The Tech Monster Mash

I’ve recently been thinking about some of the radical shifts in our industry, and how some technologies and platforms have, like the living dead, turned evil. ’Tis the season for ghoulish things, so I’ve rounded up six areas in the IT industry that have, at this point, taken on a demonic cast and are in dire need of slaying, beheading, or general destruction. It’s a Graveyard Smash!

Designs for websites done in Photoshop can be as pretty and enticing as a house made of candy, and just as deadly once the Photoshop witch lures you in and tosses you in the fires of implementation hell. More and more web shops are saving time and money—and generally avoiding getting burned—by designing directly in the browser, as opposed to doing designs purely in Photoshop. We’ve entered an era where the most successful designers won’t merely rely on their Photoshop skills to make a site look good (and then hand things off to a developer to execute). Rather, designers with coding chops are on the rise, and those who can work with HTML5, Javascript, and CSS are becoming the norm (we happen to employ two of them).

By the spring of 2010, Amazon, Google, and other major web forces had announced they’d be dumping IE6, but this turned out to be the equivalent of shooting a zombie in the leg: it might slow it down, but it’s still going to keep coming for you. IE6 doesn’t allow for cool new platforms like HTML5 or practical security patches, yet enough big, slow-moving institutions like hospitals and universities, not to mention the whole of China, still use it. This makes it tough to justify not developing for it, since you could be cutting out a huge audience. But ask any developer, and they’ll tell you working with IE6 is a lot like having your brains eaten out of your skull. IE6 needs to die once and for all. Aim for its head, people!

Big…lumbering…cobbled together…built to approximate human interaction but strangely awkward at it…a public outing that was a huge disappointment…security concerns…sound like anything you “like”? Facebook is, of course, still undead and kicking, but that’s more a result of us not having found an adequate replacement yet. The social media site elicits zero brand loyalty—in fact, they seem to be doing their darndest to piss users off—and people are more than ready for something better, stronger, faster.

Facebook has tried numerous times to shock the life back into itself, but, like Dr. Frankenstein not quite thinking through his plans for his monster, Facebook bolts on features willy-nilly without assessing whether they make sense for the platform. Remember Facebook Deals, Facebook Gifts, Facebook Email, or Facebook Lite? All rotting away in the Facebook graveyard. If Facebook doesn’t start treating its users better, people are going to start going elsewhere for chatting, photo sharing, and other online interactions. Where? Well, that’s the big question, but hey, Justin Timberlake brought sexy back—maybe he can do the same for MySpace.

Like the mythical succubus, Flash enchanted us at first with its beauty, but ultimately it wanted possession of our video-watching bodies and souls, while sucking the (battery) power right out of our devices. The beginning of the end for Flash came when Steve Jobs chose not to support it on Apple’s mobile products in favor of open source HTML5 (and, in 2010, wrote an open letter explaining why). HTML5 lets anyone build gorgeous websites with all kinds of bells and whistles; meanwhile, Flash announced earlier this year that it’s stopping support for the Android. That scream you hear is Flash going up in flames. In one fell swoop, Jobs essentially killed Flash, leading HTML5 to rise from its ashes as the new hotness in web design.

In this case, it’s not PowerPoint itself that needs to have a stake run through it, but rather the way in which it’s often used. Endless, text-heavy “slideuments” suck the life out of a room (not to mention time out of the day), and audiences just want to be put out of their misery. Fortunately, fresh, modern formats are slaying the old ways. Pecha-Kucha gives the speaker 20 slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds, for a zippy 400 seconds of talk time, and Haiku Deck is a nifty app that helps you create beautiful presentations on the iPad. A hot PowerPoint with a soul? Must be the apocalypse.

In today’s fast-paced world, many of the big corporations of old feel like faceless, antiquated beings lurching around, trying to hold onto the past. The fact is, if you’re in a big company, you’re probably not doing a whole lot of innovative work. Technology advances now make it possible for small groups of even just 5-10 focused, passionate people to have a huge impact in the marketplace. Instagram has changed the way we take photos; Uber has changed the way we find rides; Prismatic has changed the way we read the news; Desktime has changed the way we use offices; airbnb has changed the way we find vacation lodgings; Trunk Club has changed the way we get dressed.

For every Apple or Amazon that’s still succeeding, dozens of nimble little companies are springing up, armed only with a good idea and a handful of talented developers with the drive to make it happen. Even a generation ago, tech companies didn’t look like this, but now the tools exist to let us do a lot more with a lot less. You don’t have to be part of some soul-stealing monster of a corporation (that still uses IE6) to upend an industry. The little guys are where tomorrow’s innovations are happening now.

Mark Rickmeier

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Mark Rickmeier has written 5 post(s) in this blog.

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