Sep 12, 2014

filtered, week of sep 8 2014

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

Anton Ego, of course, via this morning’s edition of Dan Hon’s Things That Have Caught My Attention (go subscribe). I’ve been thinking a lot about criticism v. creation this week, especially with the flood of takes on the Watch.

but first, this.

Matt Webb announced on Tuesday that he and Jack Schulze are shutting BERG’s doors. My line for years has been that Matt and Jack are“sooooper geniuses,” but if the shoe fits… BERG’s thinking inspired and informed entire product categories, through a combination of insightful research, deep thought and creative product design and thinking. Here’s one for you: their Mag+ concept video, produced in 2009 in collaboration with Bonnier. Remember the context: we knew the iPad was coming, but it hadn’t arrived.

Like all great product designers, they criticized the world they lived in by creating things that would make it better.


iPhone 6 ordered this morning easily from, after a lot of “We’ll be back” reloads last night at midnight. (The 6 Plus looks too big for me; how would I run with that?)

As for the watch, I think my bit from last week still stands: I don’t have a compelling reason to buy. (Yet! See take below!) However, I will give Tim Cook credit for fully going there with the “one more thing.” That must have been a powerful moment for the folks at Apple. Three of my fav takes:

  • Anil and Paul’s liveblog: “Got the video back. Simulcasting the Chinese translation is a bold statement, but an honest one.”
  • Steven Levy: “Apple has been famous for neglecting the powerful and transformative rise of social networks, and now, with its wearable, it is allowing users to create their own little Dunbar-limited covens, ready for connection at an instant.”
  • Felix Salmon: “By allowing thousands of different apps on its watch, Apple is buying into the More Is More mindset: make sure that the watch offers something for everybody.”

Also this, from a Twitter conversation about XOXO, Portland, hipsters and pocketwatches:

touch me

The thing I can’t stop thinking about from the Watch keynote was the demo of the different ways you can use the Watch to communicate. Drawing little hearts. Sending your heartbeat. Tapping a message that they’ll feel on their wrist. If you’ve been following the “connected device” market for a while, you’ll recognize some of the early Ambient Device thinking here (hello David & Nabeel): simple, real-time, non-textual ways to communicate over long distance. I have a feeling that we’ll look back and laugh at the thought that we would actually send (or read?) text messages from our wrist; voice could work in the right Dick Tracy-esque context, but touch and heat and vibration and patterns are, in Jony Ive speak, personal and intimate.

Their demo also signals that Apple is getting smarter about social. Of course they’re sitting on a trove of graph data (address book, iMessage, email, etc.), and the dedicated hardware button below the Crown is interesting (see Levy’s take above). But what they demonstrated with the Watch extends the trend in social apps towards simpler communication…

Email → Facebook posts → Tweets → Snaps → Single character(Emoji, Steven, Taco Text, etc.) → Single bit (Yo).

One of my favorite things to do with my daughter when we’re holding hands crossing the street or walking down the sidewalk is squeeze her hand three times: “I. Love. You.” And she always replies with four: “I. Love. You. Too.” A feature like that might not be a reason to buy the Watch, but it could be a reason to love it.

in heavy rotation

Finally watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, and had a very hard time paying attention to plot and dialog because my God the visuals … Rdio’s new app home screen is growing on me: swipe swipe swipe, yeah I haven’t listened to Elliot Smith in a while, perfect … Am stuck at 80% through The Blazing World but I swear I’ll finish it this weekend. The philosophy of it is great, and I love all the art speak identity politics stuff, but could use a tad more plot … I can’t get Kottke’s post on the NFL out of my head … Benedict Evans’ great post on Amazon is worth a read if you’ve made it this far in your week without reading it … Rex Sorgatz’s piece on Ground Zero took my breath away … I listened to the U2 record, it’s awful. Go read @sfj on the subject if you want more … Giants box scores and configuring ESPN app alerts … Speaking of which, I wish I could be in Portland this weekend for XOXO (I had a ticket and everything!) but I’m looking forward to entertaining my visiting parents and watching the Giants take on the Dodgers tomorrow night at AT&T. September baseball? YES, PLEASE.

Have a great weekend.