November 19, 2006

Anytime Accessibility: We Still Need More

When I first joined 3Cube in early 1999, we had big dreams about a universal number that would follow you anywhere, delivering e-mail, phone, faxes, and would never need changing. There would be no such thing as a work phone, house phone, cell phone, or fax number, but instead something more simple and direct. "Call Louis" or "Let me send Louis this e-mail" and it would get to me, period.

While in the last few years, we keep hearing about "convergence" and this move to a single device, it's certainly not gotten perfect. I have a Blackberry from the office that gets my work e-mail and can access the Web in a limited way. But it doesn't get my personal e-mail, it doesn't answer my desk phone at the office, and if on business trips, I have no access to the home line. Seven years later, and we're still doing this?

I tend to think I'm fairly easy to get ahold of. Heck, my e-mail and cell phone number are posted right here on the blog, and the URL is fairly self explanatory. Yet, this week, I bumped into a friend at a trade show whom I hadn't seen for a full year. We hadn't gone out of our way to avoid each other at all, simply gotten busy, and drifted apart to some degree. When I hugged her quickly as a greeting, I could tell something was wrong. She seemed cold and stand-offish. Had I gone too far in expressing familiarity? Was she unhappy? I immediately asked her how she was doing and what was going on, and her answer surprised me.

She said that she thought I was avoiding her, and worried that I had put her on my "s--t" list, for reasons unknown. She said she had sent multiple e-mails and called or sent text messages, and they had gone nowhere. I was befuddled. I couldn't honestly think of more than even one message that had gone unanswered, and jokingly offered to take a lie detector test. Given my phone number and e-mail at the office haven't changed in six years, including the time she and I worked together in 2003, I was lost as to how she could have tried to reach me, and didn't get through. It just didn't make sense.

Luckily, I convinced her I still cared, and apologized profusely for having wronged her, unintentionally. Had I not bumped into her, more than 2,000 miles away from home, we could still be stuck in limbo, and she'd still think I was a complete jerk who discarded her and her husband into the ever-rising pile of former friends. If we had a real universal device that followed me to and fro, she could have broken through and gotten me, and we could have avoided this unnecessary heartache. It's time for somebody to lead. Will it be the Blackberry? Will Google or Apple do it? The world awaits.

Listening to ''Yael'', by Jellisimo (Play Count: 3)

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