Artful Surprise

I am proud of my son for his talents and choices, but I have to be honest that Art hasn’t been his forte.

But, then I was surprised. I walked into my sister-in-law’s new apartment in Beacon Hill for the first time, and saw a funny piece of art on the wall.

“Where did you get that?”, I asked.

“Sam drew it!”

Huh! The beauty of art is that it does come in so many shapes and sizes. I can’t wait to see what more I learn about my son as he grows.

Productivity; meta tools versus specific

I am always looking to experiment and adapt my tools and processes. One area that I churn a lot on is in managing goals and actions.

There are so many tools in my life here.

– Basecamp projects
– Wikis
– Issue trackers
– GitHub repos
– Todo list systems
– Document storage (Dropbox / Evernote)

I am often torn between single purpose tools that are highly tailored to a problem and general purpose ones.

With single purpose tools, they are either just right (GitHub for source control) or more likely, they do some things in a way I dislike, or lack features entirely. Take todo systems. Ideally I would be able to slice and dice the systems so they work with my wife as well as work issues.

With meta tools, I gain the flexibility that I desire (to get the system “just right” for me) but I now don’t have an opinionated framework to help me have less choices. pushes the “user story” with a certain format which isn’t something I always like, but it is something I don’t have to think about.

I have been enjoying a couple of meta frameworks recently: WorkFlowy and Asana.


Such a simple idea. You store your information as a tree of nodes. You
can go as deep and nested as you would like, and you can share any
node with someone else. You definitely need to garden your system a la
Wiki, and it breaks down when you want to embed documents vs. streams
of lists, but it lets you setup your info how you want too. I can keep
my todo list in the same place as meeting notes and staff reviews.


Here we get a touch more structure. Workspaces, Projects, Tasks, Subtasks. Within that structure you can manufacture the right process for you and your team. You can split up your world (personal vs. work for example) but also easily move items around.

I am still on the lookout a better process. One that maps my long term goals to short term ones, and shows me what I should be spending time on. I often find that without the grounding, I can easily end up working on what is fun vs. what is needed to be done. Email is a bane, since if you don’t structure your time with it you have folks pushing their itinerary onto your time. The calendar is another example of this. If I don’t map out my weekly goals to time on the calendar to get the work done, meetings will be injected and I won’t be able to garner success.

Does any one else feel the same?

Entering the evolution phase of mobile + product leaks – fearless leader = less exciting talks

Some are disappointed in the iPhone 5 announcements today. There were no surprises. No “one more thing” of the Tim Cook era.

This isn’t to say that solid progress wasn’t made, but it shows what a different time we are in.

There are the calls of “see! Steve isn’t there any more! Apple is doomed!” That is hogwash, and we need to put this all in perspective:

1. They will sell a boat load of devices

Ask someone who wasn’t happy about the event “are you going to get one?” and see what they say. Every Apple user that I have asked has said yes. The device in your pocket has become indespensble. I don’t want to get all Jonny Ive on you, but it is very personal indeed. Making something that you touch and use constantly even a little better can be “worth it.”

2. The iPhone 5 has fierce competition, including iPhone 4S!

What is Windows 8’s biggest competition? Windows XP (and other old versions). This is the nature of a more mature market. The first iPhone competed with feature phones and Blackberry devices! It was a revolution in mobile in that it brought the full Web to your pocket (and the other items that Steve mentioned… such as unifying music and the phone itself).

There was still much room to improve. We got the biggest feature of all in “apps”, which is still the biggest reason to be an iOS user. We got faster connectivity. We got amazing displays.

Fast forward to today though, and you see much more niche features. Going from the iPhone 4S display to the 5’s will be fantastic, but not in the same league as moving from a RAZR to an iPhone. We also have the real competition of the Android ecosystem.

I am sitting on a plane right now and the flight attendent is telling me how she switched from iOS to Android and a Galaxy S3. She was thinking of switching back to the iPhone 5 but after hearing the news she doesn’t want to. I asked why and she said:

– I want my music and apps free (perception of cheap cheap cheap on Android)
– I prefer the S3 screen (size and quality… note she has never actually seen the 5’s screen 😉
– I prefer Google Now to Siri
– I prefer apps such as Gmail, Google Maps and driving directions, and others.

It is interesting to get a few into the perceptions. Android is doing very well indeed and is a force. I would argue that Google is innovating faster than Apple in many ways, especially on the “services” side (e.g. Google Now) and that favors Google. We are at a point where hardware is getting better but software is huge, and we are going from simple algorythms to truly complex (it is hard to get Google Now right!)

Where do we go from here? What were you hoping for? For me I would love to see leaps in the areas of:

– NFC-ish. Google Wallet is awful. I have yet to see it work, and Apple has an obvious play here.
– Inputs: Haptics, better software input (SwiftKey, Swype, etc)
– Siri that works
– Airplay that really works
– Decent stereo speakers
– The fold out displays 🙂
– Camera that works in low light

Game on.