Dear Apple

As you race to catch up to (and hopefully pass) Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers, I have a suggestion. Find out if I’m an anomaly. Specifically, my craving for silence. If others feel similarly, you may want to tweak HomePod’s design as you continue to refine it before December’s release.

As a card carrying introvert, I have limits on how much I can interact with people, or people-like personal tech, each and every day. At a certain point, I need silence to recharge. That’s why I silenced Waze, my fav app, after a few days of use. Why would anyone choose to fill their car with an automated voice when they can easily read the turn directions in blessed silence? Similarly, my phone only “rings” when three people call me. Voicemail is one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

I was conscious of my quirky commitment to silence a few years ago, when outside of Portland, a friend of mine spoke an address into his phone before we headed out. That struck me as really odd, why not just type in the address I remember thinking. I want to save my finite number of words for people, not my iPhone or my future HomePod. And I don’t want my pocket computer or HomePod to ask anything of me or to speak to me. Just show me where to turn and stream Marvin Gaye.

So since HomePod isn’t shipping until December, use the intervening time to figure out whether “quirky” is the apt adjective for my condition or whether there is in fact an underreported “silence is golden” contingent that embraces technology, but seeks work-arounds to the growing expectation that we have to talk to our tech.

Batting for Average versus Power

John Gruber on the Apple Watch and iPhone.

“The nut of every “Apple Watch is a dud” story is the fact that its clearly not an iPhone-size business. But that can’t be the only measure of success. The iPhone is the biggest and most successful consumer product in the history of the world. Nothing compares to the smartphone market, and it’s possible nothing else will in our lifetimes. You and I may never again see a product as profitable as the iPhone — not just from Apple, but from any company in any industry. Or maybe we will. It’s a complete unknown.

But if Apple gets it into its head that they should only work on iPhone-sized opportunities, it would paralyze the company. In baseball terms, it’s fine for Apple to hit a bunch of singles while waiting for their next home run. According to Apple, they had more watch sales by revenue in 2015 than any company other than Rolex, and Apple’s “Other” category, which is where Watch sales are accounted for, had a record-breaking holiday quarter three months ago, suggesting strongly that Watch sales were up over the year-ago holiday quarter.

These two facts are both true: Apple Watch sales are a rounding error compared to the iPhone, and Apple Watch is a smash hit compared to traditional watches and other wearable devices.”

Yet Another Case Study of Mindless Personal Technology Hype

Brought you by Geoffrey A. Fowler of the rapidly deteriorating  Wall Street Journal.

Is this dude on the AAPL payroll? He writes:

Bluetooth earphones are a thing now, so you might as well buy the best.

That short, vapid sentence speaks volumes about “journalism” in the era of consumerism. For the sake of fitting in, I certainly hope you join the Wireless Headphone Club this Christmas season. Nothing worse than being on the outside looking in. Cue the advert with baby Jesus in the crib with AirPods dangling from his tiny ears.

GAF continues:

Totally untethered headphones are a delight to use, especially when you’re on the move. No more untangling the spaghetti at the bottom of your bag. No more slap slap slap on your neck when you jog. No more being tethered to your phone like a marionette.

Maybe I just haven’t realized it. How long have my tangled wired headphones been keeping me from being my best version of myself? I won’t be joining the Wireless Headphone Club yet because I’m perfectly content running with an iPod Nano.* Hey GAF, News Alert: When running, I completely forget about my Nano and headphones. Someone at the Journal slap GAF for his “slap, slap, slap” hyperbole.

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* I’m waiting until your AirPods purchases drive my AAPL stock up $159. :)

Techies, Solve This Scourge Already

Last night at Vic’s Pizzeria, while I waited for The Good Wife to bus her dishes, I read a flyer announcing some kind of Trail Celebration. I was intrigued but wasn’t sure if it was a trail run or something else altogether. When I saw the event took place on November 12th, four days earlier, I gave up trying to make sense of it.

Granted, compared to electing a celebrity buffoon President, dated flyers may not inspire much outrage, but this is an underappreciated scourge. I probably feel this way because college campuses are littered with announcements about foreign films, guest lectures, job fairs, and celebrity buffoon President protests that took place yesterday, last week, or three months ago. And litter is the operative word, especially for my minimalist friends and me. You can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by yesterday’s news.

Which begs the question, in this digital age, why are we still felling trees to announce trail celebrations and foreign films? Why haven’t the techies created affordable digital bulletin boards with EXPIRATION DATES attached to each announcement. So the foreign film announcement disappears at the exact time and day at which it’s shown. Is that asking too much?

How To Find a Boyfriend

In case you’re looking for one. In one word, PowerPoint*. So says Jessica Guzik.

And if you’re looking for one, and are not a serious gamer, you should probably limit your search to college grads. Economist Erik Hurst via economist Tyler Cowen on what young men are doing.

In related news, I’m slowly working my way through The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing The Patterns Of Intimate Relationships. I think HLerner knew if she pitched it as a “Woman’s Guide” I couldn’t help myself. Savvy. A pgraph to ponder from the early going:

Making a long-term relationship work is a difficult business because it requires the capacity to strike a balance between individualism (the “I”) and togetherness (the “we”). The tugs in both directions are very strong. On the one hand, we want to be separate, independent individuals—self-contained persons in our own right: on the other, we seek a sense of connectedness and intimacy with another person, as well as a sense of belongingness to a family or group. When a couple gets out of balance in either direction, there is a problem.

The Good Wife and I successfully balance that seesaw about a third of the time. Which if we played professional baseball, would make us All Stars.

*nice to know PowerPoint isn’t a complete catastrophe

The Lure of Technology

Last week at the U, two adherents of The Maker Movement tried convincing an audience that letting young students create tech-based products is a panacea for improved schooling. Students are making small robots that can bowl they enthused and ties that light up when a room darkens. And someday, they intimated, they’ll build a frig that will notify you or the grocery store when you’re almost out of milk.

Like tele-evangelists, the two speakers said they weren’t advocating for technology for technology’s sake, but that’s exactly what I took away from their altogether uninspiring examples.

Seventy-five percent of what young and old technologists produce is unadulterated gimmickry. Another 24 percent makes life a tad more convenient, which shouldn’t necessarily be mistaken with “better”. When I opened my refrigerator this morning, I saw that I was out of milk. We sold our previous house without photos from overhead.

One percent of technological innovation fundamentally improves the quality of people’s lives. My friend who makes educational apps for autistic children is a one-percenter.

No one has made an app or device that helps me communicate better with my wife. Despite the Maker Movement and related Technological Revolution, I still say and do stupid things that upset her. More generally, where’s the technology that ameliorates gender, racial, political, economic, religious differences? The technology that creates improved interpersonal relationships, and kinder, more caring communities?

I’m not holding my breath.

 

 

 

Nostalgia’s Lure

The move is 95% complete, meaning apart from my fancy pants $10 pen and running gloves, I can find most things most of the time. It also means I’m piecing my routines back together, including the morning green tea latte and the evening viewing of Grand Design.

Taking stock of everything we own has inspired lots of thinking. In particular, taking stock of our photographs and related mementos of people and experiences. I can’t help but wonder, why are we so insistent on taking, storing, framing, and otherwise archiving so many pictures? More simply, why does the past have such a hold on us?

Positive psychologists keep telling us that meaningful relationships with family and friends is the key to happiness. I wonder, do the seemingly endless images, photographs, and related memorabilia of people from our past, whether alive or not, constitute some sort of community? I’d be more inclined to think that they represent some sort of social capital, if we looked at them and talked about them with some regularity, but we don’t because we have way too many. Most of them are out of sight and mind all of the time.

And I wonder if there’s an opportunity cost to nostalgia for the past. I’ve wondered this for at least 15 years, about the time I started going to my childrens’ recitals and school plays. Inevitably, many of my peers arrived armed with tri-pods and the smallest, newest video players, working hard to record the events to the best of their abilities. Sometimes I thought those events were pretty grueling live, and couldn’t imagine gathering friends and family to watch them again at a later date. Watching legions of amateur videographers made me wonder if you can be fully present when in “recording” or “documenting” mode?

There’s also an opportunity cost to the ease of digital storage today. An author of a recently released book states that U.S. citizens take more pictures in two minutes than were taken by everyone in the world in the 19th century. The end result, is endless hours of video and tens of thousands of images that make any one minute of video or any particular image much less valuable. We’re left with no needles, just digital haystacks.

I’m always skeptical of wildly popular trends, and mindfulness is getting close to qualifying, but I’m down with it because it’s main emphasis is on being fully present, meaning not living in the past or future, which of course sounds much easier than it is. What if we were to delete some of our images we haven’t looked at for years or chuck entire photo albums from the 1980s? Could it help us be more mindful, more present with those we will interact with today?

Ultimately, I suspect our penchant for photography and videography are manifestations of our fear of being alone and of dying someday. If I’m right, as we age, those impulses will intensify. But taking more pictures won’t extend our lives, so I’m going to swim against the status quo current. I’m going to take fewer pictures to both appreciate them more and be more mindful.

I’m not trying to convince you to join me in taking and storing fewer pictures. Like a lot of what I write, I could have this all wrong. Maybe my minimalist tendencies are getting the best of me. Maybe you’ll end up convincing me that I need to stop with the incessant questions and get a lot more snap happy.

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