Whither Benefit of the Doubt?

One of the things I’ve been thinking about, with my own jobs, is “by doing this, am I making the world a better place?” When I work in a team, improving a situation or solving a problem is central to everything else we do. It’s an attitude we try to encourage at Floate and that I try to put forward in all the other work I do.

That, however, does not seem to be the response from bloggers and journalist in this country. This is what I see happening: a large organisation announces a new website or application is in the works and the knee-jerk response is to criticise or mock it based only on the information in a media release.

When I read an opinion piece like this I wonder if the writer asks him or herself that simple question: “By putting this in the world, am I making the world a better place?”

Having a baseline of negativity and backing that up with nothing more than speculation does little to move things forward and improve our lives.

We want to use technology to come up with better ways to do things but our commentators seem continually skeptical that better ways will actually be presented.

What drives this negativity? In this time when bullying is so out of favour, why does this particular style stay around?

A couple of things come to mind:

  1. Peer pressure: Talking about the potential good points of a planned product is only in favour if the people building it have some kind of track record. It’s easy to be excited about Prometheus or Halo 4 because their predecessors exist in a realm of approved content. To be excited about a product outside of this small group is to risk a kind of heresy.
  2. Laziness: Thought is hard. It takes some thought to read a media release and develop reasons why an organisation might try to build a new application and what they might achieve by it. There is a fine line between a desperate attempt and innovation but it is hard work to form a discussion around that line.

The problem exists for the commentator forced to produce content before seeing the product released to market.

The easy way out is negativity because, if the product fails, the commentator can claim to be “in touch with the market”. If the product succeeds, the commentator can express a pleasant surprise and then analyse how the dinosaurs beat the odds.

Benefit of the doubt is missing from reporting and otherwise published rumour and speculation about upcoming applications from major institutions. Its absence is endemic in the tech reporting community and is actually harmful to the end product because it sets an expectation in the market.

Negativity is a bet each way, but it’s not honest and any situation that lacks honesty cannot be said to be helping make the world a better place.

This post was originally published in the Floate Design Partners blog