Our human electronic folly

5:43:00 PM

A remarkable problem in today's age is that our gadgets and favorite Web sites can do much much more than we're aware of. Google's Digital Liberation Front takes a step to break the issue of either not reading manuals or that they're not written with a full feature list.
Simply put, the most daunting problem of today's wired world is a that it swept through so fast that no one in the late 70s and early 80s solved a vexing human problem: most people don't read the instruction manuals. And, even if you were gutsy enough to flip beyond the quick-start poster and read your manual cover-to-upside-down-Spanish, then you STILL wouldn't be able to capitalize on some of the nifty things these gizmos (and Web tools like Gmail and Google Maps) can do.

For example, my one and a half year old daughter, hungry to be old and digitized like daddy, has managed to show me a few short cuts on both my Palm Centro and my iPod. Her deft little monkey-at-the-typewriter fingers managed to reveal to me that tapping my phone's space bar on the quick-dial screen reveals a list for jog dial navigation of ALL the numbers associated with that contact. I've not missed this feature in all the five or so years I've owned a Treo of some sort. I never knew. But if ignorance is bliss, then ohh, the near car collisions I would have avoided on the freeway with those lightning quick space bar strokes which would have spared me a few seconds, attentive to my cell phone screen.

Again my daughter came to the rescue for my iPod. Her thumb presses on the center button of the click wheel revealed a toggle for that feature. I had been scratching my head on how to repeat songs or albums on my iPod; scratching it probably as many times as those design interns over at Apple's packaging plant scratched their head saying to each other, "You think it needs a manual in the box?"

"Naaaa. No one reads them anyway."


Well, the sad and lamentable folly in all of this is that while everyone has at their home's desk or in pockets or at the local cafe a full arsenal of military-grade communication devices and strategic planning mainframes a la WPOR in War Games, they're truly under deployed.

The war of attrition in remaining friends with the folks you thought of calling last month and that you really, really would love to hear from but probably won't is bloddy carnage when a thorough set-up of one's device or e-mail client or reminders would be like having smart bombs in the Peloponnesian War.

Thankfully, at least on the Webware side, the folks over at Google are out to train the regiments by launching their site: The Data Liberation Front. There, direct and indexed, is a step-by-step tutorial on every feature their armory could equip you with - Matrix-style - for FREE.

Five minutes on the site has already made me go "Wow, you can do that too? Neat-o!" And, I thought I was a Google OS aficionado. I'm tempted to let my daughter bang on my laptop's trackpad to see what else I might have missed.

Folks, lest we go down like the Atlanteans in muted technological folly, then read the manual and join a message board or two; like if you were on the Starship Enterprise seek out new features and new interconnections, and by all means, enlist a hundred monkeys to help you figure it out.

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