Rolling the Technology Dice I – Alas poor Flip I knew you well

I’d meant to sit down and write this post after this story broke, but the writing gods have not be kind to me.

When you are making technology decisions for your archive. You spend hours on listservs. You read review after review. You try to find the appropriate standards to follow. You think about the knowledge base of the primary users. Then you look at your budget and come up with compromise for what you end up purchasing. Often times things work out, but sometimes with the planets align just so, you become humbled, angry and not sure what to do because you find you’ve created an entire program around a piece of technology that is either obsolete or soon to be. That’s how I feel after reading all the articles(I read all of them) about Cisco’s decision to kill the Flip camera line.

Beyond questioning the why and how, I find myself going back to my original decision to request flip cameras for Special Collections. The process started with our need for a video camera for our emerging Oral History Program. I wanted a few things from any camera for our program:

  1. Within budget (Cheap)
  2. Ease of use (I didn’t want to spend a large amount of time learning the camera and training everyone else to use it.)
  3. Standard recording format

I chose the Flip because it fit all three criteria, and all the reviews were fairly positive. I know the moving and low light video wasn’t great, but all of our recording was to be seated in well lite rooms. I knew that the flip recorded in the mp4 format, which was viewable on any system even if its a compressed file format. On top of all this, the darn things are simple to use.

Turn on push the big red button and boom.

Did I mention how cheap it was? With all these positives forces behind me, I submitted the PO, and we were off to start an Oral History program with one Flip and two to be ordered later.

Apparently in my satisfaction, I missed how Cisco’s profits were tanking, and didn’t think that multifunction devices, like the iphone, were killing the Flip. I was taken completely aback by the fact that the cameras were being phased out. I actually had an order out for a couple of cameras.  Should I stop the order? Should I find another camera? Am I a horrible judge of technology?

That last question is the one that probably shook me to the core more than any other. I think it’s one that those of us who make technology related decisions struggle with quite often. I’ve developed a reputation as a “tech” person, and this kind of thing ruins your street creed when you are a “tech” person.

What was I to do?

How did this affect our oral history program?

How could I avoid making a big mistake like this in the future?

More next time it Part II