Did You Miss Me?

whatweknow-logoI’m back! As some of you may have noticed (at least based on emails I get), for the past three-plus years my byline has not appeared in any AV Industry publications, print or online, with the sole exception of a short lived participation during Cindy Davis’s era running the Tech Decisions online magazine. There is a reason for this absence, and I think you are owed the reasons and why I have decided to return.

Frankly, the lack of presence was driven entirely by a deliberate decision not to appear within the kind of ‘environments’ that had become the norm for most of the industry’s mainline publications. The lack of what I consider useful and helpful content, thoughtfully written and well researched information really bothered me, because I felt it was doing a disservice to and disrespecting the readership, and not offering what the original intention of most of those publications had been.

They had all drifted off into content which I candidly considered pabulum, and since my focus has always been on useful, technical content that provides answers and resources to the reader, I could not find a place where I could be comfortable contributing.

So you might logically ask, why rAVe and why now? Frankly, when Gary Kayye of rAVe contacted me a few weeks ago and suggested contributing, I was somewhat cautious about committing to the idea. After looking into the content produced by rAVe and its various newsletters and other online digital publications, I found something unique.

I found in rAVe a publisher that was truly focused on our industry and was very careful to separate PR and manufacturer marketing content from real editorial and opinion content. More importantly, rAVe was NOT involved in any show awards or other similar activities, which to me always bring with them a conflicts of interest problem for technical editorial, since advertisers and those seeking awards can and do apply pressure to get consideration and positioning. This is precisely why I had stayed away from every other industry publication.

The why now is because as I have watched the industry explode into new technologies and grow with new manufacturers, I’ve developed a significant concern. What I was seeing and continue to see is a large amount of technology being literally thrown at projects for the sake of the technology itself, with little or no consideration of actual need or proper analysis of the best solution to the problem(s) being presented. This increasingly common approach is simply WRONG!

For 30+ years, I have always tried to write about technology and applications from a very specific problem/solution focus. This means looking at what the issues are and seeking to solve them with the right mix of products, software, and design to create the best and most cost effective answer, not the latest and greatest necessarily, but the most user friendly and practical — and there is a real difference between the two!

Just because you can hang a line array in a church does not mean you should, for example. Unfortunately, almost all manufacturers’ marketing and promotion departments often present products as the single best answer/solution to all applications. The reality is very, very different, because no single type of product is the best answer to every problem, no matter how sophisticated it might be.

I don’t blame manufacturers alone for this mindset — they are trying to sell product. The culpability falls equally on integrators and designers, who choose to use a product because it’s the newest box on the block, without really thinking things through to find out if that is really the best answer to the problem.

What’s getting lost in this rush to install this week’s hot product is the design and proper engineering analysis to be certain that the offered solution is really what the project requires and what will best serve the users’ actual (not necessarily perceived) needs and requirements.

What rAVe has offered me is the opportunity to explore these issues and many related topics in detail and without constraints. Candidly speaking that is the only way I felt it could and should be done. Having to walk a thin line avoiding any possible reaction from manufacturers, advertisers or frankly anyone else with an axe to grind was not what I wanted to do and was not what I was going to do.

Being required to include a product, company or advertiser in bylined content is not something I have ever been comfortable with. If the topic warrants such inclusion, fine, but having it be necessary to satisfy non-content related objectives or political pressure is not they way that best serves you readers. Thus, I stopped until I could find a vehicle that did not present that problem.

What you will find in these columns is useful information, objective commentary and analysis, practical suggestions, and thoughtful — if sometimes opinionated — content designed to help you make intelligent decisions on technologies and methodologies.

You will not find content written to satisfy someone else’s requirements, or some marketing program’s goals. You will never see product reviews or promotional garbage about some magic technological solution. After more than 35 years in this industry and across hundreds of projects and designs, I have learned that that approach is not viable.

There might be a bit of curmudgeonliness in these words going forward, and certainly a solid dose of “beware of solutions that seem to be too good to be true” or violate basic laws of physics — because mother nature doesn’t like things that don’t line up with the universe’s reality.

Just in case anyone has forgotten (and some products seem to make a real effort to do so), the laws of physics have not changed since the beginning of the universe as we know it, and are not likely to do so in the future.

Over the next months we will explore these and other issues. I encourage you to comment on anything and email your comments to rAVe or me. I promise to read them and reply if needed. Your opinions are valuable and since these columns are designed to make you think, don’t hesitate to make your thoughts known. See you next month.