Integrating the new hotnessGetting to know a tool before pigeonholing it

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A few days ago I got a super-special birthday present (xoxo, Alex!): a new 12" Cintiq, Wacom's combination graphic tablet and display.

I don't doubt that it's going to revolutionize the way that I draw Noise to Signal. It integrates the retouching phase and does away with that whole scanning phase, not to mention the chasing-the-three-year-old-who-grabbed-the-pen-and-ink phase and the scrubbing-the-ink-off-the-three-year-old phase.

But it's not exactly portable. The tablet comes with an external power supply, a converter box and a slew of cables - and now, for the sake of everyone's sanity, its own carrying case (h/t Kate Trgovac).

My intention was to park it somewhere instead of hauling it from place to place, but Alex had wise advice: take it around with me, use it in several circumstances and see how it could be useful. Because while I think right now that I know how I'll use it, I actually don't.

This is a tool with unknown possibilities. Maybe it'll turn out to be great for taking notes, for mocking up ideas or for sketchblogging. Maybe I'll cartoon with it, but it will change the way I do that in some way.

Most really powerful tools are the same way. That's especially true for the tools of the social web: even the oldest ones are still new by most standards, and it seems every week brings another innovative way of applying them.

A way for geeks to log their daily web surfing highlights becomes a way for someone to share their cancer battle with a circle of loved ones; a way to keep tabs on blog updates becomes the engine behind podcasting; a way to share videos of cute animal tricks becomes a tremendously effective political communications vehicle affecting the outcome of a presidential election.

Which is a good cautionary note for any of us working in the field. It's tempting to pigeonhole tools: Twitter works for this, Facebook is for that, mobile is for the other.

But if you can count on one thing in Web 2.0, it's that no category is permanent. Somewhere out there, someone who hasn't pigeonholed those tools is going to find an amazing new use for them, a way to reach people in a way they haven't been reached before.

Hey - why shouldn't that person be you?

Cintiq photo: Tobias Rütten. Used under a Creative Commons license.

(me on the sofa using my Cintiq, while the hand of God points to it) I think the Cintiq's going to work out.


Rob Cottingham says

June 2, 2009 - 11:15pm

I've just noticed the cartoon omits the converter box and power supply. Why, you're welcome, Wacom marketing department!

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