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Technology Improves Things and Complicates Them: Part I

September 22, 2009

I’m just back from vacation. I have a new digital camera that I used on this trip. This new camera has great features that do everything I want but has caused other issues for me. The situation I entered when I got the new camera is much the same issue many people face with their new laboratory informatics software.

In this first part, I will describe how the new technology enabled me to do more than I could, previously, but how it caused new problems. In the 2nd installment, I will talk about the issues of using the information.

The New Technology Does it All!

First of all, I’m not a professional photographer and this is a modestly-priced camera. Even so, for my purposes, the new camera does everything I could want. It has technology to adjust for shaky hands, for example.

More importantly, the storage is better and cheaper than my last camera, as is the picture quality. As such, I can take pictures of many more things and many more pictures will look good.

Comparing to the old days of expensive film and processing, and a limited amount of film one could reasonably bring along, this is a vast change. When photographing stationary objects, I do not need to be careful about taking the picture correctly the first time as I can take it many times until I get one I like. As you can imagine, I have many more pictures than I would have had in the old days.

Issue:       With my new camera, as with your new laboratory informatics software, there is the ability to save everything that I want to save, including things that I might not care about. However, it initially appears easier to save everything and then I’ll have everything for later, as you might think of doing with your new system.

Too Much Data

So, I’m done with vacation. Now, I have not just a few rolls of film to have processed and look through, but over 1000 pictures to do something with.

The camera numbers the pictures, but I will eventually forget what these pictures are if I don’t label them. The reality is that I will probably not take the time to individually label that many pictures. Instead, I have put the pictures into folders based on what city or large event the photos are of.

Issue:       In your own system, as you store documents and groups of information, if you save things together based on an ID or a date, this might not be enough to identify the information. In the future, when you return to the information, the information that was hastily put into your system and labeled might not be easy to pick-through. As with my pictures, for those that I don’t label, someday, I will know that the photo was of a building in a specific city but will not necessarily remember why I took a photo of the particular building. In your own system, as your users look at the information you’ve stored, they will not necessarily know what the individual pieces of information are used for, either.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises
http://www.GeoMetrick.com/

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