Just like webrings of the last century, it is easy to get sucked into the time-wasting cesspool of app browsing. You can fool yourself while browsing from one app to another, thinking you're onto the next big thing. But then you realise you hardly ever check out the actual application in your daily life. But to many people like you, there's irrational exuberance when scrolling through thousands of games, productivity tools (sic), educational programs, and art programs. Before you know it, you've spent more money for apps or for app content subscriptions than for an evening out in the cinema. This will happen to you if you've a screenshot like mine at left--more than 100 apps at any one time. But the problem you induce is more than a drain on your credit card. If you've started a sequence of downloading, updating and upgrading audio educational apps, you will discover you cannot simply let automatic updates run their course. You will run out of memory on one of your devices and you'll have to start manually (and ruthlessly) pruning your apps back. This is not fun and it is one of the biggest wastes of productivity in the user-friendly apps climate that we have created. The apps themselves have created a personal productivity problem.
I am no Luddite. I see the joy in 80-year-old faces as we use FaceTime video chats. I hear the connections across the generations of family during Skype voice calls while we're out on the streets of Ireland talking across the ocean (for free) to cousins more than five time zones away. But behind all that joy comes the need to actually get things done to keep things ticking over in the real world. And when your app-bloated device runs out of memory, you have to set aside time to make things right--otherwise you can't do simple things like make phone calls. I've spent nearly 15 hours (documented on one of my productivity apps, of course) cleaning an iPod Touch, a Sony Xperia Arc, and a Nokia E7 of bloated apps that I do not use. This is painful when I realise I've paid for some of those apps that are merely cluttering my use of the devices.
The camera apps create their own special time burden. All of the ones I use hook into social space which means taking photos isn't a simple as snapping a shot, showing it to those around you and saving it for later. Now you can share your shots on social networks and when you go looking at the results online, you're trapped in another time-sucking activity while flicking through photostreams of friends. I blame it on the photo-sharing apps.
Truth be told, I stop browsing for apps one day after getting a new phone. I'm using four app-friendly operating systems (Android, iOS, Symbian and Windows Phone). I don't look for apps anymore. I listen to influencers as they recommend apps they think are worth trying. And I trust those who find fault with apps they recommend.
I'm an old skool app user and a grandfather who has bought a Kindle Fire for young girl who cannot read yet. I will gladly pay for the children's books that will read to her and I expect to buy a book or two for her during every month of her time in primary and secondary school. Those e-books, audible books and transmedia content cost more than the dinky little apps on pocket-sized phones.
Jeff Bezos is very happy with me because he knows I'm good for a book a week. My behaviour is not unique for those who read through the apps they have in front of them. We're a bankable breed of customer because it doesn't matter if the book we're reading is published last decade. If it's good, it's worth reading again, perhaps in the audible edition.
I've been reading The New York Times once a week for more than two decades now. Before e-ink, each Sunday edition cost me a minimum of six dollars. It costs less now and I get more pages. But I wouldn't dream of reading just the NYT, so I have The Atlantic, The Economist and The New Yorker as additional food for thought. I wonder if many of those who know me as @topgold on Twitter have the attention span to read more than 300 words at a single sitting. Because I like long-form reading, a set of dedicated apps helps keep me focused on making those deep dives. My outbound tweeting suffers as a result. I use Tweetlist and Google Circles to follow the flow of conversation from influencers I trust.
I'm attached to my blog as a watering hole where I intend to make a daily observation for the rest of my life, then save those observations automagically inside Pinboard. Some of those observations are formed on the heels of thoughts I've read other places. My most meaningful observations get shared through social networks with people I will never meet. I can see some of that process happening through the iOS Boxcar app. I occasionally want to tap the Boxcar screen so I can find out more about people who mark some of my stuff as favourites but I know that behaviour leads to rabbit holes aided and abetted by technology that promises to deliver value on the back of the heaps of information that it serves. I don't believe it anymore because I just have to look at the terabytes of arhived work in my personal life to see that I'm buried under an avalanche of options.
I have lists of products that friends have recommended for me. If I need a new camera, I plough through the "sightings" in my Delicious links and there's probably an answer to the question that I never asked.
Picking a camera is a lot less time-intensive than choosing what to do with the photos you shoot. My in-laws hear the shutter work its way around the sitting room when we're together, then politely let me know that I never let them see photos of their grandchildren. They want the print edition and I can't set aside more than one album-making session every quarter. Fortunately, there's a web service for that and I'm toying with the Blurb app for it as well.
I thought this past year would remove me from the field of "early adopters" because the cold winds of fiscal austerity have reduced my household purchasing power by more than 20%. Late in December 2011, I'm still playing with new tech toys and evaluating ways to make them work best in my life. This is very contradictory behaviour because you wouldn't catch me trying another kind of salad dressing (French, Caesar, and Thousand Island on my table, please). But when it comes to personal technology, I'm drawn to the shiny new surfaces like the gadget addict I've become.
But if you ever watch me unbox anything, you'll notice the perfect app that keeps me balanced through all the cold winds of technology blowing across my life. It's the first app I introduced to my four-year-old daughter as she starts recording the things she would like to bring into her life as a digital native.
She has learned to use a pencil sharpener as well as to save and restore her touchscreen creations.
Subscribe to me on Pinboard.