The Tech-Not discussion

At first–here, I believe–I read the post, found it interesting, and went on by. The second one (if I’m not mistaken) isn’t in my aggregator, so I missed it. Then Rochelle encouraged others to play.

I’m not going to call it a meme. I think that term gets overused in blogging, and Rochelle hasn’t suggested that it is or should be. I’ll call it a discussion. I didn’t participate early on, mostly because my list of “TechNOs” is so long and mostly pretty transparent.

But Steve Lawson took things in an interesting direction and made me think, at which point I printed out some of the posts for later consideration. I see ten posts from nine sources; I’ll keep tracking the discussion for a little while, and might comment on it in Cites & Insights at some point.

What makes it comment-worthy is not that some bloggers, all of them techies or geeks at least to some extent, own up to being “low-tech” in some areas. As far as I can tell, everyone involved in the discussion has a life–and attempts to strike some balance between tech-oriented stuff and other stuff. Different people have different interests and needs.

What I find interesting is the contrast with an earlier set of discussions rolling around a few liblogs: The lists of skills that every library person must have, the universal tech competencies. So far, I haven’t chosen to talk about those lists, partly because I don’t work in a library. But I think there’s something to be said there. If our strengths and weaknesses in general technology areas can be complementary, why can’t–why shouldn’t?–the strengths, weaknesses, skills of staff members within a library be complementary?

Well, there’s something else that’s interesting about this discussion, and it’s something that I’m finding more of as time goes on (or maybe I’m ignoring the gaps). Civility–and, with very few exceptions, the lack of any need to tell people how to “get over” what they didn’t care about or understand. The whole discussion has been charming and positive–and, I think, useful.


So, in the interests of ‘fessing up (although most readers already probably know most of these things about me), I’ll at least list the “TechNOs” that I share with others who’ve participated.

  • I’m not a gamer or Second Lifer.
  • I’ve really tried to listen to podcasts, but find it nearly impossible, probably because I don’t have a commute.
  • I only use a cell phone in very special circumstances, and I’ve never even tried the camera in the cell phone we own. (When I hear about a $99/month unlimited calling and texting plan, I add up all that we spend on cell phone, landline phone, long distance, DSL, and cable TV: That still doesn’t add up to $99/month!)
  • Tried Twitter. Didn’t like it. Can’t really leave. People still follow me–but they sure don’t get overloaded with messages!
  • I do follow ebook developments (and am writing this when I should be working on a Kindle/ebook essay for C&I!), but not as something I’d personally use.
  • Skype? I only use landline phones when necessary, and with PG&E, I’m not about to give up a phone that doesn’t require household power…
  • When I wanted to help my Dad with an iMac problem, I found the Mac wholly unintuitive–because I wasn’t used to it.
  • My wife (the photographer in the house) still uses an excellent compact 35mm film camera–but we might go digital for our next vacation.
  • I didn’t own an MP3 player until this year, never owned a PDA of any sort or a pager or… –and while I now own a notebook, it’s essentially a mini-desktop, with no plans to carry it anywhere or even run it off battery power.

None of which should come as a surprise to anyone who reads my stuff.

12 Responses to “The Tech-Not discussion”

  1. bowerbird Says:

    > with no plans to carry it anywhere

    that’s fine. :+)

    but if the need ever arises to use it elsewhere,
    please remember that you _can_…

    (believe it or not, some people do forget that,
    simply because they never _have_ moved it.)

    -bowerbird

    p.s. and when you move it a few times, you might
    find that it can be pleasant (and even stimulating)
    to work at some new place other than your desk…

  2. walt Says:

    Well, sure. In fact, at 6.2 pounds, it wouldn’t be oppressive–and makes up for the 15.4″ screen to some extent. But if I was going to use a true travel PC, as in “flying across the country” device, I still think I’d want something (a) cheaper, (b) lighter, (c) more indestructible…

    Around the house, though, my office is a comfortable, well-lit space with more than enough room for supporting documents. I’d just as soon reserve my favorite chair for reading and TV…and, no, I really don’t plan to start using a notebook while I’m doing either of those.

  3. Mark Says:

    Walt, I’d like to add one little perspective to this. I think I’ve seen most (all?) of what you’ve seen and perhaps a couple more, but I have only been following this with mild interest.

    A couple days ago I did think about participating for all of about 30 seconds. Today at lunch I finally figured out either what was bugging me or, at the very least, a good reason for me and folks like me–students, those on the job market, early in their career–not to participate. Now I have not done a tally of who has participated but I think it’s tending to a couple (or more!) years in the profession, in a solid job at the moment, reasonably “big names.”

    Sure, I have some Tech-Nots and I could easily and readily drop a couple of them. But being on the job market at the start of my career with a blog already mouthy enough it does not begin to seem to be in my best interest to participate.

    What if what I list is one of those things that some library I want to work at thinks is critical? Is my ability to overcome that which I do not or would rather not do applicable? Or am I unqualified just because I currently say it is a Tech-Not for me?

    Despite the fact that I don’t particularly like learning new software I have done it over and over again, and have even given professional presentations on some of it so others wouldn’t have to learn it the hard way as I was forced to. But I’m not about to make the claim in this discussion in the first place. That was a completely hypothetical example. Nudge nudge wink wink.

    So while this is an interesting discussion I think it [fully unintentionally] excludes many voices. I think this is the kind of discussion many LIS students need to be having with each other. Let each other know it’s OK not to know everything on all those lists that proliferate about all the tech skills [despite others skills] we all need to know. Just be willing to learn what you need when you need it. But it seems to me that having it in a “permanent” public forum and from this angle may not be the wisest course for many of us.

    I do not mean to judge anyone participating and I know Rochelle certainly had no intention to exclude but I just want to throw this angle out there as a consideration. At least it explains why I have not participated.

  4. walt Says:

    Mark, that’s an excellent point–and may be one reason that nobody’s really tried to turn this into a meme and that I’m certainly not urging people to confess. (Well, OK, Rochelle did ask others for their “techNOs” at one point, but…)

    I’m in the Father William category at this point. Still, I didn’t participate initially. The heart of my post is really about the secondary discussions–the distinctions that are being made, and what “techNos” may say about “need to know” lists. I think that’s more interesting than whether Librarian X has a flat-screen TV or Librarian Y knows PHP backward and forward.

    I certainly would not encourage a new librarian to confess a set of lacking skills, particularly since you’re supposed to be (and most librarians are) experts at finding out things they don’t already know. For that matter, I’m not encouraging anybody to ‘fess up. Heck, there have been times when I felt I was “faking it” with a programming-related skill…only to find out later that I was in better shape than most others.

    Maybe I will do an essay on those lists of “tech skills we all need to know.”

  5. Mark Says:

    I guess I had figured the angle you find interesting, and it is also the one I find most interesting.

    Just wanted to throw my considerations out there. And, no, no one is making feel like I need to ‘fess up. Sometimes telling the truth is a beautiful thing, and sometimes just keeping one’s mouth shut is the beautiful thing, or at least wise thing, in each case.

  6. Jeff Says:

    I think it is good everyone is having this discussion. There was a post going around last Fall that seem to suggest everyone at their library were idiots because they didn’t know x. There was some list of things every librarian should know. I was rather upset about it because the concept was condescending. I even unsubcribed from more than one blogger because I felt they were being very mean, unfair, and unrealistic. That same blogger ended up posting her tech-nos later on. I was going to post on this as an update on technology training (Technology Pledge post) and it is a good segway.

  7. rochelle Says:

    Good discussion! I hadn’t thought of this as being an unwise thing to discuss publicly, but I do understand your point, Mark. Just this morning, I was just talking to some WI state library consultants today, and mentioned all the applicants I got for a recent job who felt the need to tell me how bad they were at some key element of the job (almost none of it tech-related). I would not have crossed anyone off my candidate list if they posted about not having a cell phone or not liking Twitter. But to tell me outright that you don’t like reader’s advisory (or don’t read/watch/listen much) or aren’t interested in taking a leadership role…those were major red flags. That’s stuff you can’t train for.

    I like that Walt is putting my not-meme up against the tech competencies that many of us are seeing, and I love his suggestion that maybe we all don’t have to do/be it all. I think maybe that’s where I was coming from when I posted mine, although I couldn’t have articulated it as such then. I haven’t seen ANY of those competency lists that I could score 100% on. There should be some basic competenices that we could all agree on–and that no one should be applying for a job without them. But do I really need to know how to embed a video or set up a simple network?

    There’s also a pretty big difference between expectations at different types of libraries. My hunch is that academic libraries don’t get students coming in with their cell phones, asking how to upload a photo to MySpace, but many of us at pub lib reference desk get that sort of question daily. But, is that our job? Am I $30K in debt to be a very clever, over-educated tech support person? Like the Maytag repair man, I get all kinds of excited when a juicy ref question comes across the desk. I’ve been mulling all this over, especially in light of John Berry’s bizarre editorial and last week’s news about librarians being demoted to customer service librarians in Wausau, WI. I think that librarians used to have a very clear idea of what their institutions’ missions were, and what was expected of them as professionals. None of that is very clear at all right now, and our current staffing models, skill sets and physical spaces highlight this murkiness.

  8. walt Says:

    OK, Rochelle, Jeff, now I almost feel obliged to write that essay. And probably include portions of these comments… (Jeff: There was more than one list going around…whether I can re-locate them all is another thing, since I think I’d decided not to comment at the time.)

    That leaves at least three weeks for this discussion (here and elsewhere) to continue…so far, I’m impressed.

  9. Mark Says:

    Good follow-up, Rochelle. I like all your points, at the very least that they need to be discussed openly. Generally, though, I imagine we’re pretty much in concord.

  10. Dave Tyckoson Says:

    Very interesting discussion — and it reminds me of decisions that I have made about another technology in our lives — the automobile. My dad (a very influential figure in my life) always wanted me to change my own oil, replace the fuel and air filters, replace the battery, etc. In his day and in his culture, it was a sign of manhood to work on your own car. I do not happen to see life that same way.

    After proving to him that I am quite capable of doing all of the above, I also demonstrated that I choose to pay someone else to do all of that for me. This is neither good nor bad — just one of many choices that I make in life. Similarly, I am capable of driving a stick shift, but choose to use an automatic (and my current car — the only really nice one I have ever owned — gives me the choice of both). I also choose to pay someone to clean my house and to do my yard work. This does not make me a slob or anti-environmental, it is just a choice. The only thing that it does say about me is that my level of decadence has increased along with my income.

    Choosing to integrate — or not — any technology is neither good nor bad — it’s just a choice. Bringing these things into our personal lives is up to each one of us and should not be looked up or down upon by others. Integrating technology into our professional lives depends on the environment and people with which we work. If in a library or other institution that serves a public, it also depends on the level of skills among our community. Rarely is there a one-size-fits-all answer, despite how often we seem to be told about them.

  11. Connie Says:

    I wasn’t interested in Skype either. Until this year when my college kid is spending spring semester in Europe. We use Skype to talk to each other free regularly. She posts pictures on her blog and facebook page. I have fond memories of all the letters my mother wrote me when I was an exchange student lo these many years ago, but the tech has really kept us connected. Next week is spring break and she is going to Costa del Sol. It has snowed every day for the last two weeks here. It isn’t fair.

  12. walt Says:

    Connie,
    Skype is one of the many, many technologies and devices that make great sense for some, and not for others. In your case, it sounds like a great thing. I just don’t happen to have any problems for which Skype is currently a solution–and, as I say, being a Californian, I’m not inclined to get rid of my regular, powered-by-the-network, old-fashioned tethered-to-the-wall landline phone. Maybe if we ever went, say, two years without at least one power outage…

    I don’t think there’s a single entry on my “not list” that I disdain as being a bad thing or even not a good thing (even if I regard Second Life as absurdly overhyped as a useful place for libraries to be, I’m not nearly so skeptical about gaming in general)… they’re just not things that currently work for me.

    Podcasts probably the extreme example. I really wanted to listen to Uncontrolled Vocabulary, but couldn’t find a situation where it made sense–where I could “sit still” or find something sufficiently non-involving for long enough to listen through an episode…and with my voice, heck, I should be doing podcasts–but I can’t see creating something I don’t consume.


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