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BELLTONES: Featuritis Fever and Gizmo Flu!

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Mar 1, 2007
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While mulling over my topic for this column, I kept hearing a song in my head, but with words pertaining to technology. It was Johnny Rivers singing "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." Clearly this reveals my age and also may have something to do with my penchant for writing about technology-related maladies. In previous columns, I have discussed technophobia and technolust, and now my thoughts have turned to another complaint. While not as debilitating as technophobia, which keeps victims from feeling comfortable with any technology, featuritis is a condition that keeps many users from making friends with the devices they use.
The term "featuritis" actually has two meanings. First, it refers to developers' tendency to jam multiple features into devices or programs in an effort to provide something for everyone. The second use, and the one I am discussing, is the discomfort that arises from trying to use equipment and software that has many more features than the user wants or requires for its intended use. Another term for this is feature fatigue. Some people love extra elements that come with products. They tend to be early adopters of technology and are the folks who drive creators of peripherals and software to constantly update and retool the things they make. Many people, though, yearn for simple, intuitive devices that just do a limited number of things but do them very well.
Convergence and Divergence
My colleague and co-author of Internet and Personal Computer Fads, James Van Roekel, describes two contrasting trends in developing devices: convergence and divergence. Convergence is the movement to incorporate more and more applications and uses into single and increasingly smaller devices. The classic example of this is the cell phone, which today offers a wide array of options with more promised for the future. The term "divergence" refers to the opposite trend to produce products that have limited and specific usage and perform that particular function very well. A good example of this trend is the MP3 player. All it does is play music, and with its size and memory, it is great for this one task.

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