Being a geek isn’t about joining a tribe: it’s about gaining knowledge. And you can’t gain knowledge of something you’re not willing to explore.
That’s why, when Harry explained how your Apple/Android/Windows hate is irrelevant, it really got me thinking about my own preferences and prejudices.
Do I prefer Mac OS X to Windows because it’s better, or just because I preferred Lion to Windows 8 back in 2012? Why do I think Evernote is better than OneNote? Do I think Google is the best search engine for any particular reason, or just because it was better than the competition back in 2003?
And, more importantly, if I try new things out could I become more productive?
Many tech fans don’t ask themselves these questions, and that’s too bad – we’re probably all missing out on something awesome. The only way you’re going to find out is by experimenting, so I’ve been trying to do that more. Here’s what I found out, and how I hope we can all keep learning.
DuckDuckGo Taught Me “Familiar” Does Not Mean “Better”
Also, I had to google how to take a screen grab on the mac. COMMAND+SHIFT+4?! I thought these things were supposed to be intuitive.
— Sarah Jørgensen (@sosarahsays) August 19, 2015
Humans tend to conflate what’s “intuitive” with what’s “familiar”, which creates a big mental bias against trying new things. A longtime Mac user who switches to Windows is going to think of anything different as hard, because it’s really easy to forget the years spent learning how to use Mac OS. The same goes for switching to any system: you’re going to think of anything you need to re-learn as “unintuitive”, when it’s usually just a different way of doing things with its own pros and cons.
Thoughts on Windows 10 so far: It took me way too long to find out where Word was. Intuitive, my foot!
— Beth Montague-Hellen (@PhdGeek) September 2, 2015
That’s why, to really get a feel for something, you need to work out more than your initial impressions – and be willing to throw yourself into something new. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, which is why I forced myself to use DuckDuckGo for two months. I’d been meaning to do this for a long time, but put it off because I was nervous: blogging for a living means I search a lot, and I didn’t want anything to slow me down.
In the end, when I finally did give DuckDuckGo a fair chance, I ended up loving it. Not right away, mind you – I was annoyed with the differences at first – but after a few weeks of using DuckDuckGo I found all sorts of things I preferred, like the excellent !bang system for searching other sites and support for keyboard shortcuts. Now that the experiment is over, I’m still using DuckDuckGo constantly – and my life is just a little bit better because of it.
Now, I’m not saying DuckDuckGo is the right search engine for everyone to use. But I am saying that, if you’re not willing to give other tools a chance, you don’t actually know what’s right for you: you’re just using something out of habit.
A little willingness to experiment could pay off for you.
OneNote Taught Me to Ignore My Prejudice
In the mid-2000s I was a massive Linux fan, and at some point slowly drifted to the Mac side of things. That entire time, however, I’ve read people in forums repeat one simple mantra: Microsoft is stupid. Their products are bad. We hate Microsoft. If you find yourself agreeing with universal rules like this, you’re probably denying yourself access to something cool – whether you know it or not.
Which brings me to OneNote. I’ve been an active Evernote user for a half-decade, using it as my default place to dump ideas and things I wanted to try later. I’d heard a lot about why OneNote was better, but never gave it a shot. If I’m honest, it’s my general dislike of Microsoft was no small part of what held me back.
And you know what? That was stupid.
Because for the last few months, I’ve been absolutely loving OneNote. There are so many little features it offers that Evernote just doesn’t, and I never would have found out about them if I let my anti-Microsoft prejudice keep me from using the software. I tried it out as an experiment, and ended up migrating all of my old notes to OneNote. I haven’t looked back since, and am happier now because I tried something new.
Everyone is Biased, But Experimenting Helps
The point of this article isn’t that you should switch to OneNote, or switch to DuckDuckGo: the point is to try new things. The world of technology changes fast, and what was relatively terrible three years ago might be fantastic now. The only way you’re going to find out is by giving things a shot.
Everyone is biased, and its time we all stopped pretending otherwise. If you’ve been using OS X for 15 years, it’s unlikely you’re going to love Windows 10 after one hour of usage. But give a new system like that some time, and you’re bound to find some things you like – and that knowledge can help you get more out of your devices, whichever OS you decide to stick with.
Basically, if you want to get more out of your technology, you have to be willing to experiment a little.
Even if you’re not a Linux fan, the experience of booting up a Linux Live CD and trying it out can show you a different way of thinking about technology – one where you take a more on-hands approach.
Even if you’ve used Firefox for ten years, giving Microsoft’s new Edge browser a try could show you something you didn’t know you wanted.
Even if you prefer Android, observing the reasons your iPhone-using friends and family enjoy their devices can leave you with a better understanding of how people relate to technology.
It’s 2015: there’s very little in tech that sucks right now. Trying new things out is fun, and you’ll learn a lot.
So I want to know: which tools should I give a shot next? I’m willing to learn if there’s something you think is great, so let’s chat.
Image Credit: Dirty and clean work table by Elvetica via Shutterstock