The other day I wrote about my issues with tablet computers. My general position, in a word, was that they suck. Now observant readers like Andrew Parker noticed my last line: “if you do figure it out, I’m buying!” My post was about the real-world limitations of tablets, and was written specifically in contrast to the hype and attention the potential of tablets (and I’m definitely not the only one who feels the category has a terrible history and numerous challenges in reaching a wider customer base). But what sucks more than the tablets was the kind of responses I saw both on my comments here and by a blogger at GottaBeMobile. It really got me thinking about how easy it is to be a real jerk when there is no potential for face-to-face interaction.
Being a keyboard jerk, in a nutshell, is writing things you’d never have the cajones to say to someone in person for fear of some kind of retribution. So I write a tongue-in-cheek post about tablets, and as a result, here are some of the “counter-arguments” (from commentors and the blog post in question):
- “Yes, sadly, I think Toeman has revealed himself as yet another critic who sits at a keyboard typing in English all day, someone who would gain no benefit from a tablet, and lacks the imagination to see beyond his condition.”
- “Did you know that the average IQ of tablet users is 1.482 times higher than those who think that tablets suck.”
- “It can certainly reveal how much a pundit’s opinion can suck though.”
- “Tablets make you tired. No, you tire easily because you’re a wuss.”
As commentor “Bob” on the blog pointed out “You have good points to make; there’s no reason to hide them under the blanket of a personal attack.” Wired’s Brian Chen wrote an excellent counter-point, and at no point did he stoop to do so.
There is no debate in my mind that neither Mark (the poster) nor any commentor would have said any of the above statements had we been chatting in person. They are easy to type, but much, much harder to say. In person, people have to see each others’ reactions, and in general, don’t like hurting feelings or saying things that might get them, say, punched. So I could very comfortably talk derisively about a tablet computer because, well, who cares?
Look, it’s easy to type nastily. Mark lives on the East Coast, he has no fear of me in any way, and I’m not much the punching type anyway. And commentors tend to do so anonymously, which in my eyes is on a par with yelling at a pedestrian from inside a rapidly moving vehicle, which is why their value/contribution is roughly nil.
The reality is we all do it at some time. We type without thinking. We send “nastygram” emails to coworkers, colleagues, or even loved ones. The keyboard is just so easy to use, and there’s no reason not to move rapidly. I tweeted about how I “hated” a company’s user interface, which is true, and in fact something I’d be comfortable saying to that company’s CEO (which I ended up doing). But it was inappropriate, and something better said in person or in a private email, and not for public consumption (which I apologized for).
So I pledge to be less of a keyboard jerk myself, and I hope others read, consider, and follow. I can’t promise to be perfect, but hopefuly it’ll make my IQ increase, be less of a wuss, have a better imagination, and generally suck less.