor? I am currently conversing with one of the guys at Microsoft on my blog, and I told him that I would contact some friends and co-workers to get their opinions. 

Below is the link to a video by Apple, titled the “Knowledge Navigator.” 

If you can take a look at this and then let me know how you feel about it.


Based on your current computer experiences, do you feel that this is something you can look forward to, or is it just marketing hype? 

Are you:

Hopeful and inspired? (ie: I think this is the future of computer technology and I look forward to it.)


Jaded and cynical? (ie: This is sci-fi hooey, it’s what the computer industry/Hollywood promises to get my money, but what I get is glitchly and time consuming, and more money than it’s worth!)

Your honest opinion and any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Just FYI, you get a lot of junk in your email inbox, but this is a chance to speak directly to the powers-that-be and maybe make a difference in the next generation of computer technology.  I know that sounds grandiose, but it might just be true.

Please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in commenting.

If you have received this email by mistake, my apologies!

Thanks again,



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6 thoughts on “Follow up to Geek-Speak

  1. iwork4xerox on said:

    First email responses…

    Joe said:
    I looked at the video, and I recognize it as something Apple produced eons ago.

    I’m trying to remember, but my memory is dim . . . as I recall, Apple’s research group produced this video. I think it was shortly after either the Lisa or the Mac had been shipped, and Apple was asking the question “Well, what should we do next?” Their futurists were dreaming so they looked at what someone might do with some sort of knowledge device. This was well before the internet became so popular (it existed, but it still was pretty much in the domain of the engineers and academics.)

    I recall it caused a stir . . . a lot of people laughed. However, as a tool, it makes sense to me. At the risk of dating myself, when I was a kid, in the very early sixties, I read a book by Isaac Asimov called “Foundation.” In it, one of the main characters, Hari Seldon, led a new science that was able to predict the possible futures of the human race using advanced mathematical modeling techniques. This group of scientists had this fantastic device that allowed them to do this . . . hand-held calculators.

    Today, whenever my 10-year-old daughter asks if she can use one of my calculators, I hand it to her and say: “This is science fiction, you know.” Of course, I get a cynical look. For those of us born way back when, we’re surrounded by the very stuff of science fiction: microwave ovens, cell phones, the internet, personal computers.

    My point is this: Today’s science fiction might be tomorrow’s way of life. So . . . it seems that Apple was trying to write their own science fiction so they could “see” a possible future. That would give them something to shoot for . . . a direction.

    Do I think I’ll see it in the future? Well, it seems to me a lot of the basic stuff is there: Voice recognition, flat panel displays, the internet, search engines, etc. Someday, I think, someone will be able to put it all together perhaps, then we’ll see if it’s what people really want.

    Callie said:
    I saw the movie. The concept is good, but my cynicism pertains to the voice recognition part. When do voice recognition systems truly work? Have you tried 1-800-free-411? It’s a free version of 411 that uses a computer system to listen to your request (name or company) and gives you the phone number. After two or three attempts of not correctly understanding your request, you get a live person. It has worked a few times for me, but mostly it hasn’t. It just upsets me and wastes my time. If anyone has an accent, good luck to him/her! Supposedly, the computer will learn how you speak and get better over time, similar to the handwriting you enter in a palm-top or personal device.

    Outside of that, I like it. I like the way it can quickly access data and merge them.

    Amy said:
    Freakish. My first thought…no way, creepy, where’s the human connect? I’ve already forgotten how to write cursive. Next thought…complicated. I am a Mac user and I know I don’t know the full potential of my own computer. How could I learn this? Another thought…seems far off, like it wouldn’t happen for a while, scratch that thought, of course it could.

    I am still creeped out by it. Is that lonely professor really 213 years old? Am I now the older person that does not want to keep up with technology? …perhaps.

    If that system would be easier than help menus and clicks, then I’ll bite.

  2. I would have to vote jaded and cynical. We communicate through the computer a lot now as it is…I don’t think I see myself talking to “HAL”.

  3. Perry P Perkins on said:

    SOMEWHAT related…This Gizmodo post is interesting, looks like we can at least put a pretty face on this technology, lol…



  4. iwork4xerox on said:

    Here was a great reply I got from Ron today, see my note and link at the end. – P

    Ron said:

    Here is my response from the IT Expert. :^)

    Yes I think this in the future do I think Apple or Microsoft will be able to deliver it? Absolutely not. Neither company has had the vision or ability to deliver on a advanced product.

    Microsoft after 5 years delivered vista with a prettied up XP interface with zero important enhancements like a multithreaded kernel and/or quality voice recognition. CPU’s within two years will have 8 processors on one chip and Microsoft won’t be able to make use of half of the power! Super computers at our desktop and nothing to use it on…..

    I am now placing my hope in a upstart or the Linux world producing a operating system that meets the Apple video’s needs.

    Don’t even get me started on Apple OS X I just got done playing with the latest OS and it just sucks. Doing the basics are easy but doing aything outside of easy then jumps you to either can’t do it or it makes Microsoft OS look easy in comparison.

    I was working with a MAC user of 5 years and I kept getting a response of you can’t do that or it took a long dissertation on how to do it.

    So in summary yes the future can be seen in that video. Is it anytime in the future, NO!



    Ron, great comments! Here’s an article from the NYT I read today.

    Maybe it won’t be MicroSoft OR Apple…maybe…Google?


  5. Perry, this comment got alot longer than I intended, my appologies. I have been mulling this over for a while and thinking about writing an extended post at my place, and then this whole conversation happens here.

    I read your original post Geek Speak or Elitismand read the comments, and followed the links to all of the other bloggers and then comments on their blogs etc. I watched the video. I found it all fascinating, but somehow it seems that ya’ll missed the origanal point. I can see that technology will eventually we will get to were the events in the video will be possible, but I wonder if the general public will accept it. Are Microsoft and Apple creating the future, and then telling us that it’s what we want, or are we trying to do things with our computers, and microsoft is creating things to meet demand?

    Okay, I’m a “civilian” or non geek as you and the majority of the commenters here and the other blogs referanced here. I have two blogs here & here, and have barely enough knowlege of html and css to modify a blogger template, but that’s it. I have a very outdated computer running XP that is as stripped down as I can get it. You’ll notice that I use Blogger. I do so because it’s easy & web based so there is no downloading and installing anything, it is reliable, and it works. Also, when I get around to it, I can host it on a server with my own URL. Ever since Google purchased blogger, it has gotten better and better, and simpler to use, all while adding more features.

    To further my “civilian” credentials, I have Office 2000, but I only use Word and Exel. I uninstalled Outlook, Powerpoint & Frontpage, ’cause I just don’t use them. My Step-son and wife still use Word, but I have actually started using Google Docs alot, and I’ve experimented with thier spreadsheets app. I have long used web email services, again because of thier simplicity and thier “portability.”(MSN Hotmail and Yahoo really missed the boat there, Google’s gmail has huge storage capacity and free pop3 access so I can archive on my local computer) I can log on to any computer anywere, mac or pc, brand new or running win98, and it’s usable. I really think that web apps are going to be the way of the future. I can see a day where you use a Windows or Mac machine to manage you music, movies, tv and other media and archive your documents created on web based apps.

    Think how simple that could be – streamlined OS, kick but media player, and Firefox – that’s all you would need.

    Now, while I use gmail almost exclusively, we do use Outlook Express to get the family email, but I can assure you, It’s only because my wife does not have it in her to learn anything more about the computer. Free cell, spider, basic email, and a little web surfing, and an occasional letter in Word. That’s It.

    We use Firefox, again because it’s simple and it works. It ROCKS! Has Microsoft even attempted tabbed browsing yet? I have Internet Explorer password protected because every time someone opens it, I get pop-ups, and my firewall and anti virus software start going crazy.

    I believe Microsoft, and Apple to some extent, have really missed the boat. If they would have just concentrated on simplifying and perfecting Windows (XP or Vista), Media Player, and Internet Explorer, and then got on to web apps, they would have alot more good will being expressed towards them.

    Perry, your statement………

    However, if my mother-in-law wants to start a blog, and reads a line like: “But none of this is apparent to most people and, if it requires them to write semantic CSS tags in XHTML using emacs, it never will become apparent.” …she’s going straight back to Free Cell. If the idea is to broaden the horizons and widen the gate on technologies like blogging, then it’s time to stop preaching to the choir, and use some simple, straightforward language.

    and then Jon Udell‘s………

    How about making the technology actually deliver on its promises? For most people, in most ways, it hasn’t.

    ……. pretty much sums it all up.

    Every sector of society has it’s own “geek speek.” (I’m reminded Perry of when were setting up at church, and Doug Cardoza, Dan and I are all talking about the most recent football or basketball game, you ussually say something to the effect of “I have no clue what you are talking about, this conversation is not for me”) but geek speak becomes elitism when someone like me asks a “geek” how to fix something in Windows Media Player, and the response is “Windows Media Player! Why would you want to use that? Blah blah blah player is so much better.” I don’t care, It works, it sounds good, and it’s simple. Now, smart ass, tell me how to make it do what I want it to do.

    (hmmm, it works, and it’s simple – starting to detect a theme here.)

    Yes, tech heads do develope software for technology’s sake, and they forget that 95% of us don’t need a huge office suite that costs $300.00, when a free or relatively inexpensive word processer will do the job just fine.

    At some point, people will hit a technology and information overload, there will be a backlash, and people will start demanding simplification and intigration. Probably why the Ipod and Mac have been successful in recent years.

    Well, sorry about the long post. I’ll let someone else have the soap box for a while.

  6. Umm…. what?

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