Adding Something New to the World

 

The world built by the Internet is one of convenience. Buy anything without leaving your house. All knowledge is nearby and that’s a lot of knowledge, but don’t worry, everyone is pre-chewing it for you and sharing it in every way possible. They’re sharing that and other interesting moments all day and you’re beginning to believe that these shared moments are close to disposable because you are flooded with them.

You’re fucking swimming in everyone else’s moments, likes, and tweets and during these moments of consumption you are coming to believe that their brief interestingness to others makes it somehow relevant to you and worth your time.

...

This is not a reminder to over-analyze each moment and make them count. This is a reminder not to let a digital world full of others’ moments deceive you into devaluing your own. Their moments are infinite – yours are finite, too, and precious – and this New Year I’m wondering how much we want to create versus consume.

I need to hear this. I've been thinking about the balance of consuming information vs creation and Rands nailed it.

 

Thirty Eight

 

I posted Thirty Seven last year after being inspired by a similar list posted by Noah Stokes. Here is this year’s list of things I’ve learned.

  1. Taking at least one photo each day isn’t that hard and you can watch yourself get better.
  2. There is a certain kind of relief that happens once you scratch something shiny and new for the first time. It’s like you can finally use it.
  3. Raw Spinach is fantastic. I avoided it for years, but discovered that it is a miracle food this year. Baby spinach is easier to eat in a salad. After 37 years, I also started liking Avocados. I guess tastes do change.
  4. My wife is my perfect complement. She fills in my gaps and makes me a better man than I could be by myself. This happens so often I sometimes forget that I don't have it this together on my own.
  5. I really like having a computer that I don’t share with anyone else. This past few weeks is the first time that has ever been true.
  6. Sales isn’t really about sales. It’s about relationships and being trustworthy.
  7. Though gear is fun to have and think about, it doesn’t make you better at whatever you are trying to do.
  8. 1 regular length prime lens is really all you need.
  9. Living simply is good, but getting rid of complication is hard.
  10. If you truly listen to people, it makes you a better person.
  11. I’m probably more selfish than my children. It’s learned over time. I hope to teach them to learn differently.
  12. Vampires are dumb.
  13. Clutter is suffocating.
  14. I wish I could enjoy this particular moment in my kid’s live as much as I will miss it when it’s gone.
  15. I try to find the best version of everything, then decide if I really need the best.
  16. It’s okay to carry a camera with you most everywhere you go.
  17. The best way to remember something like your wallet or keys consistently is to make a habit out of it.
  18. I feel more focused as I eliminate small, insignificant decisions like shirt color and meal choices.
  19. A small dab of moisturizing lotion on my face after shaving is a good habit and makes my skin feel better all day.
  20. My sons are too smart for their own good. They ask questions I didn’t even know they could think.
  21. Looped carpet with a big dog and kids is not a good choice. Go for the pile. It wears better. Hardwoods are even better, but it’s more obvious when they are dirty.
  22. Fun socks don’t cost any more than boring socks. I choose fun.
  23. Hawaii feels like home. How did I not go sooner?
  24. Drinking lots of water makes me feel 50% better each day.
  25. Sleeping 7 hours does the same, but 8 is too much.
  26. For the first time this year, I've had more moments when I felt like an adult than moments where I felt like a kid.
  27. It almost always takes me 3 times to remember someone’s name. 3rd time really is the charm.
  28. Just because I'm 38, doesn't mean I don't still love Legos.
  29. The older I get, the less being right makes me feel better.
  30. My best friends don't create drama in my life.
  31. When it comes to photography, and writing, I've learned to edit and delete ruthlessly.
  32. As a dad, it's important to wrestle and laugh loudly at burps and farts with my kids.
  33. Farts and burps are funny.
  34. Don't treat work clients better than your friends. Return their calls, emails and texts quickly. It's just the right thing to do.
  35. Strive to be awesome at one thing. It's better than half-assing multiple things.
  36. It is a virtue to say exactly what you mean. I despise subtext and unsaid expectations.
  37. The best cup of coffee I've ever had was made by grinding some beans and then pouring hot water over the grounds. It doesn't need to be complicated.
  38. When making photos, I’m aiming to capture the way it actually felt to be there.
 

Publish Your Own Stuff

Love this post by CJ Chilvers over on his site- A Lesser Photographer

If you have an obsession, don't seek permission from others to publish your views. Own your content, stop sharecropping on someone else's platform and get your stories out there.

You might be thinking, "But Dan, you post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr and Twitter." That is certainly true and I value the communities and interaction on each, but make no mistake - this is the canonical home for my work.

13" Retina Macbook Pro

New Machine

This past week I visited the Apple Store near my office and walked out with a 13" Retina MacBook Pro. No, it wasn’t an impulse buy, but something I’ve been considering for a long time. Things just finally came together. It really is an amazing machine in a lot of ways.

I have been using Macs and Apple products exclusively since 2006 when I bought a Black Macbook which I will likely be decommisioning. The trackpad has had problems for a couple of years and it can’t run anything newer than OSX Snow Leopard. We’ve had it set up as a desktop with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but we haven’t really used it much. We replaced it with a 15” Macbook Pro in early 2011. So, I'm not really replacing anything with this new one as we are keeping that one. It really is a great machine too and will be used even more by my wife when she works from home.

She works in Excel quite a bit and one day last week I asked if she could save and close the individual pages when she is done as I'm always unsure if they need to be saved. Her reply without even looking up from her iPhone-

"You need your own computer."

As you can probably guess, I did a silent fist pump in my head and started planning. It's a good thing I asked about that doument too because the top page had already been updated and saved on her machine at work.

Why This Model?

When I was putting together my mental list, I had a few non-negotiables.

Size

First of all, I've owned both the 13" and the 15" form. I knew that this time around I wanted a smaller machine. The larger screen is nice, but I don't feel that it's worth the extra size and weight. I actually considered the 11” Air, but I’d need an external display and be stuck at a desk for photo editing.

Memory

Secondly, one of my most used applications is Lightroom. It uses a lot of RAM and I've found that 8gbs works well but 4 isn't enough.

Hard Drive

Third, I don't think that it makes sense to buy a computer with a spinning drive at this point. SSDs are faster, with less moving parts and Apple is clearly moving this way with every line they make.

After all of these items were considered, the only two machines left for consideration were the 13" MacBook Air and the 13" Retina.

The only real question left after these items are out there was this:

Retina Display?

I weighed out the pros and cons of each and decided that in 2013 it doesn't make sense to buy a computer I hope to use for the next few years without a Retina display. It is clearly the way of the future and I believe that all of Apple's computers will ship with them within the next year. I could have had a technically faster machine for the same price had I chosen the Air, but it didn’t feel right.

Isn’t this one less capable than the 15” model?

The 13" MacBook Pro (non Retina) is Apple's best selling Mac to date. It has also been knocked by folks in the tech community for being a less capable machine. The Retina model shares some of these and I’ll just tell you here that for what I do, these “limitations” don’t matter.

The criticisms I’ve seen are: Screen size, integrated graphics card and limited RAM options.

There are plenty of reviews out there on this machine, but it feels to me like most of them are written from the perspective of a hypothetical power user. I’m not that guy. I use mine for editing and handling photos in Lightroom, writing in Byword, and Website management in Chrome or Safari. Of course, I use many other great apps, but they all pretty much serve these three purposes.

I think the average consumer assumes that the only difference between different size Macbooks is the size. That isn't true however as the larger machines almost always come with superior features, parts and specs. The 15” model is more powerful and that premium you pay isn’t just for the larger size.

Here are a few examples: The 13" Retina comes standard with 8gb of RAM with no option to upgrade to more. The 15" can be ordered with 16gb. The 13” uses a dual core processer while the 15 gets a quad core. That is going to make a difference with tasks that are CPU intensive. Another difference is that the 13" has no discreet video card and all processing for the display is handled by the primary chipset. The 15" has a discreet, stand-alone graphics card which frees up the CPU for other tasks. More drive space is included with the larger machines too. Pretty much across the board, when you choose a physically larger machine, the base model will come with more storage capacity.

Here’s the official Apple comparison spec page if you want all the details.

Conclusion

If you are doing video editing, code compiling, heavy Photo shop or gaming, perhaps you should consider the 15. The quad-core processor and discreet video card will make a noticeable difference. In addition, if the 2560 x 1600 isn’t enough and you truly do need 2880 x 1800 maybe go for the bigger model. If you love the idea of a fast, light weight and agile machine with a smaller footprint, you should seriously consider this one.

Here’s what it really comes down to- This computer is only about a half pound heavier than the 13” Macbook Air which has gained a reputation for being so lightweight and well designed that it spawned the Ultrabook name and race. Truly, this machine has more in common with the Macbook Air than with the 15” Retina model. As I’m typing this out on this svelte aluminum body with backlit keys, the display is perhaps the one thing that feels like it’s unmistakeably from the future.

iCloud vs Dropbox

I really like Dan Moren's acticle on iCloud from MacWorld.

Looking at iCloud in particular, it seems that Apple's approach to sharing is almost antithetical to the concept itself. The online service rigidly defines what you can share and how you can share it; its primary directive often seems to be to keep you inside Apple’s ecosystem.

He nails a lot of the reason that I don't use iCloud in the way that Apple would like me to. I use Dropbox for most of my document management.

Here is how I feel about it:

iCloud is for backups and for syncing data between devices for some apps- a good example would be a podcasting app like Downcast or Instacast.

Dropbox is for files that you want to access from multiple applications/devices/platforms/operating systems.

A good example of this would be Byword, where I write most of my posts, notes and any other type of writing. I could use iCloud for this, but then I wouldn't we able to access it from a device that isn't mine and/or doesn't have Byword installed.

Another example would be my photography workflow. I save incoming photos in Lightroom on one of my hard drives. My final edits however, are saved to a folder on Dropbox so that I can easily access and post them from whatever device I happen to be using.

I also love that I can share anything I'm working on with anybody else by just sending them the dropbox link.


If you haven't started using Dropbox yet, here is a link to signup for free. If you sign up, you and I will both get some extra storage for free.

The Magazine

Marco Arment, who is the creator of Instapaper, one of my favorite and most used apps and services just released a new "app" which is really a magazine available on iOS devices.

Marco had a couple of great posts almost a year ago on publishing, magazines and ads. That article is Double Dipping. I've been quietly wondering if anything would ever come of it.

This feels like his response.

Coincidentally, I finally signed up for the Esquire iPad app yesterday. The difference is drastic.

I really love the writing in Esquire, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they can't ship something better than this. It's not like they don't have a large enough team. The publisher is certainly large enough to pay a developer to build it, if they don't want to hire someone. 9 months in and they still don't have retina quality text...and it is completely ad-ridden despite the fact that the yearly subscription cost more than a print subscription.

Marco's The Magazine on the other hand is a pleasure to use. The interface is easy to use, the content is fantastic, and it is obvious that readability is the absolute number one priority. Of course, Marco is just the guy to make this happen.

Perhaps even more important than the stuff I just mentioned is the fact that he is doing this with no ads. It is completely subscription funded and writers are getting paid.

The Magazine supports writers in the most basic, conventional way that, in the modern web context, actually seems least conventional and riskiest: by paying them to write. Since I’m keeping production costs low, I’m able to pay writers reasonably today, and very competitively with high-end print magazines in the future if The Magazine gets enough subscribers.

It’s a risk, but I’m confident. Here goes.

Good Luck Marco. I'm hopeful and signed up! If you own an iOS device and like good writing, go check it out.

Politics- Can't We All Just Get Along?

Politics are really weird. How many other things in life can be so polarizing for people who otherwise get along? It comes up far more in an election year, as the opinions and political leanings folks normally keep inside come out.

This post is primarily a response to the political posts I've seen over the past few weeks. I've seen some pretty mean, and myopic stuff coming from folks that I really respect. Kinda bums me out.


Politics are how we, as a people group decide how to govern ourselves. Naive perhaps, and simplistic, but that is the basic idea. There are a couple presuppositions that are necessary for this to work.

What Needs Governing?

First, if the goal is to govern, then you need to agree on what actually needs to be governed. People? Systems? Places?

For the first question, the reality is that people are what matter and the systems, places and resources will be taken care of if you do the right things with the people. If you disagree, just bear with me. Everything that I can think of that needs governing needs it because of the way people interact with and through it.

By What Standards?

This second question is where it gets hard

What standards are universal? In other words, once you define what is being governed, is there a metric being used that the majority of folks can agree on?

What I forget when formulating my opinion and choosing to set aside other options is that what feels valuable to me, may be worthless to others. I've started to see this in political arguments as they pop up. One person's critical list condemning a candidate may fully convince another voter that this is just the right person for the job.

Interestingly, so many of these types of arguments seem to be shared in hopes that people will agree- sort of a rallying cry. I am rarely, perhaps never convinced or pursuaded to change my mind in this way. I think I know why too. These statements don't funadamentally change the way that I ask the questions above.

Consider this list:

Taxes Abortion Welfare Corporations Drugs Homosexual Marriage Retirement Healthcare Education

I'm guessing that most of you have a pretty firm idea about each. What are the chances that you and I agree on every one of them? Now, what are the chances that there is a candidate that agrees with you on every point?

What if you vote by party? If you think one party has a correct stance on each of these issues, then that could help you at least narrow it down some, but what if there are some exceptions? Independent?

I'm gonna guess that it would be hard to find a friend that agrees with every single one. In addition, you and I both know that the list is much larger.

A lot of people don't really dig into each issue and instead pick a candidate they can relate-to or who holds to a similar worldview or cultural background. That may be a religious belief, an ethnic or racial background or even a lack of these things.

What Should We Not Govern?

One other question seems really important to me in all of this. Since I mentioned that we need to define what and how we govern, shouldn't we define what should not be governed.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the governance of people is to ensure that as many citizens as possible are able to pursue happiness, productivity and freedom to the extent that this doesn't infringe upon the right of others to do the same.

So the rules should be sufficiently broad as to handle things, without handling them too much.

One piece that seems important is that the majority of citizens are not governed using standards that are only favorable to, or important to a minority. This seems like a fairly straight-forward concept, but it has broad-ranging implications.

Is it fair for you to be accountable to a set of beliefs that you do not practice? What about ideas of family structure? Religion? How about implementing institutional advantages to groups?( Read: corporations, racial groups, economic groups) Throughout history, powerful individuals and groups have sought to have their specific beliefs and values implemented as statute.

It's easy to justify statutes and laws that mirror your own beliefs, but what if the tables were turned? I have a distinctly Evangelical Christian set of values that come largely from my upbringing and my adult choices. What if the religious beliefs of another faith were made into law that governed my family?

This, friends is why it gets so rowdy. You and I are intimately connected with and passionate about our core beliefs. In some cases the defense of these ideas comes at the expense of decorum, kindness, tact and good taste. It's easy to rant about this stuff, but it is rarely profitable. It's easy to claim intellectual superiority, but personal opinions do not, an intelligent person, make.

My challenge to you and myself- think hard about what you say regarding politics before you say it out loud or post it publicly. Does it reflect the value of honest discourse? Are the words and actions, and the importance of the topic consistent with how you want your friends to perceive you?