Sometimes we have too little choice. Sometimes we have too much. Most of us, I suspect, have choice over where we work, who we work for, and what we do for work. Some of us even have choice over when that happens. I suspect in this case, choice is good, especially in terms of managing that fiction of work/life balance.
Sometimes we differentiate in terms of choice. More choice means better service. The logical conclusion of this is someplace like Wal-Mart or Starbucks. I honestly lost my family in a Wall-mart for three hours (before mobile phones). Perhaps in this case, having fifty choices between tyre, fourteen types of shotgun, fifty types of slimming pill and 400 choices of underwear - just is too much choice. Similarly, in starbucks, I love asking for 'A medium filter black cofee to go. In other words, a coffee'. You see, in starbucks case, they want you to adopt their lexicon, where Grande means 'bladder sized' and 'tall' means 'bigger that your likely to drink in a day'. Or 'Americano' means 'Watery expresso'. Bugger that. I want a standard filter coffee, not some marketeers wet dream.
Clearly, sometimes, too much choice might give us the impression of control. These days, where most folks in IT are diagnosed borderline aspergers and/or OCD (and some of us are spectacularly so), this feeling of control is important. This feeling of 'I might not be able to focus on actually performing a task to completion without invading Poland, but by god I know what kind of schlock I order at Starbucks'. Sad, isnt it.
Similarly, as we walk, jog, jiggle, bus, train or drive to work, those precious hours of our life we waste in mere transit - we feel we have to fill them with something meaningful. Lets do some training, read a book, listen to a podcast. Lets try and forgot that we're wasting betwen 10 (in my case) and 20 hours (in a coworkers case) merely hauling our sorry ass to an office block some inconvienent travel distance away.
And now we come to the iPod shuffle. I have too much music. And I generally like most of it. Okay, the Fergal Sharkey was a huge mistake. I'm sorry. But even the opera makes me smile. And this week, to celebrate the third week of this contract, I thought I'd try out the subsidised applestore and get me a new shuffle. If you've not seen it, its the length of a womans stick-on fingernail/claw long, about the size of a dime/5p piece/1 eurocent coin wide, and the thickness of four of those coins. Its seriously small. and all it has on the device itself is a three position switch (on, random, off), and a single LED (flashing means 'feed-me'). And a headphone socket. The headphones themselves have a up/down volume control, and a click switch. Once for pause, twice for 'next', thrise for back. Hold down and it'll read your track name to you. And hold down till the beep, and it'll read out playlists - in my case, podcastst, audiobooks, etc. And thats all the controls.
Now, I walk about three miles a day between my apartment and my office - which is near Liverpool Street Station in London. This walk involves crossing tower bridge - the one that lifts in the middle. And when its sunny - as it has been all week - its a fantastic view of London. To the left, HMS Belfast, and to the right, Canary Warf. It makes me grin. Introduce the shuffle, and some seriously nice tunes - and well, I cant help grinning. I bounce into work, ebulent and enthusiastic. The Shuffle makes travelling on the tube nice again. Its amazing what a good soundtrack brings.
But I have iPods, IPhones, BlackBerries coming out of my ears. Why do I need a shuffle ? Well, firstly I dont want to drag out an iPhone on public transport. There's still enough scary people in London, especially at night, to make such an action an act of stupidity. And secondly, its about choice.
I have too much choice of music. 4gb on the shuffle is too much choice. So why not let the shuffle pick you a soundtrack. If I dont like it - its a simple action to double-click the remote on the headset lead. Its taken me a while, but it really does make sense. Its a fantastic wee device. Go get one. I engraved mine with my name and my phone number to prevent it being stolen. By my daughter.
And lastly, as I proved at the post LCTY-London pissup - its the first iPod that can actually fit up my nose.
How cool is that ?