TagChoice

Choices

I’ve thought a lot lately about the choices I’ve made. I try to make the best choice I can. I try to do what is best for me. No one is going to look our for me but me.

There are times when no amount of research and planning and thinking through all the possibilities the choice will bring, in the end it’s the wrong choice.

Choices

Choices are tricky things. I make them all day. Most of them are inconsequential. Whether I’ve made lunch or laid my clothes out the night before may have a small financial impact. But it won’t have long-lasting effects.

The decision to find a new job, and leave my current job is a bigger choice. It’s not one I ever take lightly. Every decision is a trade-off. Every job has it’s rewards and challenges. Before I make a move, I try to think through everything that will change.

There are the big questions.

  • How much will I make?
  • Are the benefits good?
  • Are there any perks?
  • Could I get a raise, or a bonus?
  • What about advancement? Will I be doing the same thing I am now in five years?

Then there are more deceptive questions. These don’t seem as important but are vital to the decision.

  • What will the commute be like? How much of my day am I giving up?
  • What is the culture where I’m going?
  • Will I fit into the team? Is there a team?
  • Will I like it there? This is where I will be spending eight plus hours so I should consider if I like it there.

Finally, there is the biggest question of all, do I make a move at all?

Every decision starts with a yes to the last question. Yes, I want to work somewhere else. Before the hunt begins, I have to decide to start looking.

After all the careful and considered planning, there is still risk. Even after all the pros and cons are identified and weighed. There is still a lot I don’t know.

The situation you think you’re walking into may not be what you find.

Every choice could make my situation better or could make it worse. I try to better myself and my situation with each move. But sometimes, I choose wrong.

And when I do make that wrong choice, I need to keep choosing. No choice is final. Nothing I decide to do is forever. Nothing I do can’t be undone and no matter who my choice affects, the choice is still mine. And I have to put myself first. I have to do what is best for me.

And hope this time I make a better choice…

Photo from: Unsplash.com Photo by: Dietmar Becker

Offer One Choice

When customers ask for advice or recommendations they are looking for one answer. Often times, I know of a couple of options and will try to narrow them down to get a better idea what my customer is really looking for.

I often struggle to make a single recommendation. Customers want one answer to their question. One single recommendation to act on.

Offering a buffet of choices can be very overwhelming to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking for. Even if they do, there are a many options for everything. Offering up 5 good options is overkill and will lead to feeling overwhelmed and not choosing anything.

Just looking at anti-malware and anti-virus options is absolutely confounding. They all offer the same thing. They have different prices and different perks. But in the end, most people want a simple option. And if it’s free, that’s even better.

If I know of a good free option, I will recommend it and only offer paid options if they ask if there is anything better or anything else I would recommend. Most people who are asking for basic recommendations aren’t going to spend the money on a solution even if they should.

For the people who are looking for more sophisticated recommendations, I will choose an option or two and will do my best to tell them what I know about the products and which I would go with in their situation.

Recommending the unknown

My biggest rule in recommendations is I try not to recommend anything I’ve never used. If I don’t have any direct experience in something, I will draw from my knowledge to make an educated recommendation but clearly say I have not used it and don’t have any direct experience with it.

I don’t want to lead people astray. I don’t want to recommend a product that might now work well for them. Every time a customer asks, I try to find the very best product to fit their needs based on my experience.

General or Specific

There is a balance that needs to be struck between making a general recommendation and asking enough questions to tailor the best solution to the customer.

People often ask about “what computer should I buy?” and that is the hardest question I have to answer. There are so many needs people have and everyone has different needs and requirements of a computer. What the customer really wants to know can be determined in a few follow-up questions.

“Should I buy a Mac or a PC?”

I love this question because it means the person is open to the idea of buying a Mac or at least has heard enough about them they’re interested in buying one.

This is when I try to ask what they’re looking for in a computer. On one hand, I know a Mac will give them less trouble down the road. And on the other, I don’t want them to spend a lot of money on a machine they don’t really need.

There are some fields where the industry standard software is Windows-only such as scientific research and technical drawing. I would never recommend a Mac to people who I know will be better served by Windows.

Buying a computer is a huge cost and a big decision. I don’t want to say Buy A Mac, when all they need is a simple netbook for email and web browsing.

Making a good recommendation is all about what the customer is going to use it for. Finding the right tool for the job is the real question the customer is coming to you to find out.

“Should I buy a Dell or HP?”

This is a harder question. These people are squarely in the Windows world for one reason or another. They want to buy a PC. But who do they buy it from? I hate this question in a way because I often feel there is no right answer.

The Windows market is a commodity market. Buying on price is the only real decision to make. How much the customer wants to spend and what they’re looking to do with the computer.

Do they need a lot of RAM of a fast graphics card? Do they need a huge hard drive for storage or are they looking for small, light and portable because they travel all the time? The ideal computer for a graphic designer and a writer are very different.

When people are looking for a computer, they generally know whether they want a laptop or a desktop. From there, price is the only decision. How much do they want to spend and how much computer do they need? Then look for what manufacturer offers the best sales and support.

“What about tablets?”

iPads are popular and many people have one or know someone who has one. They want to know if they should buy one or not. Similarly, many times they may not want to spend the money on an iPad but they ask about Android or Windows tablets.

The first question is should they buy one. The biggest question to ask if what would they use it for and would they use it. Tablets are fun and sexy and look cool. But they do no good if they’re sitting around in a closet or a shelf. E-book readers like the Kindle or Nook also fall into this class.

For tablets, I always recommend iPads because I have a lot of experience with them and I feel they offer the best experience in terms of applications and manufacturer support. I’ve used a number of Android tablets and while they are much more affordable, they have their own issues.

There is also the ongoing issue of what version of Android the tablet is running since Android devices rarely, if ever, see operating system updates. The owner of a shiny new Android tablet may find there are very few applications that support the particular screen size and version of Android they’re running.

My biggest problem in recommending Android products is the fragmentation in the market. What this means is there are so many different versions of the operating system out, and they look and behave different it’s hard to get a consistent experience. I don’t want to tell a customer to buy an underpowered tablet that will be a constant source of irritation to use.

If I am going to recommend a product for someone to buy, I want to try to steer them in the right direction and I always tell people go and try out the device they want to buy if possible.

Wirecutter

I have found Wirecutter as the premier source of news and reviews about a whole range of technology products. Their reviews are second to none. They are extremely in-depth in their coverage and will cover the good, bad and the ugly about the products they cover in each category.

They’ll offer more than once option in many categories along with prices and places to buy them. It’s become indispensable for recommending products I don’t know as much about. They constantly update their picks for their various categories so their information isn’t stale. They’ll post a warning if the product is about to see an update or if the information is old and being researched.

Buy Nothing?

Sometimes the right decision is not to buy anything, or wait until a new version is available with a particular feature the customer needs. In some cases, buying an older model or refurbished model can save the customer money and still offer them exactly what they need.

For example, if the customer lives in an area without 4G cellular service, a more expensive device offering 4G may not be the best solution. Similarly, if a customer has a large library of Android applications, an Android tablet may make the best sense since they’re committed to the platform.

Each customer is different and there is no solution that fits everyone.

Choosing a Platform

Choosing a platform

Tonight I read Gnorb’s article on how he views the smartphone landscape. The problem with choosing a smartphone is no longer as simple as choosing the phone and what the phone can do for you.

With the major players producing tablets, integration into that ecosystem is something to consider. In addition, there is the possibly integration with the computer of choice sitting on your desk or on your lap.

Google Android

Android as a platform has unlimited options, choices and freedom. Android is shopping mall. It offers a variety of wares at prices all across the board and you can get exactly what you want at the price you want to pay.

Android also struggles with fragmentation and being forgotten a year after its release. When I had an Android phone my problem was there was always a bigger, better, more amazing Android phone being released the next week.

Every. Single. Week.

Apple iOS

Apple’s platform is the opposite of Android. Apple is the high-end boutique. It offers a couple of variations on a theme but overall, the quality is high and the choice is small.

Where Apple shines is control. It controls the vertical, it controls the horizontal. To use Apple products is to not just use a single product but to play in Apple’s playground and live in their world. Apple has built an experience.

Because of this totalitarian control, Apple is able to offer longer support and a consistent experience across all the devices in their playground. Apple’s control wrinkles the noses of those who feel there is not enough freedom across the platform.

Apple’s control also assures nearly no malicious applications are released to the platform and they have safe guards in place to resolve any issues that may arise.

Microsoft Windows Phone

The last Windows Phone I used was a disaster running Windows Phone 6.5 which was basically Windows XP crammed into a smartphone body. It came with a stylus and extreme frustration.

Since then, they’re built a respectable platform and have embraced Apple’s control to make the hardware and software which should help the platform. I haven’t used or had experience with any of the new phones so that’s as much as I’ll say for the platform as I don’t feel it fair to talk about a platform I’ve not used.

Decisions

So what is a consumer to do? Buy into the Apple iLifestyle? You’ll pay a hefty price but will be rewarded with multi-year support and a consistent ecosystem. You’ll also be subject to the whims of the big red fruit and their seemingly arbitrary removal of support for features in older hardware. The tight integration between the mobile and computer platform can be real benefit to those living in both. However, if you only use one or the other, there is a lot of missing value.

What about the Open Android platform? There are phone sizes, speeds and carriers for everyone. There are a vast array of tablets. There isn’t a desktop companion but they play decently with the big players. The initial price is low but quality is all over the place from excellent to appalling. The overall lack of support could mean your shiny new toy get abandoned a year later and never see another update.

Then there is Windows phone which has some real potential. Microsoft is putting together a cloud-based ecosystem and is betting big on Windows 8 which features a lot of integration and visual similarity with their Windows Phones.

My experiences

I owned an original Motorola Droid. I was very happy with it though the lack of support from Motorola was disappointing. I had to root the phone to install an Android Operating System update after Verizon claimed the phone could not support it. There was also a large gap in the availability of applications in the earlier days of Android.

Many things were iOS only and Android support was more promised than delivered on. This was before the Amazon Android store and Google’s integrated Play store. This was before Android was a household name and more the domain of nerds and Blackberry refugees.

After the Droid, I got an iPhone 4 which is the phone I still use today. The instant upgrade in camera and software quality was welcomed. At the time I had a Mac laptop so the integration between phone and computer was a welcomed change, since there was no good way to sync media to Android and DoubleTwist was just being released. Though I used the Droid as my phone and primary device, I had an iPod Touch for all my music because Android was so frustrating to use.

I had an Android in the dark days of the platform and it has come a long way since then. However, it still has many of the same issues as it did when I had the Droid. Specifically, the lack of support from carriers after purchase, lack of OS updates to hardware that can handle it, the fragmentation meaning not every phone can run every app, or run it well and the constant New Big Thing means support quickly gets forgotten for the phone you choose in weeks instead of years.

What works for you

What is comes down to is what works for you. What is the best choice for what you wan to do. Are you a writer? Are you a photographer? Are you a technologist?

What phone best fits your lifestyle and what are you going to enjoy using for the next few years since most of us can’t afford to get a new device every year.

What I have

I have the iPhone 4. My contact is up in December, though I am eligible for an upgrade now. I am looking at the iPhone 5 because while it doesn’t overwhelm me, I do get all the features that came with the iPhone 4s as well. I still like the iPhone over the Android choices because of the ecosystem I bought into starting with an iPod Touch. I feel like I know what I am going to get with Apple. Like it or not, they’re consistent and I know I will see a new operating system in a year and possibly another one after that. With Android, I don’t know if I’ll ever see an upgrade, and when the carrier loses interest, so too goes the support.

I have a Lenovo Y570 laptops running Windows 7. My plastic MacBook died years ago and I wanted to get a laptop I could play PC games on, had enough power to last me a few years and have some room for upgrades. The biggest selling point was price since I had a small amount of money to spend on a computer and a new Mac or even used Mac was out of the budget. I work in IT Support so I live in Windows and Mac OS all day so I don’t have any allegiances to one or the other. Operating Systems are tools.

I also have a 1st Generation iPad which I did not buy. It was a Christmas present a few years ago. It is also easily my most-used device and my go to reading and chill out device and the device I am itching to upgrade the most.

I have a Google CR-48 Chromebook I was lucky enough to receive for free when Google first announced the new project. I use it from time to time and while I love Chrome on all my devices, the Chrome OS is not enough to be an everyday use platform. At least not for me. The CR-48 is a decent machine albeit under-powered and with a terrible track pad. I like the keyboard and the lightness. I wrote this post tonight on it because it was sitting next to my bed and within reach.

This is what I use and what I like. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone but it works for me. And that’s all that is really important.

Blind Choice

I’ve read a couple of stories this week about people choosing their own devices in the office. This was true at the media company where I used to work. Even within our small IT department we had 1 Palm Pre, 1 iPhone, 2 Androids and two “dumb” phones.

The rest of the company was a mix of Blackberries, Androids, iPhones and the occasional Palm or two. I think there was even a Window Phone I saw once or twice.

I take issue with the claim that people buy their own devices because they chose it and it is what they want to use. People who are not tech savvy ask their tech savvy friends, co-workers, spouses, family members. They don’t do much choose what is best for them but what is recommended to them by a person they trust who is good with computers.

For a little background I’ve worked in ground-level IT since 2004. I’ve worked as a Desktop Support Technician ((That guy who shows up at your desk when you call the Help Desk.)) and Help Desk Technician ((Those people you love to scream at when something break.))

Lately, as policies become more lax and there is a better variety of smartphones on the market ((Remember when there was no Android or iPhone?)) people have gravitated towards a variety of devices which I can sum up as this.

  1. iPhone. Because they’re on AT&T already, or Verizon and want one because everyone has them and they’re easy to use.
  2. Android. Because they’re on T-Mobile or Sprint or don’t want to spend the money on an iPhone and associated contract.

The iPhone people are usually set once we setup their corporate email for them. They have few questions overall.

The Android people… look out! They’ll be waiting for you. The biggest frustration in trying to help with Android phones is trying to find which version of Android they actually have.

What dessert powers your phone?

After that, the next step is looking at the device, who made it, and which candy coating they slapped atop Google’s stock Android interface.

I used a Motorola Droid for over a year and was very comfortable with Android. I had a Google Experience phone which was code for “Stock Android phone.” There was no glossy, clunky UI over it.

The Android phones in the wild today could be running Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, or 3.0 and have HTC Sense, Motorola Blur, Touchwiz, or Timescape UIs running on top of that.

Now we’re at two layers of confusion for the user.

As an exercise, try walking someone through adding a Gmail account to their shiny new Android device over the phone. They’re at the store, or at home or ((My personal favorite)) about to board an airplane and they need help.

Maybe this will help you.

Android is a wonderful OS and has a lot of power and potential and offered a low-cost alternative to Apple and a freed a lot of people from Blackberries.

However, trying to support them in a business setting can be very time-consuming and frustrating for all involved.

The phone’s owner expect the IT staff to be experts on their phone. Having to learn the basics of navigation and naming on the user’s phone slows down the support process. ((Count the number of ways to get access to “Corporate Email” there are on Android phones.))

Normal people do not make technology purchases without consulting the trusted source. Whether it be their spouse, family member, IT Guy at work or ((God help them!)) the salesperson at the store, they will ask someone for advice. In many cases, they’ll follow that advice blindly.

They don’t know what they want. They’re not sure how to figure out what they want. They’ll follow the advice of the trusted source or sales rep and hope for the best.