Isn’t technology fantastic when it just works? But on the flip side, isn’t technology infuriating when it leaves you frustrated and resigned, thinking “why the **** doesn’t this just work“?! As someone whose job it is to enthuse new users of the benefits and advantages of technology for their working practice, alarm bells ring when, as a user, I come across the latter.
Until Monday this week, one service that i’ve been repeatedly frustrated by is eduroam. I’d tried to connect a number of times over the last two years, but to no avail. Why? Because it was such a faff, requiring a manual wireless connection to be set-up with a multitude of settings, hidden away in ‘advanced…’ pop ups. No thanks, sorry, i’m not that kind of techie – I don’t need complete control or to know exactly how something works, I just simply want it to work; I want to use and benefit from the service in question. Perhaps i’d made a wrong click when following the instructions or perhaps there was a technical issue. Whatever, I soon became frustrated enough to give up. Over time i’ve heard other users report similar frustrations and wasn’t motivated to persevere.
But, visiting the University of Leeds on Monday, I gave eduroam another shot and to my surprise it just worked… I had a few minutes between meetings, and grabbing a coffee and using my iPhone, I did a search for available networks and up popped an eduroam network. “No chance” I thought. But hold on, username, password, 1-2-3, online! “How did that happen? What about all the required network settings?” I don’t know the answer (although iPhone evangelists will no doubt claim it was device magic!). I’m intrigued, but actually, not that bothered to find out. What’s important is the immediate (and future) benefit to me and others – the service worked and I was able to quickly and efficiently get online to perform a few tasks. To me that’s the fundamental benefit of technology; it (ideally!) enables users to perform complicated tasks parsimoniously. There’s a wow factor when users ‘get’ something new, or find a service that just works; everyone gets a kick out of saving themselves time!
What is eduraom anyway? Finding the answer uncovers another frustration, this time one relating to communications and writing for the web. In the UK, eduroam is provided by JANET, and the headline blurb on www.eduroam.ac.uk states the following:
“The JANET Roaming service provides eduroam in the UK which enables network logon anywhere using own username and password [?] regardless of location without the need for guest account set up.”
Hmmm, as a user, does that encourage you to try it out? Unfortunately, no, probably not. Perhaps i’m being overly pedantic, but I believe users need a clear message and the importance of web credibility. Compare the above to the following from the international site, www.eduroam.org:
“eduroam (education roaming) is the secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community. eduroam allows students, researchers and staff from participating institutions to obtain Internet connectivity across campus and when visiting other participating institutions by simply opening their laptop.”
Now that sounds like a service that should appeal to student, staff and research users. Especially if it just works!