Tolerance of Imperfection, or, the zipper-suit non-exclusion
I wrote yesterday about a Miracast adapter that lets me watch whatever is on my Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers‘ screen on my TV.
I mentioned that, with some streaming video, there was perhaps a half second lag between the audio and the video, and that I found that “tolerable”.
One of my readers, Marvin, suggested that people accepting that level of performance contribute to lower quality devices in the market.
That was a fascinating concept to me, and as all of the best comments on this blog do, it got me doing some self-examination.
I am a tolerant person. :)
I tolerate different opinions and customs in others, but I also tolerate imperfection in content and devices.
I can sum up my reasoning on that with a phrase that is used in the medical field (which is where I work in my “day job”, training people and optimizing workflows): “The benefits outweigh the risks.” ;)
I’ve seen people say that they won’t read any books with typos in them (or a typo a page, or “too many typos”, or wherever they set the bar*). Well, I have to say, I wouldn’t have gotten to read some of my very favorite books if that was my standard.
When I used to write some movie reviews back in high school, I judged movies on two things: what they were trying to do, and how well they did it. A movie could set low production quality expectations and deliver really well on story, and I would feel it was more enjoyable for me than a movie that was exquisitely produced, but was just going for a middle of the road concept.
Part of this, I’m sure, is being a geek.
It’s different now, but it used to be that science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies couldn’t get much of a budget. They were perceived as being attractive primarily on their concepts: they could play in a drive-in, and the production quality didn’t have to be good. The point was to go see a “monster movie”, not to marvel at accurate or convincing art design.
Geeks like me don’t reject a movie because we can “see the zipper” on the monster suit.
I’ve really enjoyed a lot of “zipper-suit movies”: my life is richer because I have seen them.
For decades, if we had rejected movies because the effect was imperfect, we would have seen no movies.
Now, obviously, you can say that the performance of a device is different from budget limitations in a movie, but I think there is a parallel.
Suppose someone said, “I hate the flash when you go to the next screen on a Kindle. I’m not using one until they get rid of it”. Certainly, for the first several years of the technology, they would not have had a Kindle…and all the advantages that can bring you.
I have seen people say they are angrily sending back their Kindle Fire HDX’s, because of some blue/purple tinging you can sometimes see around the edges.
I’m not saying that’s wrong to do. People have different levels of tolerance, and different things irritate them (as anybody who has ever been in a relationship knows). ;)
Part of this may also be me being a generally optimistic, positive person. I’ve had people in software classes I used to teach get quite upset because of a failure of, say, Excel to do something they thought it should do. I’ve said before, “If you are waiting for the perfect car, you’ll still be riding a horse.” I tend to find enjoyment in what’s around me, happening now. Does everything always go perfectly at work? Nope. However, I do wake up saying, “Oh boy, I get to go to work today.” ;) My Significant Other pointed out to me that I’ve always thought that wherever I worked was the best company in that industry. On reflection, that seems statistically unlikely… ;)
Another issue is how much you tend to do more than one thing at once, and how much you tend to focus on one thing. Both modalities have their advantages and disadvantages.
I tend to want to have several things going on at once. I think that’s why I can be a very good proofreader of other people’s work. I can read the book, and enjoy it, at the same time that I am paying attention to errors or inconsistencies. Stopping to highlight something doesn’t make me lose the mood or flow of the scene.
I know that’s not true for everybody.
Getting back to Marvin’s original (presumably rhetorical) question about how I can say that a half-second delay is “tolerable”, it’s because it is tolerable for me.
It would take a stronger person than me to find the two-minute delay tolerable…
I always try to write my impressions of something in a way that you can decide whether you would like it or not. I try to give you the information.
Part of that information is how I feel about it. I probably have readers who have been reading me pretty much every day for several years now. They have their own ideas about who I am and what I tend to enjoy more. They can use that baseline to help them determine how they would react to something.
That’s how I’ve always looked at reviews of books, movies, TV shows, and others.
I pay attention to who the reviewers are (I always read bylines, and you’ve probably noticed that I tend to credit the writers when I link to other articles…although they aren’t always listed). There are reviewers where I know that, if that person didn’t like, I probably will. ;)
Does my willingness to accept flaws contribute to there being more flawed products? Perhaps. My own intuition is that there needs to be an interest demonstrated before the investment will be made to reach perfection. What company would spend a lot of money to develop a perfect Miracast adapter before they even know what the market is for that product? If some people will buy a product (a book, a gadget) with flaws, even if others won’t, it suggests that a similar unflawed product might have broad appeal. We got Star Wars in 1977 partially because people were willing to watch Flash Gordon in 1936, despite the wobbly flights in it. Would we have had Gravity if people didn’t watch Captain Video? Would we have the Kindle Paperwhite now if Amazon had wanted to wait until they had a perfectly functioning device?
The bottom line on this, I guess, is that I tend to be inclusive of my options rather than exclusive. I’m okay with imperfection.
I suspect that people like me are in the minority on this. I think we early adopters, as I wrote in We are not guinea pigs, tend to be more tolerant of imperfection, and pave the way for better products to come.
What do you think? Should I refuse to use a Miracast adapter until there is no lag? Would that accelerate development of the technology, or slow it down? Do you have set exclusions (“I won’t watch anything in black or white”, or “I won’t read anything without an index”)? Do you think this is hypocritical on my part, since I won’t knowingly buy books with text-to-speech access blocked? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post. Thanks again to Marvin for inspiring this post!
* There is a famous story about Winston Churchill (there are many of those), which I am going to paraphrase here. Supposedly, Churchill said to someone at a party, “Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?” “Yes.” “Would you sleep with me for two dollars?” “Of course not! What kind of person do you think I am?” “We have already established that: now, we are just haggling over price.” ;)
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them