Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Problem with Analog Thinking in a Digital World

Binary blanket

Seth Godin thinks Digital analogs are no longer sufficient. This anecdote highlights the need to re-think systems when moving from digital to analog – what works well as an analog solution may not work well as a digital system and may not take full advantage of the digital.

The parking meter was rebooting. I guess we're supposed to walk to the other end of the garage and find one that's working.

We're seeing digital awareness coming to just about everything. In this case, it was the parking meter near the library. Of course, it's not really a parking meter, it's a centralized fee collection system that saves the town a lot of money. It's easier to collect from, certainly, it doesn't waste the time of meter readers (who get alerted as to what spaces aren't paid for, as opposed to checking them all) plus it doesn't let a new parker enjoy a few minutes of the last person's payment.


The problem, of course, is that it's not as better as it could be. Just about every traditional non-digital solution is bounded by the limits of mechanics. Once we start connecting (and the connection revolution won't rest until it's all connected) then the problem can be reset--we can find the best solution, not a better way to solve it the old way.

Why do I have to guess how long I'm going to be parking? Why pay a penalty if I underguess, or waste community resources on patrolling for compliance?

Photo by quimby -

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