Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tool Time: To Each His Own

In my work I sometimes need to schedule meetings with people, all at once, who live around the globe: New York, LA, Sydney, London. As I am math-challenged even on the best days I find the time zone issue confounding and almost always get something wrong. I'd tried a number of time zone converters but none displayed multiple cities in just the way I needed. So I was delighted to find out about World Time Buddy, which displays time by cities all at once. I tweeted about this and was almost immediately, resoundingly, hammered with responses like "this is not useful for webinars" and "I don't need to know the city, I need to know the time zone".

Here's the thing: World Time Buddy is useful to me. It is the tool that solves my problem. It is what I need. With literally dozens of time converters out there, no doubt there is something more useful for you, that solves your problem. This is part of the magic of the web 2.0 world: people can find just-in-time, just-for-me solutions. Some of us think that maybe that's supposed to be the point.

I see this happen, too, in discussions of most other tools. People say, "Well, college students don't use Twitter" as if there is some fatal flaw of Twitter that only college students see. Why would a college student use Twitter? Do most undergraduates need to reach out to big online communities day and night? I like Twitter because I am in a very isolating work role and have found it a wonderful way to connect with other L&D professionals and writers. I didn't really need that when I was in college. (And by the way: when I'm in a location with lots of friends nearby, like at a conference, and want to keep in touch via text, I don't really use Twitter for that. I like the Beluga phone app. I bet college students have something they like for that, too.)

And of course it is happening now with Google+. I keep going in to look at conversations, and I'd guess that fully half of them right now are either arguments about how Google+ is better or worse than some other tool, or discussions of which other tool will or will not be put out of business by Google+. I like Google+  fine, and I've enjoyed playing with it for the past week or so. I also still like Facebook and Twitter just fine, too. Others like LinkedIn. Or Ning groups. Or [name your tool]. (As I've said before: Don't like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+? Ask for your money back.)

I don't know why we feel there has to be one magic tool to rule them all. But I do know this, for sure: If tomorrow someone launched the Perfect Social Media Product, which was free, ridiculously easy to use, seamlessly integrated with every other need and tool, and solved every problem we had, then the day after tomorrow there would rise up a group of People Who Hate The Perfect Social Media Product. There would then be another tool, and more discussions, and ... will it ever end?

So my $.02? Find what you need, and use that tool/those tools. Partly that may be driven by where your best connections spend most of their time. But don't be blind to other, newer things, or places where other good connections are spending time, and try to give them an honest chance. And please, if we ever need to have a meeting in Yokohama, be sure to double-check my math.


Kevin W. Bruny said...

Well said Jane. I saw your exchange yesterday on the timezone tool and agree that tools need to meet the USERS needs. The beauty of variety. Also, I like your Twitter rational with college students...they live in a social setting. Makes sense! Good post.

Jane Bozarth said...

Thanks, Kevin. I'm sure there are some college students who are heavy Twitter users, and we've certainly seen plenty of examples of ways to use it to support K-16 instruction. But the fact that it isn't their tool of choice shouldn't be interpreted as some condemnation of Twitter.

Dave Ferguson said...

"It's useful to me. It's the tool that solves my problem." This a remarkably sensible way to explain what's in your toolbox. (It's also a handy phrase for the relentless change agent to keep in mind before he starts hectoring people on the [theoretically] outmoded ways they go about their work.)

One of the things I liked about Ruud Hein's explanation of how he uses Evernote for the Getting Things Done approach is that his real goal is not GTD orthodoxy. It's to reduce friction--to make it easier for him to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.

As he says in one of his end comments, "Yeah, I know this might not be pure GTD. So?"

PMTrainer said...

We can think of tools as food. If you don't like something usually you don't/won't eat it, even if its good for you. Same applies with tools, if you don't like it for whatever reason, guess what - don't use it!
Folks that's why we have choices. Great post Jane!

AndiM said...

This was my first visit to your blogsite and I plan to keep on visiting. I completely agree with you on using tools that work for you. As a grad student I am constantly being introduced to new tools, some of them better than others. I do have one thing to say about any new tool. Give it a chance before tossing it aside. I used Jing for screen captures and disliked it. Then I found it to be useful for video captures, not great but useful.

John said...

Yes, I get tired of these "arguments". If I use tool A and can get the job done equally as well as the next person (using tool B) can and in the same amount of time, what difference does it make? Is there some purity test I must pass? This can be applied to far more situations than "tools", be they hardware or software tools - the food analogy comment was right on the mark. Those pushing these arguments have a very, very stunted view!

Gina Schreck said...

This post reminds me of everyone that complains when Facebook makes changes to its layout or functions. If they never made changes people would complain that Facebook NEVER changes to keep up with changing needs! People will always find something to complain about and therefore always seek new tools and ways to work--I guess we shall call this PROGRESS! Thanks Jane for this thought provoking post!

Ergonomic Chair said...

This is just one of the situations when you will find the relevance of keeping your doors open for other possibilities. Right now,there are different tools that promise convenience but you should not limit yourself especially if there are other things that can best satisfy your needs.

Kelly Meeker said...

Oh, Jane, you have touched on one of my pet peeves. Just last week one of co-workers was giving me a hard time about using different desktop hotkeys on my Macbook than he does - as if it possibly matters - "That takes so much LONGER!!!". All I could think of (other than smacking his hand while he messed with my settings) was that we are so stuck in these ideas that everyone must use the optimal tool box, with the optimal settings and the optimal workday schedule.

I need the tools that work for me, that I'm comfortable with, and that make me effective. Giving people the power to build their own toolkits might be a scary loss of control but it's the quickest route to productivity.

Sylvawood said...

Jane, I'm currently reading your book: Social Media for Trainers and loving it. Although I am mostly supporting training organisations with a focus on practical training I am realising more and more that social media CAN be used in these areas. It's just a matter of being prepared to be creative. I just blogged your book on my Train2Gain blog site. (http://train2gain.blogspot.com/)
It's a matter of the critical mass catching up and realising that nothing will suit al of the people all of the time. Thanks for sharing - Heather