Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

My Mother’s Journal

I’m gathered with the nuclear family for Thanksgiving. My eighty-three year old mother pulls her journal out of her capacious purse. This is a yearly record of the places my parents have gone and the people and things they’ve seen. The contents are pictures, pasted in, wiht annotations in pen. We all gather around to look at the book and get the story of the parental travels. My ten year old niece Claire borrows my pen to add the name of her dog to the description of a picture.

What’s particularly cool to me is that Mom uses Photoshop to prepare the pictures before printing them, cutting them out wiht a scissors, and pasting them in the book. She resizes, crops, cuts glare, blurs background etc. to get the picture right for her journal. She says she doesn’t really understand layers yet, but she’s working on it.

I love this: just enough use of digital technology to suit the purpose. Mom could use a SpiderOak share (the parental units have an account), but that wouldn’t suit her purposes. She doesn’t send people links, she meets them face to face. I’m sure this Thanksgiving gathering is going into the journal and will get reported to the folks back in Oklahoma. It works.

The lesson I get from this (aside from “don’t have your finger up your nose when Mom pulls out the camera”) is that software (and everthing else) should be designed so the user can take just enough to suit their needs. And that their needs are not usually what the devloper had in mind.

I’m afraid that a lot of times my approach to software development is ‘my way or the highway’. There’s one explicitly planned way to use this software and if you use it any other way, you suck. So I’m going to try to loosen up and make the software I work on more available for ‘just enough’.