Change is Good

Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin Sports the New Google Glasses at Dinner in the Dark, a Benefit for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- San Francisco, CA

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

– Woodrow Wilson

I’ve been watching with great interest over the past few weeks as the naysayers seem to have gone CRAZY overboard trying to bash Google Glass every chance they can. I’ve seen articles in Wired and on CNN and on blogs, etc., all stating how terrible Google Glass is. Oh NO, geeky white dudes are wearing Google Glass! This will never work! Oh no, someone wore a pair into the shower! Oh no, I will punch someone in the face if they try talk to me with them on — all sorts of gibberish.

There’s nothing like change to bring out the absolute haters.

It seems like every time something comes out that represents change, people freak the fcuk out.

It’s not enough to say, “oh no, this thing is not for me.” People have to go absolutely overboard, talking about how horrible some new thing is for everybody ELSE.

I remember when I waited in line overnight (with my pal Robert Scoble, probably today’s biggest Google Glass cheerleader) for the very first iPhone. Robert’s son Patrick was the very first person to buy an iPhone at the Palo Alto store.

I’m not sure I’d ever been mocked by people so much. “You waited in line overnight to pay HOW MUCH?” for a stupid phone??? People thought the iPhone was the dumbest thing ever. “Why would you ever need a phone to surf the web?” “Why would you pay so much for a phone?” They laughed at me for camping out overnight to get the first generation phone — even though camping out overnight in front of an Apple store has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Getting to hear Apple luminaries like Andy Hertzfeld and Bill Atkinson talk about Apple’s early days was a blast! It’s where I first met the awesome guys from SmugMug. Was it dorky and geeky? Sure, but whatever.

Read some of these early quotes about the iPhone when it first came out. Even though some of us loved it early, so many more were so “doom and gloom” on it. Now, of course, everybody loves the iPhone and the whole generation of Android and other smartphones that followed.

I remember when Twitter first came out. People hated that too. “Twitter is still a fad, and according to a study out today, it looks like it’s popularity may soon fade,” wrote BusinessWeek. People constantly mocked Twitter — “who wants to read a dumb post about what someone had for breakfast,” they’d say. I hopped on Twitter right away while so many of my friends refused to join. Those same friends now complain about how everybody else has more followers than they do.

The same naysayers took umbrage with Google+. Despite being named earlier this week as the second largest social network, the “change is bad” crowd hated Google+ when it came out. How many articles out there were written about Google+ being a ghost town? My good friend Trey Ratcliff passed 5 million followers on Google+ earlier this morning. That sure is an awful lot of ghosts if you ask me.

I’m having the best time on Google+. I’ve met some of the most talented and interesting photographers in the world, I’ve been on tons of great live hangouts and photowalks, and it’s been the best designed social network I’ve ever been a part of. I’m glad I joined it the first day it was available to the public.

When one of my heros, William Eggleston, had the first color photography show at MOMA in New York, a lot of people hated that too. Many people called it the most hated fine art photography show ever. Ansel Adams, the most famous photographer in the world at the time, even wrote a letter to MOMA curator, John Szarkowski, trashing the change that Eggleston represented. Now everybody loves Eggleston and color photography is firmly established as a photographic fine art aesthetic. Just last month the Independent called him the world’s greatest living photographer.

I remember when I first started posting my photos online at Flickr back in 2004, their first year in existence. So many photographers gave me a hard time. They kept going on and on about how my photos would be “stolen.” “Who the hell cares,” I’d answer back. Now everybody posts their photos online, everywhere — well, almost everybody.

So what is it about Google Glass, the iPhone, Twitter, Google+, color photography, photo sharing that scare people so much? What is it that brings out the naysayers and haters?

It’s simple: most people hate change. Most people fear change. Most people hope the world around them never changes and turns into something else. They are afraid that change will take their job, or their income, or somehow hurt them. A lot of these people are also lazy. They groan about having to learn a new thing or technology. They worry they will be left behind. So it’s easier for these people to bash whatever is new and interesting and jump on the anti-change bandwagon.

As far as Google Glass goes, I have no idea if it’s going to be a hit or not. I do think it represents an interesting new tool to use for street photography and I’m excited about trying them out myself at some point. I think it’s dumb though to see article after article by scared people trying to talk the rest of the world out of them — articles that try to paint them as dorky or geeky or creepy. These are just more of the same old complainers/haters who hate on every new thing that comes along.

Change is good. Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise. The next time somebody brings up some new idea, check yourself. Instead of immediately starting to bash it, resist that urge and keep an open mind. Every so often you just might be surprised.

Oh, and personally speaking, I think journalists that like to bash change are far, far, dorkier than bloggers who like to take showers with their Google Glass on. ;)

This article also appears on PetaPixel here.

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25 comments on “Change is Good
  1. Pedro Dias says:

    Great post, and if you allow me I’ll mention an excerpt from my post about similar topic around April last year:

    “I mean seriously? Are we so closed-minded that we have to bash, mock and make sensationalist headlines about everything that doesn’t fit in our tiny reality? I’m not saying that these glasses that Google came up with ARE the ultimate thing, nor they will be perfect… I don’t even expect that our generation can adapt to them in a short period of time… Who could drive the first car in a perfect way? Or fly the first airplane? Heck! Humans are not perfect! We need to adapt and learn to live with innovation, mocking it will only make you look narrow-minded. Instead, roll up the sleeves and contribute towards a solution or ideas that will improve it”

    Post at http://en.pedrodias.net/augmented-reality-is-not-for-n00bs/

  2. Make it brighter, louder, and more angelic.

  3. Jacqueline says:

    Perfect post! As a follower of numerous tech sites,I have been thunderstruck at all the negativity. But I was immediately reminded of all the negative comments when the iPhone came out. The same people who said why do I need a good camera on my phone, I have a camera, now say why do I need Glass I have a great camera on my phone. I wonder if they even hear what they are saying? They must have a convenient case of amnesia!

  4. A balanced post – breath of fresh air.

    My only problem is whether the hardware is owned or not. If it’s not owned, well, I don’t see the point.

    As far as the Apple stuff – there is a danger in measuring the success of a technology in money. Apple has produced good things – I have no problem saying that – but their business practices leave a lot to be desired. Oddly enough, they’ve become what they hated.

  5. Citysnaps says:

    >>> I do think it represents an interesting new tool to use for street photography and I’m excited about trying them out myself at some point.

    Well, there’s “street photography,” that in the end is about snapping random people on the sidewalk with not much else going on in the frame. And then there’s street photography, that’s deeper, more thoughtful, well-considered, releases narrative, and stirs a connection with the viewer. The gap between the two is wide. Google Glass will certainly increase the amount of pix out there falling in the first category.

    On the subject of snapping people with Google Glass, John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) cracked me up and was spot-on saying: “OK Glass, let’s be creepy.”

  6. Mary Neal says:

    What?!! You mean someone hates Google Glass other than police officers who might be filmed abusing somebody’s rights?

  7. Thomas Hawk says:

    >>>On the subject of snapping people with Google Glass, John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) cracked me up and was spot-on saying: “OK Glass, let’s be creepy.”

    Citysnaps, so you think the process is more important than the product? How an image is made is more relevant than the actual image itself? That sounds pretentious to me.

    Personally I think work should stand on its own irrespective of any particular splashy pomp and circumstance or arty flamboyance that goes along with capturing a moment. Is an image more relevant because some hipster flashed someone in the face Bruce Gilden style with a 24mm (with real film not digital of course) than the actual image itself?

    I think Google Glass is potentially just another tool for a photographer to use.

    What makes you assume that someone couldn’t use Google Glass “thoughtfully?”

    Someone spending 3 hours of their morning considering their facial hair style for the day has nothing to do with their actual photographic output.

  8. Citysnaps says:

    >>> Citysnaps, so you think the process is more important than the product? How an image is made is more relevant than the actual image itself?

    Where did I say that? No. I didn’t say or even allude to that. You (perhaps intentionally) misread me. If you re-read what I said, you can see I place value on images that are compelling; ie release narrative to conjure a story, are well-conceived, exhibit gravitas, power, mystery, etc, etc. Not on the device used to take the photo.

    To put it more plainly, for me, I care much much more about compelling photographs that communicate, over the capture device, medium, etc.

    Again, I believe Google Glass will just encourage people to quickly make ill-conceived street pix that in the end won’t convey much. Why? For the same reason hip-shooting does. You’ll see a lot of poorly composed photos of random people walking down the street without much else going on in the frame, or with little attention paid to context, nice light, shadows, etc. GG will let people who have trouble being direct and raising a camera to their eye to photograph a stranger for fear of being caught, sneak photos surreptitiously, and thus feeling the risk of being caught is minimized – just like hip-shooting, or shooting half a block down with a 200mm lens. And, like hip-shooting, there’ll be a ton of really bad street pix taken from the same POV.

  9. Citysnaps says:

    >>> You added after I posted: What makes you assume that someone couldn’t use Google Glass “thoughtfully?”

    Sure, someone can. And no doubt will. But dollars to donuts, great work from GG will be the exception. Just like there are good hip-shot photographs if one looks hard enough.

    >>> Someone spending 3 hours of their morning considering their facial hair style for the day has nothing to do with their actual photographic output.

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here.

  10. Thomas Hawk says:

    >>>But dollars to donuts, great work from GG will be the exception. Just like there are good hip-shot photographs if one looks hard enough.

    Just like dollars to donates the truly GREAT, AMAZING, RELEVANT, IMPORTANT work will be done by hipsters shooting Holga, or Diana or Leica or even better a 14mm lens straight in someone’s face (for sure with a flash and most definitely on real film not digital) will produce the most important and significant work of the next 3000 years.

    Sounds like just more basic pretension to me.

    What difference does it make “how” someone makes a photograph?

    What matters is the final image. Dismissing anyone’s choice of tool or approach (shooting from the hip?) is just more pretentiousness.

    Personally speaking I could care less what camera, tool, digital vs. film, focal length, shooting style (from the hip vs. shooting you in the face with flash) etc. any photographer used to create their image. Either the output is compelling or it isn’t. If it’s not compelling I still could give a rat’s ass. Life’s too short for worrying about such things. For the life of me I don’t understand why photographers care so much what other photographers do or how they do it.

    Trying to create some sort of “legitimacy” of photography based on how an image is produced vs. an actual image itself? Really?

  11. Thomas Hawk says:

    personally speaking I don’t think any tool is any “creepier” than any other — even if John Gruber suggests differently. Trying to paint any type of street photography or tool as “creepy” just feels wrong. Perpahs Gruber will think differently when a version of Glass has an Apple logo on it instead of a Google one. Until then, the creepy comment just feels like more of the same from the anti-change crowd.

  12. Citysnaps says:

    >>> Just like dollars to donates the truly GREAT, AMAZING, RELEVANT, IMPORTANT work will be done by hipsters shooting Holga, or Diana or Leica or even better a 14mm lens straight in someone’s face (for sure with a flash and most definitely on real film not digital) will produce the most important and significant work of the next 3000 years.

    Huh? What does that have to do with our conversation? Not that it’s important, but since you brought it up, I shoot with either a 35 or 40mm on a canon full-frame *digital*. Jeans and a t-shirt. No fedora and not a speck of plaid on me.

    >>> Sounds like just more basic pretension to me.

    I totally agree. But the above pretentiousness is the result of *your* words, not mine.

    >>> Personally speaking I could care less what camera, tool, digital vs. film, focal length, shooting style (from the hip vs. shooting you in the face with flash) etc. any photographer used to create their image. Either the output is compelling or it isn’t.

    Yup. That was my point. Glad you see it that way.

    >>> Trying to create some sort of “legitimacy” of photography based on how an image is produced vs. an actual image itself?

    Nope. Again, I care about the work produced and nowhere did I suggest a threshold for photographic “legitimacy” (your words). If someone feels the need to be sneaky rather than straigh-up in their photography, that’s cool and their decision. I’m just saying GG will unleash a barrage of photos that will more or less look the same.

  13. Thomas Hawk says:

    >>>Yup. That was my point. Glad you see it that way.

    Odd, because for a minute there it felt like you were suggesting that shooting “from the hip” or using Google Glass somehow produced inferior work vs. those that shoot 35 or 40mm full frame canon digital while wearing a more thoughtful and narrative jeans and t-shirt.

    Why not just let the work speak for itself rather than deride the style of photography before any work with it is even produced?

    Maybe someone could do far more with Google glass than the typical overdone stereotypical same old same old 35 or 40mm full frame Canon digital that we see out there today.

    I suppose that’s the whole point of my post. People tend to hate things before they really even understand what something is about. It just represents something different than what they are predisposed to and somehow they find that feels threatening, worrisome and disconcerting to them.

    I haven’t used Glass yet and have no idea if it will work as a photographic tool or not, but I’m certainly open to the possibility that it could represent a powerful new tool for photographers to use. Of course this is coming from a guy whose favorite lens is a 135mm, so what do I know.

  14. Citysnaps says:

    >>> … vs. those that shoot 35 or 40mm full frame canon digital while wearing a more thoughtful and narrative jeans and t-shirt.

    Odd, because for a minute it felt like you were hypocritically dissing “hipster” photographers shooting Holga, Diana, or Leica. Since you don’t know me, I was merely correcting the image/fantasy you formed of myself, and how I shoot on the street.

    A far as GG producing “inferior work,” well, since it’s not out yet, one can only speculate, And of course people will have different criteria characterizing good and bad work. I will say that it may be the ideal camera for those that like to sneak shots surreptitiously. You may not not find that creepy. I suspect many will.

  15. Thomas Hawk says:

    >>>I will say that it may be the ideal camera for those that like to sneak shots surreptitiously. You may not not find that creepy. I suspect many will.

    Yes, perhaps we should just dismiss it before it even arrives, God forbid if some photographer chose to shoot with THAT horrendous creepy thing instead of the more non-creepy super hip 35-40 mm full frame canon digital. We MUST protect the fashion of photography at all expense. That’s a great idea, let’s just paint this new thing as “creepy,” maybe less people will use it then and our 35-40mm world will be safer, or at a minimum we can at least feel superior and smug inside.

    You miss the point. Negative judgement of any tool or medium or style or method is inherently flawed. It’s like saying that hipsters who shoot in jeans/tshirts somehow produce better photography than some guy in a suit. Again, I’ve never shot with Glass but I prefer to keep an open mind. Maybe good street photography will come from it, maybe it won’t.

    You seem to have some bias against “creepy” photography that is done “surreptitiously.” Are you familiar with Walker Evans Subway photographs? You know, the ones where he actually painted his camera and hid it in his coat to do his work. I’m sure Evans’ work would have been *far* better had he used a Canon digital with a 35 or 40mm instead. http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walker-evans-subway-portraits-1938-41 I bet he wasn’t even wearing a tshirt and jeans when he took those photos either. The tragedy!

    What about diCorcia’s Heads? Far more “surreptitious” than Google Glass. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/14/arts/art-in-review-philip-lorca-dicorcia-heads.html

    Again, I say let the work stand for itself. “Creepy” is just another code word, like “dorky” or “nerdy” or any other word that those who oppose a new technology might use to try to dismiss it. Just because others are using Google Glass while you live in a superior 35 – 40mm bubble, so what, whatever. Live and let live. It is no affront to you. It doesn’t diminish the work that you might do. People should care less about what/how others shoot and spend more time worrying about their own work. I’d never consider any photography done by any street photographer “creepy” simply because of the tool that he chose to use to make his art.

  16. Citysnaps says:

    >>> People tend to hate things before they really even understand what something is about. It just represents something different than what they are predisposed to and somehow they find that feels threatening, worrisome and disconcerting to them.

    Well, maybe it’s because I’m a technologist/engineer/photographer, but I find it very easy to understand what GG is about and its potential. I suspect most others do as well. It’s exciting. I hardly find it threatening, worrisome, or disconcerting. It’s sad, though, that people who raise questions and issues that do not fall in line with yours, are lumped as naysayers and more, as you characterized in your opening paragraphs.

    >>> God forbid if some photographer chose to shoot with THAT horrendous creepy thing instead of the more non-creepy super hip 35-40 mm full frame canon digital. We MUST protect the fashion of photography at all expense.

    Huh??? Super hip? Why get so worked up? Fashion of photography? Does that mean you ascribe fashion sense to what people shoot with? That just feels weird.

    >>> That’s a great idea, let’s just paint this new thing as “creepy,” maybe less people will use it then and our 35-40mm world will be safer, or at a minimum we can at least feel superior and smug inside.

    Wow. Unreal… In a discussion, it’s usually a sign someone is out of gas and angry when they resort to personalizing with ad-hominem responses.

    I can understand there are aspects to GG you might not want to discuss, believing that only positive features should be discussed. Kind of a shame you feel the need to stifle and shut down that side of the conversation, rather than let discussion continue unimpeded without the aggressive and not so oblique putdowns.

  17. Thomas Hawk says:

    >>>Wow. Unreal… In a discussion, it’s usually a sign someone is out of gas and angry when they resort to personalizing with ad-hominem responses. Kind of a shame you feel the need to stifle and shut down that side of the conversation, rather than let discussion continue unimpeded without the aggressive and not so oblique putdowns.

    I’m not the guy calling the 35-40mm canon digital tshirt guy “creepy,” even under the mantle of the authority of master of photography John Gruber — nor am I angry or out of gas.

    I have no problem with how other people make their images and pass no judgment on anyone. Even if someone makes images that I don’t particularly like, why should I have a problem with that? Why the hell should what someone else does bother me? If Ansel Adams can’t get curation right, who am I to think I can?

    More personally, I’m comfortable enough in my own work not to need to feel superior over others or their methods. I’d never call any other street photography “creepy,” and I’m definitely not shutting any conversation down. My philosophy is live and let live. Let everyone work how ever they want. I prefer not to try to come up with some modern day smug “code” about what photography is good or which methods valid based on something as inane as lens focal length. I’d never call another photographer’s work shallow, thoughtless, poorly conceived narrative. What others choose to do has no impact on me or my work. Tolerance is an admirable quality. I have no bias about how people choose to work.

    What I sense as an undercurrent to your tone is that you have a problem with photography that is done “surreptitiously,” and yet so much of the history of street photography was done entirely consciously this way. To deride surreptitious photography is to dismiss the work of Walker Evans, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and so many others.

    Personally speaking I think the potential for Google Glass is interesting. It’s not something that frightens me or something I feel I need to fight or to culturally malign as geeky or creepy or dorky. Will I put down my 5D Mark III for Google Glass? I’m sure I won’t, but I suspect interesting things will be done with it photographically speaking and it’s even something I’d imagine I might work with at some point myself.

  18. Corrado says:

    Thanks for the article, I like it very much.

    At the same time, I think there is a huge difference between waiting in a queue all night to buy an iphone (which could be just a fashion statement), Egglestone photography (which is just a matter of taste) and being completely smitten by innovative technology (google glasses, or twitter, or google+, or nanorobtos) and seeing the potential. They are different things …. the first two have nothing to do with “innovation” or “change” or “being interested in and open to new technologies” in my opinion …. or with being a geek.

    I also understand some people concerns, as long they are concerns and positive critiques, rather than just negativity (we had a meeting about the potential of GG at work the other day and I was heaped with criticism for proposing to use them for working with communities, ouch!).

    Still, if I could put my hands on GG …. I have been pestering right and left to have the prototypes sent in EU as well ….

  19. HATER says:

    HATE IT!!!! IT WILL FAIL!!! BOOOOOOO!!!!!

  20. Excellent article Thomas. Thank you for writing it. I too share the same voice, people should embrace change.

    Change it the best thing that could ever happen to an individual and society. I know because I choose to change all the time. Life would be boring without it!

    Whether I’m moving house, changing to a new job or meeting a new circle of people, I’m always on the lookout for new technology that will change the way I live and the way I interact with people.
    I think Google Glass is one of the best developments to connect with the people I care about. The best thing is it doesn’t interrupt your life.
    I can’t wait to get Glass in Australia so I can stop looking down at my phone….what a change that would be…I say bring on the future!

  21. Larry says:

    Change is good. People should have the opportunity to make their own minds up about ANY product. But their are significant privacy and safety concerns with Glass that cannot be ignored. While these issues are similar with smartphones they are heightened by a wearable technology which makes it easier to ‘conceal’ recording, streaming, photographing, tracking, etc. not just by the owner but potentially by hackers or law enforcement. Glass might be ‘what’s next’ or it may be a stepping stone to something else. Either way we have some critical issues to resolve. I know that people like Scoble don’t care about privacy issues but that doesn’t mean that they should not respect those who do. I suspect at some point it will be litigated anyway.

  22. Joe T says:

    This is one of the most self serving, immature articles masquerading as intelligent discourse on future trends. Hint for the author: if you don’t want to get a huge pile of people angry at you, stop drawing “me/us vs them” comparisons with your prose. It’s so ridiculously over the top that I couldn’t make it past the first few paragraphs.

    Change is good. So is healthy skepticism.

  23. Thomas Hawk says:

    Joe, healthy skepticism is good. Thoughtless, baseless anti-change criticism trying to masquerade as healthy skepticism, not so much.

    If Google Glass is not for someone, fine, no problem, but for those who dislike it to come up with arguments about how it looks dorky or geeky or is being worn by too many white men (there’s a whole site dedicated to the fact that some of the early adopters are white men), this is not healthy skepticism at all. This is just folks who dislike the product trying to frame it as unfashionable in the hopes that others won’t like it and they won’t have to deal with it. I see no difference between those who were bashing the iPhone, or color photography, or photo sharing, or Twitter or whatever. All of these people thought they were expressing healthy skepticism as well. My friends who swore they’d never be on Twitter or own an iPhone, or post photos online, or whatever, guess what, they all do now. They realize now that their arguments about Twitter being a “fad” or whatever were just wrong and dumb.

    If you want to express actual intelligent healthy skepticism, go for it, pointing people to a page that shows white dudes wearing Google Glass certainly isn’t that and that’s the sort of criticism that I’m mostly seeing and that I’m addressing more specifically with my post.

  24. Mary Ellen Gaucin says:

    You put into words what many people are thinking..thanks

  25. Great article Thomas. Skepticism is indeed good. :)

    I agree that the tool used to create a photograph is irrelevant and that the end product is the most important thing.
    Having said that I still prefer old film to digital. Probably an age thing.

    Great content here from all sides.