Off the Grid: Not Necessarily HR – Rage Against The App

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Managing expectations is the first rule of politics, marketing, diplomacy, and any other form of messaging between people. My father taught me that people should always know that my word was my bond… and this is not a subset of that philosophy but the very heart of it. Building and maintaining trust means that people must set an expectation of truth and then live up to it. We live in an age where there seems to be a total breakdown in trust and the result is not pretty. Healthy cynicism would permit us to question circumstances of statements to get to the root source and verify their truth. More often than not, this turns into unwarranted anger that cannot be quenched by any amount of new information. In fact, there are those who feed on this emotion and would prefer not to have facts cloud their thinking. Such is the case of a maligned app on my iPhone.

My new car has a built-in GPS system that has its flaws like most of them do, but it does have one exciting feature that appeals to my sense of geekiness to the point of being giddy about it. There is a smartphone app that allows me to select a destination through the app (it accesses Google Maps), push a touchscreen button, and instantly there is a popup message telling me that the location has been transmitted to my car. No more fumbling with trying to find a destination while sitting in the front seat of the car. I can do this from an easy chair in front of the TV. Oh, and I can also upload locations from my address book. I would give it a rating of 5-stars just for this, but there are other features as well. I expected less and got something magical. Ta daaa!

Reading the reviews, this totally free app has an overall score of less than 3-stars. Amazing! I read some of the 1-star reviews: “The unlock feature gives me a phone number to call to unlock my car.” That was repeated not just a few times, but over and over again. Who are these people? Are they from a planet where a touchscreen can correct personal stupidity by getting them into a car that they have inadvertently locked while they are on the wrong side of the door? The scarier part of this thought is that these angry people are actually allowed to drive in the first place. Maybe there should also be an IQ testing function that should be added to the app to keep idiots out of their cars and off the road.

I see what is happening here. There is a button that says “Locking/unlocking” within the app, but there is not a direct connection to the car that can do this. I assume that this is for security reasons. The car can be unlocked remotely but it requires calling a human being that can make sure that the unlocker is really authorized to do this and that it is not just someone who found a lost cellphone. But displaying this button has set an expectation that it is automatic and when it doesn’t work as expected there is rage… unfounded, but indeed rage. I give part of the blame for this to the auto manufacturer that sells expensive toys to stupid people.

Zack de la Rocha who fronts for the heavy-metal hip-hop alternative band Rage Against The Machine tells the story about how they decided on that name for the band. The machine they raged against was a 1979 Chevy van. “That piece of *$#!+* was always breaking down. I can’t tell you how many… gigs we lost because it would quit working.” I totally understand that anger and frustration from a previous life when my car doubled its book value every time I filled the tank with gas. Somehow we have an expectation that a vehicle will run when we want it to… and of course it can never be admitted that it could be our fault that we own an unreliable POS in the first place. Maybe I missed my calling. Angry lyrics and pissed off political activism seems to be a money maker.