tethered Tethered by Tech: How Things Fail and Theoretical Speed Remains Theoretical

The Theoretical Freedom of Technology

On Friday my local network from TimeWarnerCable went down. Undaunted by the fact that I was in the middle of a conference call and a Go To Meeting host, I popped open my iPhone and connected to the Wifi hotspot. AND reconnected the call by joining both other callers through my phone.

And something in that process, either the tethering or the threeway calling through the same phone, brought my web experience to a painful and slow death. For a short period of time I could keep up with the conversation my friends were having, using Facebook to follow along. (See the caller had switched the conference to webex, but the invite was lodged in my spam folder in Outlook.

So I had no visual and was forced to imagine what this Facebook sales rep was telling me, because the web became unusable. WHAT?

Just a second. My LTE iPhone 5 has killer stats. I should be flying through this operation with no problems. But the web became dead to me. And unfortunately I couldn't just reboot the phone and the computer because the call was routing through my iPhone. I was skewered and SOL.

So in theory the web via tethered LTE should be lightening fast. Faster than my terrestrial-based cable line even. But in practice, perhaps because the phonecall was taking technical priority, my LTE became NOT.

How much of this technology becomes a tether to us, as in a leash rather than wings? How many clients expect our response in minutes not hours? I recall a conversation I had with a client a few years ago.

"The team doesn't think your committed to the project."

"Um, what?"

"Sometimes it can take an entire day to get your response on something."

BOOM. The expectations had been set before my tenure, that emails would be answered within minutes or at most hours. AND that included when the email came in at 8pm at night.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I turn my phone off at night. I don't respond to emails 24/7. I set aside time to respond to emails."

INBOX ZERO had become INBOX NOW.

And if I allowed that behavior or expectation to run my life, I guess I would have agreed to answer messages at all hours. But I didn't.

For the most part, technology is our friend. But on occasion we have to fight the tether, kill the twitch response to answer at all times of the night. Technology is a tool we use, but should not be a tool used to control us. I did check that client's in-bound messages a bit more frequently, but I refused to agree to some 1 hour SLA on responding to emails.

We need to the web to conduct business. Today it's my presentation tool, my phone, and my rolodex.

We also need to shut the damn thing off and walk away from the net and the client and the response to input. I don't subscribe to DAY WITHOUT TECH strategies, I'd get too far behind on my own creative projects, but I do suggest you get a handle on your tech before the tech has you by the throat, before the tether has become a chain.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)
permalink: http://uber.la/2013/02/top-lesson/ ‎

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