Friday, July 29, 2022

Sidebar: Shopping in the YouTube age

Continuing a particular aspect of that why I hate videos post: information paralysis. It hits me whenever I have to buy camera equipment, or electronics, or computer related products. It's always a manic descent into the hell of comparisons of irrelevant minutiae. 

It's a peculiar thing of this digital age: the endless gathering of more data than you will ever be able to use in the whole remainder of your now-miserable life. Doing something and living with it is intolerable, we need to get everything right in advance, before risking anything. 

Except by doing that we're not avoiding risk, we're committing to something worse: a whole lot of time wasted on frustrating, largely hypothetical, partially-informed data analysis. And never getting around to the thing we said we wanted to do. 

All you really want to know is: is it a good value, is it going to do what I want, is it going to work for a long time. Will I like it, will it be enough of an improvement on what I have to be worth the purchase.

What to do is:

Just buy some things, live with them awhile, find out how well they suit your needs. Learn their shortcomings with respect to same, find something better next time. Get stuff, use stuff, get better stuff based on that experience.

Stop trying to cover your ass for every possible hypothetical situation they just told you about, put the focus on what you're doing, not the consumer item you're using to do it. Do the thing. 

Usually, what you get will be good enough, and if not, your actual loss is minimal... if you didn't approach it like a jackass, spending way too much money buying a new item because you have a fetish for shiny things and unwrapping virgin packages untainted by human hands.  

It helps to find out what's normal, what everybody uses— not the rabble, the smaller number of people who are serious about an activity. Low budget professionals, who buy infrequently, and use it a lot. Like a lot of problems created by the internet, it's solved by talking to people.   

Finally, about how product lines are designed:

A lot of very new, very expensive, rapidly depreciating items are intended for moneyed bleeding-edgers. They'll have some awesome wonder-features that create the illusion of “changing the game”— they do not, “the game” is always about fundamentals— and may be designed to render some previous reasonably priced workhorse item obsolete.

What pros use is usually a level below that— “pros” being people who use the thing as their main business, or use it in the course of doing another kind of business. But professionals spend their money wisely*, and can often do their work with years-old equipment. Which is where the best value is generally found in used gear— moderately priced moderately old used pro stuff. This type of thing tends to hold its resale value after its a few years old.  

*- There are certainly some big money, high volume pros who constantly
update to the newest thing, but that's definitely not me, probably not you. 

There's a large middle grade “pro-sumer” area for more or less normal people who are into the hobby, who like new stuff, but don't have unlimited money to spend. These are mostly perfectly functional for most people, even some pros/professional situations, but does not hold its value over time. Neither a good nor terrible value. 

And there's the cheap junk, for broke or permanently poor people. Maybe it's very cheap, but still overpriced for what it is. The economics are designed to bleed poor people dry. Instead of spending $1500 once in ten years (that you can recover at the end), you spend $3000 spread out over ten years, ending up with a lot of valueless junk. The products are designed to be semi-usable for a time, and virtual waste when you're done with them. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Todd, you nailed this! Nice job.