Why unlimited storage options seem scary!


You have a super “kewl” smartphone but do you sometimes miss that old film camera of yours? Some thoughts on product design, creating boundaries and value of emotional experience.

Google recently launched “Pixel” amidst fanfare, and I could not help notice one of its main feature headlines — “Google Pixel phones keep all your pixels online for free”. But isn’t that supposed to be a great facility? Scary? Unlimited storage? Seriously? Stay with me.

Just ask yourself, of the number of pictures/videos you generate — how many of these are generated out of need? How many of these, you could have easily lived without? How many of these could be trashed, but are still lying on your “smart” phone, because, “Who cares? There’s PLENTY of space there!” attitude. I will not expand on that — you know what I mean.

Think for a moment.

How much noise are we generating in the data/media we produce? Substantial. Now cut back to few situations that I will point to:

Remember these? The good old film camera and your notebook?

  1. Your smartphone claims (and could possibly be), to be a better equipped camera than the ones the earlier film cameras boasted of, and come with GB/TB/#$B’s of storage options — but do you get the joy of clicking pictures, the same way you might have had with that old guy? If yes, how could a 30 picture limitation, without an option to delete andwithout those super cool effects/zoom/white balance…, give more joy? Ever thought on that? Hang on — we will come to that, but before that lets discuss about another “kind of” lost friend of ours.
  2. Its our beloved diary (or diaries) — I am addicted to good poetry since my early teens. I always used to jot down wonderful poems in a diary, that my father gave me. Mind you, it was not a fancy one — just a ‘free’ heavily branded diary that possibly was an offspring of a marketing effort. The point is — it did not matter. I used to cherish that notebook, and with influence of internet and online note taking — although my frequency of adding poetry pieces to that diary reduced drastically, I still once in a while visit that, and trust me — its a true moment of “joy” for me! Ever wondered, why do we miss that connect with something like an “Evernote” — a perfect example of modern note taking, and possibly the emulation of a diary? Hm.

I think there are two things happening here, that contribute to us missing the “joy” –

  1. Lack of boundaries — Restrictions of any kind, are in many ways, the right environment to nurture creative and innovating thinking. Unlimited photos/videos will help in just building the noise. Imagine, what is a camera supposed to do — “Take good pictures, so that you can create memories, and re-visit them once in a while”. Right? So how does that go well, with an option that enables creating more noise? It does not. How many of us, even care to visit these “in the cloud” tons of images/videos we generate? Rarely. So how are these options tying with the product goal, which in case of camera is to take memorable pictures?Had it been, a restriction of some kind — okay, so assume a hypothetical situation, where you had a cool digital camera, but it had to be recharged with data storage plans, as per your need — more like our pre-paid plans? Say, 10 bucks for 50 images, but that includes a print of each snap couriered to you as an album? This is pretty vague sounding at the moment, but can you imagine a little restriction of this kind — could initiate the trigger for us taking little better pictures, rather than clicking aimlessly? Well, a printed album awaits you when you return! Think about it. Some good read here too.
  2. Products just trying to act “superior” to their earlier counterparts — Think it as equivalent to “Skeuomorphismin digital design space. Instead of replicating a camera “as-is” in the internet world and adding bunch of options on top of it — could we ‘also’ approach the modern product design, in a way that it aids the “experience” and “emotional value” we derived out of the earlier product rather than just trying to become a “superior” version of the same. I really liked what Moleskine is trying to do here with Evernote, precisely trying to keep the emotional experience of the product (diary writing) intact to some extent, and using technology to facilitate more options around it, namely tagging, cloud upload, search-ability etc.

Please understand, I am not against superb products like a Google Pixel, digital cameras, online note taking apps at all. These are well thought off, and widely used products after all, and with good reason. What I am suggesting is that, it seems most of the products are tending towards giving too many options & lots of free data storage which needs to be re-thought seriously.

If we need more original content, less noise and reduced redundancy in the data we generate— our product design ideas need to be more tending towards creating better emotions experiences through creative/logical limitations. They need to come out of the “I am superior” only mentality, and also starting thinking about becoming a contributor to the eco-space of products, both old and new.

Leaving with you this –



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