The Delicate Balance of Technology Production

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In the July-August edition of The Technology Source (2000), Stephen Downes makes several comments about existing products that he terms "bad technology." These points deserve a [Delete.] response with an alternate point of view.  [Start new paragraph here.] Stephen criticizes word processors [Change to "word processing software"] (and Microsoft Word in particular) that do [Delete.] for not offering an all-inclusive dictionary for all of the world's languages and dialects (using Canadian English as an example).  I really don't think it is [Change to "This in not"] a matter of good technology or bad technology but the affordability of incorporating a given language set. Many languages have unique dialects, but a software manufacturer must make a decision about [Change to "evaluate"] the cost of developing separate language sets and decide which sets to include.  It [Change to "The expense"] is not simply the cost of including a "complete" dictionary (a fantasy since hundreds of new words are coined each year), but also of modifying all of the [Delete.] user interface objects to properly reflect the selected language choice—no small task.  It is even more [Delete.] unreasonable to expect a software company to include all of the specialized jargon of particular professional groups like architects, physicians, psychologists, etc., at least as part of the base product.  All technology is developed at a cost.  Often it is a delicate balance to produce a technology product with as many features as possible but still affordable to the vast majority of people.

Stephen also alludes to Microsoft's Office Assistant, the paperclip, as "bad technology.[Insert "To the contrary,"] the Office Assistant is Microsoft's commendable efforts [Change to "effort."] to offer users a Natural Language help system.  The field of [Delete.] Artificial intelligence and the development of [Delete.] intelligent agents to help users find and manage the vast amount of [Delete. This is redundant because of the word "flooding" later in the sentence.] information flooding our workspace each day is developing at a rapid pace.  The Office Assistant was one of the first attempts to incorporate some of this artificial intelligence into a mainstream work environment. Many large Web sites, including the popular "Ask Jeeves" search portal, are now using similar technology to develop their own [Delete.] virtual customer service representatives.  It is certainly easier to ask for help by typing (or asking with speech recognition software) your question than trying to [Delete.] by scanning an index of key words hoping you'll stumble across the section of the help index you need.  And if you don't like the paperclip character, there are others available.  I personally [Change to "Personally, I"] like "Rocky."  His friendly nature and wagging tail help to [Delete.] brighten an otherwise stressful day.


Downes, S. (2000, July/August). Nine rules for good technology. The Technology Source. Retrieved Day month 2000 from the World Wide Web: