While some others are waking slowly from their feasting over the past day(s), am back on the pedals so to speak. Back at plugging away to a few standing items. One of those is a lexicon. From a recent reading about polymaths, funny how so many of the more academic ones, were granted a claim to fame by creating lexicons and encyclopedias. Almost can see the correlation between why they would be thought of as masters of several domains because of an ability to speak between them; but, there’s probably some misapplication of the lens in our future-viewing of the ability to connect threads.
In another activity, am working on creating lenses for viewing transformation across individual, team, and org contexts. Much like the optometrist who layers lenses in front of the eye and asks, “is this clearer? How about now? And, how about now?” Am aiming to create the same kind of translation layer for the items Avanceé is asked to re-engineer. Like the polymath creating an encyclopedia or lexicon, this seems simply a translation task, not the actual genius itself. However, it would likely be regarded as such — because many people have trouble seeing beyond their own blossoms.
Perhaps, this is the key perspective to take away: polymaths (geniuses, Renaissance persons, etc.) might actually be defined incorrectly. This is not to say there is no value to the connectedness and remixing they offer. There is. However, they aren’t the actual genius. The actual genius is in who/what comes after that connection is made. Or, to quote oneself:
The genius of creating a new road cannot be realized until someone else travels it, and potentially builds on top of it something of even greater value than the connection itself. Highways were just a way to transport arms quickly until someone realized the value of “tourism stops.” Platforming is the way to value adding, not simply realizing the platform which is to be made.
The pace of posting here has certainly slowed down from the first years. In part due to activities outside of this venture, but also some sharpening as to what this space should be for — namely, innovations in thought and experiments. Since this venture started, a goal has been to begin (yet not always finish) experiments which might lie a bit further outside of the scope of what teams and companies can pull off. Then from those, apply to clients a way forward which seems (to them) simple, but has been informed from those efforts.
That said, a few experiments are still in play, and it’s worth a small update here as both bookmark and push to finish:
GoTenna and Mesh Communications (in-progress) A recent acquisition, the GoTenna mesh communications platform has enabled revisiting past lessons on mesh and distributed communications, while also looking at what these products have done to improve user experience, service experience, and financial viability.
Apple’s Scribble for iPadOS (in-progress) The iPad is the workstation for every effort, and the introduction of Scribble as an input mechanism with the latest major update allows for some reflection to what worked with Newton and PalmOS handing writing decades ago, and areas where connectivity and the typed word have embedded more into UI design than we might have noticed. This has been a very insightful experience to date.
Comparing the Ōura Ring with A Mood Ring (evolved) Again with the new and the old through comparing fashion to connectivity. This experiment has been very insightful for several reason, not the least of which being the outright ignorance of thermochemistry in wearable objects. This experiment has been recently extende with the acquisition of a face mask which has LEDs in a similar color range to the mood ring. Communicating outward is the evolved step here.
Tablets Everywhere (completed) At one point earlier this year, there were three iPads, a Kindle Paperwhite, and the Jolla Tablet grabbing various portions of a week’s attention. This has trimmed to two iPads and the Kindle, and yet the framing makes sense for almost every effort. Much like the STNG analogy in that post, there’s acknowledgment of “the right place for the right tool.” But, the connected tablet morphs into what is needed more than its being slammed into place.
Connected Glasses (completed, evolving) A second round of using connected glasses has proven some possibilities and challenges with using glasses as a bridge to experience enhancement. The Vue glasses have made their way into a solid “office accessory” due to their near-invisibility yet functionality. However, like the first experiment with Snap’s Spectacles, the augmentation is borrowing the headspace used for vision gains, but not extending other senses such as propriception, force, orientation, and more. Notifications awareness and memory catching are better described as machine senses, not biological. There’s room to evolve here; especially with adaptive lenses and spatial awareness.
Deep Thought (evolving) This is probably less of an experiment and more of a mode. Deep thought continues to be described as the “yin” to collaboration’s “yang.” And this isn’t wrong, it just is not the most complete shape of what it means to derive something harder from it. As a UI paradigm there is a simpler route than describing and enabling what makes knowledge work valuable. This will constantly evolve… it is the closest work to the core of what makes Avanceé viable.
This is good, but needs to continue to go forward. The upcoming work feels to be the most exciting yet.
Many years back, in a previous endeavor, had looked into the potential and promise of mesh networking and decentralized communications. Besides the (usual) fun of something new to tinker with, there was a sense of being on the other side of the coin to what the consumer Internet had evolved towards.
There were some worthwhile experiments and experiences going down that path. Some of which were the very seeds of this site and endeavor now. Yet, that appeal to both plan for the worst, while tinkering around the edges still hasn’t left. As such, have decided to take a look at GoTenna Mesh.
GoTenna is a mesh networking platform utilizing a combination of a piece of hardware, and some (repurposed) radio spectrum. And while it is clearly a solution for those who like to camp/boat/climb/etc in remote areas, there’s a bit of a ‘hey, this should probably be a part of one’s emergency communications bag” also. There’s a little of both in the context of this play now, which is where this post comes in. The consumer internet is evolving, and mesh networking might be a very solid tent-pole for a normative part of it.
Setup of one’s Mesh device is fairly simple. You download the app, and then it walks you thru discovering one of the two mesh devices you’ve purchase, charged, and powered on. Once you have completed setup, you can device to either use your existing phone number, a generated ID, to be the means you connect with/be found by others who have a mesh account also. Decisions such as whether to share your location, upload your address book, and utilize the “shout” broadcasting service are normal fare for any social network, and is the case here. But, these are opt-in. You can be as present as you’d like to be, or need to be, when using GoTenna. There is also a premium layer to the service which enables an SMS relay service, alongside a few other location-based services. Pretty neat overall, and clearly a solid fit for adventuring.
This experiment will hopefully get to play with most of these bits. Much like the previous experiments with FireChat and Nokia”s Mobile Web Server, there’s a distinct appeal to a “net you have more control over.” One which is resilient, but also covers the bases in most aspects of user experience. I imagine thst GoTenna should roll well for sometime. Hopefully, it will not become a primary service, for an extended period anyways.
The experience so far has been fair. While there’s some fun in using GoTenna, there’s not yet been much in terms of interacting with others on the platform. That might not be for long. According to this map, there are quite a few nodes not too far off from my usual location (might have made a good stitch between larger nodes as a matter of fact). The app is simple, though clear memories of some of the challenges non-mainstream comms app creep thru a few UI paths. Still, it’s learnable, and mostly easy to use. The hit on the mobile’s battery was impressively low, but (in this user’s case), the app and service being tied to the mobile and not able to go to a cellular watch (or tablet?) kinda feels like a missed opportunity. Mesh networking around all the devices would be an impressive platform extension.
If you are interested in learning more, check out the GoTenna Mesh website. And if you decide to purchase and want to support this site in doing so, use this referral link to get $20 USD off your purchase.
GoTenna has not paid for this post, nor was the mesh device or any software associated with it provided to me/this site as compensation for this review. This was purchased by me/this site, and these views are shared w/o their previous knowledge or review of the content.
On this, the day after the release of iPadOS 14, am engaging in a bit of an experiment to see how far and wide the Scribble feature has to go.
It is cool
But not polished…yet.
Once immersed in Scribble (for iPadOS), you begin to realize how some apps are mere adaptations of a indirect (⌨️, 🖱) UI, and others (better) embraced touch & gestures. The irony of scribble might be exposing an over-due investment in spatial UIs for multitouch thru using a pen
And weirdly, this is most clear in the micro blog app. Here, you get the right sized screen and spacious writing area, however you also get the keyboard which pops up unexpectedly. You also get the “I ran out af horozonttal space but now I write on another line” effect that is disruptive. Then there is also misspelling or that mix of print and cursive which leads to misspelled everything. Today, the editor takes the moment off to see if Apple took of it out a auto-correct job (the editor stays employed, with a raise).
There is a return to the immersion of handwriting though; which is pleasant despite the sound of plastic tapping on glass. This is a different kind of learnig how to do handwritten. Not too different from Palm and graffiti and not close either. There is immersion which can be had again in blogging with this.
There are more and better impressions in the attached. More things to not only discover, but refine in terms af usual us “sometimes ” UI behaviors.
The onus is on developers to mature in their handling of input. And for Apple to be smoother about what exactly is capable when immersion and a morphing canvas really do open possibilities.
Was listening to a podcast recently by the good folks at Muse and the wheels started turning when they started speaking about building a framing or a better concept around what it means for knowledge workers to improve personally and professionally. This somewhat goes into some previous conversations here regarding the space called “deep thought,“ the behaviors of using a (digital) canvas, as well as a newer points around attention being a spectrum. All of these items form, or are building blocks into what is simply “how do we think.“
When it gets down to it, a knowledge worker is simply someone whose practices have turned into reliable outcomes. And their practices are not necessarily those things which can be measured from/by externalities. Can you really measure the time between ingesting concepts, the subconscious playing with it away from the workspace, and the the spark which pulls it into the conscious frame? No. These are the products of intentions, deliberate practice, and communicating applicable insight. No measurement, but perhaps, there are signals worth regarding, and weighing.
Sketching this concept of essential skills for knowledge workers sounds a little bit less like things that you obtain a certificate or degree for; more like base practices and common abilities, yet where awareness, talent, and/or skill can better over time or through particular outcomes.
So far, the skills are grouped into a few loose categories:
There are specific items within all of these, yet not worth discussing those now. Still working on some of the finer bits.
Beyond those are two items which do have an external facing loci: active listening and experimenting. Both of these are items not necessarily measured, but can be perceived by others as the product of those forementioned items. And it’s possible in the mist of doing one or both of these two, the practice that is “knowledge work“ begets a type of shape understood by the worker, and also by those observing/consuming the work.
There’s more to be uncovered in this thesis. Certainly there is more sitting on both physical and digital whiteboards than what has been explained here. Sketching a clearer view of these essential skills may offer some types of persons who are in knowledge working the fields a bit of a framing to on their own career journey, while also folks who are in design and policy spaces a better box to sail toward.
That last sentence is a tick more key to current work: how to enable fields such as design and policy to shape a better understanding of their “how,” rather than just their outputs.
A lot about the process of thinking (deep thought, collaborative, synthesis, research, or experimentation) is simply a matter of thinking. What passes as challenging work under this initiative is really a matter of “can you think then invite others to think?” Which, when you think about it, is just a series of reframing thoughts.
And maybe this isn’t the “center of the known universe,” but perhaps it is. A piece of what has been a brick of work this past year has been listening for and pulling out of processes whatever is implied cognitively. A lot is implied, and perhaps this is where we don’t exactly think but we connect with whatever is embedded into our environments.
Am also discovering the impact of traumatic experiences on the designed environment. Much more of what I’m seeing of the policy-driven world isn’t so much a response to augmenting humanity as much as it is addressing the symptoms which define humanity. Sharper are the policies and structures where the assumed or actualized hurt is greater to someone (someone louder, often not even living anymore). And yet this effect produces affects which impact the ability for folks to think.
Maybe (re)engineering complexity is really a case of unpacking what it means to think. And if so… maybe a more honest question is whether it’s worth it to others to know their thoughts, or to be shielded from them?
There’s something a bit rough and almost ironic about hearing about optical wearable companies no longer going forward. One would imagine, if they offered the advances in connected vision, they’d almost see coming when products are/aren’t viable.
But this is the actual challenge with these kinds of explorations and experiments, especially in a space so personal as wearables. The route to profitability, reputability, and varying levels of customer acceptance is not a simple one. In order to maximize prospects on any of those areas, there’s got to be great levels of focus, and even greater levels of restraint.
In this viewer’s opinion — one who uses both Vue Glasses and Snap’s Spectacles — there wasn’t as much simplicity in focus from the folks at Focals by North. Was it for directions, or for notifications? It needed a secondary controller, which was not as sleek/stylish as the primary. There was no voice-controller, the ring control was it. And lastly, where it had a good leg into wanting to be a part of using Amazon’s Alexa framework, those bits didn’t materialize and it was left using a homegrown operating system, and building both viability and reputation without others names.
Now, Focals seemed primed for some good steps forward when looked at its purchase by Google. However, aside from the laser tech for the augmented vision, there was not much more on Focals which was not already on Google’s (still shipping) Glass v2 product. Unfortunately, things changed and what was a “phasing out at the end of 2020” now is a “phasing out at the end of July 2020.” Tough for the folks who purchased this highly personalized product… perhaps also for those who have been looking at optical wearables as a “next step” for wearables, but missing what simple and focus might need to look like.
What does simple and focus look like? Or, what challenges can be met?
Base functionality should not depend on proprietary tech. Meaning items such as being a replacement Bluetooth headset should use normal BT protocols. Audio controllers might be touch or gesture based, but these too should be hooked into standard audio controller APIs.
Features such as augmented vision might have proprietary bits, but file transfer from the devices should leverage normal OBEX and similar protocols. I’d imagine that Focals, much like Snap, wraps videos and images in their own format for ease of working in their specific operating systems. Other special features would be what the company adds, and this would be the piece the companies would either rise or fall with their unique value prop.
All of this to say, no one wants their companies to be acquired and/or stuttered. However, to be a product which survives long enough to be valued, you’ve got to do more than just release everything you imagine. Find the sim0e thing on top of the basic thing, focus on doing that extraordinary well. And then build out from there. Focals, in my opinion, had the augmented vision, but should have went with Alexa integration harder than anything else. Sizing, the shopping experience, etc., all of those are great, but would be bette for a second generation release, not a first. Still, they shipped, sold, and were acquired. To that end, perhaps it was a success.
Would have been better for them if they could have see this end of things occurring.
Still trying to come up with some collective thoughts that makes sense around WWDC. But, the fact of the matter is, as much appreciation of the design and “all trains into the station feeling” from Apple’s platform, not really get a sense just yet they are playing their best cards.
Part of this is from being involved with software development; when it is done well, the thing that you are able to present is rarely as polished or as finished as well seen. From just some current projects, and preparing a few teams for demos, one can be rest assured that even though there are some features which have made it to this point of readiness, there’s still some minutia to be discussed and investigated. The public beta does not cut these points short, but it too is not really aligned with what the platform is actually doing at this time.
So what is the platform doing at this time? Or really, what can be learned from Apple’s explorations “this year“ into bringing its platforms into further alignment with one another?
One thought, that has been lingering for the past few platform revisions of iOS, is this thought of using multiple senses in order to do the thing that is regarded as computing. Instead of giving a prescription to what they want users to be able to understand and do, Apple seems to be more set upon delivering a set of frameworks, allowing those who are already curious to discover better ways to interact with these machines and services. And if those ways are not just discovered, but strengthened, then a new language (a better language?) for computing can begin to arise. Something perhps not different from their vision, but maybe pushed forward by other peoples imagination, more than/not their own.
This concept of frameworks is probably something worth coming back to a few more times. But, it seems to make sense here in this case. Apple is not merely saying “we wish for you to do computing the way that we envision it.“ But they seem to be gong the route of something a bit more…
The rise of the eBike. More specifically, a return to the electric bicycle and electronic propulsion as a widely available option in general. There was a time, approximately a century exactly ago, when it was not certain whether the internal combustion engine or the electric engine would went out for a transportation option. There were definitely suitable moments for both to be the dominant option. But the internal combustion engine had a more political, and one can argue “grounded” place in the rising economy of the USA in the early 20th century. And while it is clear that the internal combustion engine has won for transport; was also been very clear (even before the pandemic shook oil supplies in demand globally), electricity propulsion is something intriguing enough. It is something, powerful. It is something, which conjures a question “what would’ve happened if electricity won over the internal combustion engine?”
This is not a question that you come to quickly. There is a matter of several dominoes which have presented themselves on a whiteboard before this moment. The first of these has been the adoption of an electronica bike as a transportation mechanism. Globally, the sales of all bicycles are down. But we looked at in segments, the sales of ebikes are up over 85% year over year. In some places, ebikes outsell their analog equivalents 4 to 1. This is not simply a “option” taking place. There is a preference and a priority that is being fulfilled. Whats being made of these elements remixed anew?
Also on this whiteboard is a question, a series of questions actually. One of them being the topic stimulant of this article, “What is electricity’s equivalent to plastic?” If electricity were to become the dominant transportation mode a little more than a century ago, along with the fact that it became the housing/business grade stitch, what then would that have create it?
Imaginations run the gamut from gravitational wave engines for air travel, to thermochromatic clothing, to misadventures in oil (perhaps missing the discovery of tape, glue, Post-it notes, super soakers, and several other products today that we take for granted). and all of these are indeed possible imaginations to never come to pass because of the route that was taken to be in oil based society rather than (or in opposition to) electricity based one.
What electricity as a base have made for faster development of communication technologies? Would we have gotten to “the Internet“ faster because we already were at radio waves? we have skipped ahead of broadcast television, and move more to the table like model of more narrow cast channels in media possibilities? Would music have evolved the same way that it did (slave/negro spirituals turning into blues turning into jazz turning into branches of gospel which later became rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop, explorations with keyboards and 808s, and more)?
On this whiteboard, there is an even more impactful question. How does noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) become defined if the electric drone of an engine is the normalized sound for the primary mode of transportation? Vibration and rhythm internal combustion engines gave also became the foundation for many types of “feel” associated with everything from music, to luxury, to even feelings themselves. Ironically, am reminded of a paper read during college years which said that all music came from railroads (the author made a connection between the inherited beats of music that was popular to their ears with the cadence of a railroad; very much had fun tearing that paper apart). There is a difference to the frequency of electronics then there is to the frequency of those things which are “oil based.” Would we have developed the same types of feeling?
Summation of Imaginations
These are all excellent questions. In fact, these are the kinds of imaginations which enable us to re-engineer some of the things which feel as if they are more complex. For example, does someone need to haul car, or can an eBike fulfill local transportation needs? Taken from the perspective of cost and ability, it is very possible that the eBike does more than enough. However, taken from a cultural history, the oil based auto has a very firm hold on what it means to not only have capability, but also what it means to be secure while promoting a type of affluence/reputation. EVs (primarily cars) are just now getting to that point. The ebike has a long way to go to shift such a perception.
Working on a review of an ebike, these are the kinds of imagination questions which come forward. It’s very possible this equivalent to plastic (this great invention that is so mass produced, so customizable, so widely available) has already been invented, just forgotten in the annuals of history or dismissed in the folders of capitalism. There’s room for something new to be imagined. Room to explore what it means to have an option besides pulling old bones from the ground. What if instead of pulling bones from the sky, we begin to understand magnetism, plasma, and other properties of the air? What if electricity is the means by which we figure out just how versatile humanity can be?
Was talking with a former client recently on the topic of about the transformation that is happening within their companies. As part of this conversation, we touched on the incoming addition of automation (this includes the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence, including the usual topic about macros, automated actions, etc.) to a lot of the processes that they would usually hire “middle management“ for. It sounded like an acknowledgment (from one small business owner) to an incoming reality for many industries; even though this business owner has been doing this kind of work for some time. In fact, Avanceé was hired to demonstrate how some customized automated processes could fill gaps where former employees managed items. Suffice to say, our conversation topic, was also an acknowledgment into a new business reality: middle-management is being automated, not industries.
Can this observation be expanded to a broader industry contacts? Probably. It takes a nuance perhaps. Is there something in the nuance which is realistic? Definitely. And one does not have to look any further than the term “technology.“
Technology being defined as applying a tool to human facilities in order to improve productivity toward such a task. It does not necessarily mean computer technology, even though our modem context relies on that definition. A probably better context for today would stand in the term “connected technology.“ Here we define not only computational technology tools, but aspects of network workflows happening across several types of calculators in order to streamline, perform, validate, and/or regulate a number of tasks and resulting behaviors.
Defined like this, connected technologies sounds more like an omen for such a change. If one looks at the history of “middle-management,” you can see from as early as a biblical reference in the book of Exodus how middle-management was designed, or purposed, to make more efficient the regulation of complaints to a single vision-holder/figurehead. Moving a bit further to more modern times, one can see the rise of industry (1860s to 1920s) as a novel time to be a middle manager. Not only could a middle manager exercise what kind of power to stay relevant. But they also were in prime position to identify the best task to be handled by various skill and experience levels of people. If you will, the middle manager of that time was just as much as stakeholder as the person financing the business. However, they had to rely more on reputation and skill experience for their worth rather than monetary investment.
This mismatch with investment priorities invites middle-management to be defined in the same terms of any other financial investment. If the middle manager can continue to maximize profits, while trimming expenses, then the skills and reputation of that middle manager become more valuable to the investor. If they cannot, then their reputation and experience become too expensive for the role that they hold. Advances in tools and behaviors by middle managers, workers, and consumers change the value of the middle manager greatly.
Middle Management As Technology
One can argue these three work in concert against the middle manager, creating the space by which the middle manager has to constantly reframe their value in concentric worlds often changing quickly around them.
And that brings us back to today. A global pandemic shifted many middle managers, and the departments and people they manage, into a context where the world has once again changed around them. Those managers who have been able to wrangle family presence, virtual conference software, instant messaging, and even working in obscure hours, have made the most of a challenging context. Those who haven’t, are a casualty in multiple means (their value didn’t translate to a new world, or couldn’t pay the toll to this bridge to it). Company owners, stakeholders/shareholders, who were quick to realize this, and recognize the value (reputation and experience) of these managers re-trained, or refrained their expectations accordingly. Those who also recognize this, and sound software in a better position than those middle managers, made also appropriate pivots. And more than a few cases, the pivot included terms such as automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more.
Refactoing the Middle
That client, a fast mover before this context, had already pivoted to using automation to manage people and projects well beyond their regional ability. Many other companies did the same. We helped them recognize where additional personnel resources were not a value add if more attention was paid to tuning existing tools. And at the same time, that business is all about relationships. You can’t (shouldn’t) automate relationships. You do give a better place to relationships when you let the tools of the age do their part while your personnel adapt and refine their parts.
Middle management has to adapt to a new world we are connected calculators are able to do the thing that their experience tells them their reputation does better than anything else. Where those partnerships succeed, so will those managers. But there will not be as many managers needed in such a world. There will be a need for more engineers, technologist, and social scientists. Does the middle manager transform into one of those?
If it is not clear already, our relationship with media (broadcast, social, and otherwise) is quite complicated. Often, this relationship bears it say in regulations, filters, disadvantages, conversations, memes, and more. And yet, if one isn’t careful, you will find more dependency on media for “living” than assumed. It’s not a simple thing to untangle either. Attempts to simplify our relationship with social media often find one in a knot of circumstances. It’s probably closer to an inter-dependent relationship then a dependent one, but it’s hard to see were each of those boundaries lie.
If you look at it from the perspective of regulations, The need to regulate media comes from a sense of control. Either control of the message, or control of who is able to receive the message. Regulations also come in to play where a medium, or the channel that carries that medium, cannot be easily filtered on an individual level. And so regulations are crafted so those who might be within consuming range of that media, have some semblance of control in its reception.
This inter-dependency also reveals itself on a more simple level when we talk about filters. Some will do all sorts of things to ensure only the preferred elements come through the media they are invested in. From changing channels, to registering for specific services, to using an unsubscription button; there are several methods that we use in order to filter the various ways that elements are pushed through the various mediums in our lives. Done successfully, a person is both encouraged and informed; and also protected/blocked from other streams which might be threatening. Privilege is a term given weight in this context. Some have the privilege to live within filters, others must navigate around those filters in order to live.
Memes are yet another space in which we see the interconnected nature of media. Memes are a product of social memory. A clip or context is shared amongst a small group; then granted a more definitive property by a larger group; then shared as fast as its definition can be communicated. A meme relies on the receiving and forwarding of this shared definition… and often, also as shared experience. Without a prior relationship to either the sender or the meme’s context, there’s no value to the item. The media is “cancelled.”
These and other examples are several reasons why it is very difficult for many to separate themselves from various communication channels. From conversations about “what are you binge watching these days,“ to conversations about sharing or not sharing traumatic experiences seen in-person or heard by chance, it seems separating oneself from media is almost impossible. However, being exposed to streams of media means there is some control, some agency, which can be exercised. It might be as powerful as labeling a tweet as threatening content. It might be as blunt as shutting off internet services within a geographical area. It might also be the parent to disconnects the router, sending their children to crafts and offline activities in which there’s no logical (to them) connection to the media they’d been so focused towards.
Media as an interdependent relationship? Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with such an arrangement. The complexity of this moment means not only that we must understand it; but also make worthwhile decisions about what our perspectives will be towards this media, and how much of it we internalize in order to create, reshape, or destroy the culture in which we live.
There is always a level of snark when looking at acronyms constituting various attitudes and responses this day and age. Some of those acronyms really are nothing more than language making itself more convenient for highly connected individuals. But every once in a while, there’s an acronym which comes along sounding on the surface like an arrogant response to or from a technologist to someone else. But when you peel beyond the surface, it speaks to a deeper structural issue. One in which it’s possible that the culture which has developed is actually incapable of sustaining itself.
Is every team organization constrained by what they are willing to pursue? Should knowledge be contained in the reputation or accessibility of those who are capable, or the systems that those teams in organizations maintain?
What is the culture of search? What is the culture of a manual?
For many years, have had the approach of designing software and processes which require very little explanation, but the joy was found in the story created in order to explain it. When someone says “let me Google that for you,“ are they also continuing with the story? Or, is the culture-response something more along the lines of “here’s how something could’ve been better designed for you, let me show you?“
A preface to this could be heard in arrogance — part of this composition is drafted before a few workshops where much of the work could be reduced to finding the answer in a search on YouTube. And yet, what people aren’t able to do, what some are paid to do, is to take the impersonal search engine and be a personal search agent. A personal search agent… let me google that for you.
Looking back over 20+ years of various entrepreneurial and employee pursuits, a common theme of innovation and inventiveness comes through. At various stops, a way of thinking or method has been taken from inside the head into something applicable for others to employ. From a thought to a tool if you will.
One could go their entire career using tools created by others. But, when given the opportunity or the challenge to create tools from their own experience or expertise, they fall flat. This might be because the way many of us were educated, we were taught how to use tools, but not really given a sense of how to create them. Hence, a wonder about this post-pandemic phase of productivity for knowledge workers:
will new thinking and activity/behaviors come from the sense-making and tool-making which is imagined by only those who are able to create them?
This gets into the crux of a few projects currently and past. In one endeavor, it took seven years of trial and error, sense-making and obstruction, and a few bold statements which can never be taken back, before a sound methodology and usable tool could be created and utilized. Truth be told, it was a painful process. Anyone who has created a theory goes through several rounds of trying to validate whether the theory has legs. And then when they validate it, there are even more series of validation which comes from others who have interest in (positively and negatively) the success of that validation. For that endeavor, it made a lot of sense. But it took more than seven years for it to validate such that it added energy to a movement.
Many companies do not have that kind of time to wait for validation and application. Design thinking, as one example of a field, has many theories and methodologies. But, very few tools which are usable by those who are unfamiliar with the space. Even more disparagingly, the tools which are available still require more friction than they enable application. One design tool is simply a collection of sticky notes along a spatial plane. And yes, this works. It also requires a level of cognitive gymnastics many groups do not have the time (or do not value the time) in understanding. Therefore, this collection of sticky notes, grouped on a board, gets several remixes. Each one claiming to solve the friction in thinking that the original said it offered.
For Avanceé projects, there is an attempt to overly simplify applicable methods. That is, accessing tools which distill the most important points into a traceable map or matrix the client can own the interpretation and application of. Because of this approach, the client is invited to think along side the solutioning. Meaning, they do not just take the methodology and slap it on top of their organization. They are invited to take the methodology and reshape the tool — a remix. In a few instances, the use of maps, matrixes, and forms combine to be a tool themselves to make a better analogy of the methodology. Skillfully applied, these allow an organization to make sense of what they are making. Or, to say it more directly: reengineer complexity.
Unfortunately, an unsolved part of creating new tools is what happens when the tool maker is no longer present? In every instance, the tool was only useful when its creator was there to facilitate. A hope for current tool in development is the tool’s creator is only needed for the first generation of learners. Afterwards, the tool becomes only a reference point. For this first generation, the methodology becomes embedded or infused into the very character of that first generation. They are empowered to create new tools themselves, but tools based on their reformed imaginations. If successful, reengineering complexity also means reigniting imagination. If not successful, this does not mean a failure in the methodology with the tool, but it does mean a misapplication of energy.
This is the key point about new tools. Every tool that is valuable expands the energy of its wielder. Every invaluable tool doesn’t just expand the energy of its wielder, it creates new energy for those to whom the tool was applied. This is why it takes so long to move from methodology to an applicable tool. Its possible much of the work happening in knowledge-based fields is not actually an energy enabler. Yet, if the tools for thinking were applied differently, there might be less aversion to imagination. Less inhibitors to maturely developing resiliency.
Have been writing for a long time. And it seems as if every few years that writing shifts a paradigm or two. Before microblog, there was a series of these kind of post happening on Medium. Noticed a few new subscribers to the series called “Lessons from Mobile” and decided to go ahead and update it with some of the more forward thinking pieces posted here regarding going beyond “mobile devices and connectivity.”
Feel free to check out the series here; but if you’ve been reading on this site for any amount of time, most of the points may be fairly familiar. That said, there’s always room to expand and hear other ways forward. Let’s see what happens.
I figured it out… sort of (thoughts while reading MacStories Apple Magic Keyboard First Impressions)
The “why keyboard is needed for the iPad to be a computer” discussion hits a nerve. On the surface, it seems like a “but the software isn’t designed for touch” argument… but that’s not it, it’s control.
Specifically, a lack of knowing how to control one’s own hands and fingers (appendages). Many, having not been in such a “need to learn” state since being a kid learning fine motor skills, software leaps such as multitouch, gestural, and spatial interfaces show how little folks have actually learned how to use their bodies.
So no… devs can’t push ahead and make better iPad software unless it needs a mouse and keyboard. Why? Because it paints them under the same brush… they have underdeveloped their own bodies. Kids don’t “learn” how to use touchscreens because they are magical, they know them because it’s normal behavior. They learn them becuse they are not restricted to any concepts of “what may be” until it isnt.
We (adults, digital immigrants, etc.) haven’t moved past being kids with controlling environments… and for some, the interface on which the iPad/iPhone is based is a loud, subconscious reminder of that.
Many knowledge workers have been relegated to working remotely against the foreground (many Zoom) meetings and attempts to recreate what’s lost in office culture sparked a thought summarized in a recent tweet:
Half wondering why we’ve not heard much about bulk or strategic purchases of HoloLens/Occulus/Magic Leap/etc devices… is available software, or the platforms themselves, still too immature for this productivity reset
For all of the individuals and companies making batches of rush purchases for monitors and keyboards, it’s a wonder why there’s not been so loud an ask for more omni-channel tools like he HoloLens, Occulus VR headsets, and similar. Thinking of just the projects am engaged within now, a HoloLens combined with PowerBI or Figma/Sketch2Code and brokered by MS Teams/Slack would essentially be all the “workstation” needed.
Now, there’s something to be said already about those whose home lives have also become the office. Nothing about putting on a helmet and googles will make that experience better. In fact, it might make it worse by actually removing an option to shift one’s physical space away from the restorative space of the home (for those with children,this is perhaps a non-starter and those folks could turn off the exit here). So, let’s not ignore that aspect. However, let’s sharpen the introspection a bit towards the “why not” for a mixed reality or omni-channel experience enabled by MR/VR/AR.
Using pieces of existing and recently past projects, let’s talk about a few ways forward for these workspaces and the work which comes from this:
One doesn’t have to go far as to wondering why these haven’t been pursued. These platforms are still quite new, quiet expensive, and largely unavailable in the quantities needed to make such conceptual leaps of interaction more feasible. There’s also the outstanding learning curve, the physical and mental fatigue it would cause over the course of a formal workday and week, and even the quality of connectivity given the rise in midday gaming and Netflix. Suffice to say, there’s quite a few reasons to not even get this ball rolling.
And yet, here’s one near-futurist asking “why not?” Aside from a spread of contexts ranging from Minority Report to Her, what does the information/knowledge worker really have to lose by moving from the “workstation” to the “workspace?” And if they can shift there easily, while increasing the quality of what’s being produced (let’s leave the tangible goods as simply “strategy and insights”), the potential to reset the value of work becomes much easier to realize.
In something of a half step there, the home office is an iPad Pro connected to a USB-C monitor, using an application called ShiftScreen, the Apple Pencil 2, the Tap wireless keyboard, and a pair of prescription, bone-conduction glasses from Vue. There’s a sense that the workspace is much larger than what can be contained on those screens and the tooling is allowing interactions beyond typing, pointing, and clicking.
If this were an opportunity to change work, perhaps moving it from a station to a space would open up more than simply the previously imagined worlds we found in science fiction. Perhaps we could finally move from simply being remote workers, to being a part of a omin-channel-like participants. Where more of our whole selves aren’t just involved in passing along the facts, but actively crafting dimensions in a world in which those facts are waiting to be discovered anew.
As many companies are beginning to understand what they can and cannot do in regards to a distributed workforce, it is a good time to take a look at the resiliency of workflows. Specifically, what does it mean to have a workflow that is more impervious to disruption, against one that is conductive to relational specifics?
For example, one company looks at how they can continue to maintain a particular level of support. However, realizing in this “remote only climate“ is that support has actually been more about an interpersonal relationship which leads to addressing problems/amplifying solutions. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this realization can lead to better articulation of organizational desires. The problem is however, the company only knows how to articulate and discover those problems within the context of a physical, interpersonal communication. And this is what has been cut off with “social distancing.“
Another has found almost no disruption in the way they work. At least as it relates to direct productivity. They mention the lack of commuting as being something which adds time to the day, leaving needed room for creativity and spontaneous productivity. There is also a better handling of pivots, shorter (more direct) meetings because of bandwidth considerations — there is, some resiliency to the way their work flows from one into the other regularly. Nothing about the current context has actually changed productivity except that more space is now given to “deep thought” work to breathe.
At these and other stories, the idea of a disruptive workflow comes to mind. Or more specifically bouncing disruption against this framing: have work environments created themselves to be resilient against/towards change? Is it possible that some organizations’ ideas relating around work, work culture, or productivity, increases social bonds but makes “work” or productivity less resilient to change?
Should a work culture, or even a state of productivity, be resilient? There should be bonds which allow those folks who are doing the work to gain a sense of worth and compensation. But, should there also be behaviors inside of this culture, inside of this “productivity“ which is able to leverage not only the things which have made the business profitable, but also the paradigms to which that business now exist?
What we are seeing today is a validation (re: judgment) of the many organizations who have promoted “digital transformation.” A truth about whether they were preaching the right thing, or merely shuffling forward or culture they did not understand. Is the tide now changed in such a way that it’s impossible not to see whether transformation is real, engineered, or managed?
Reposting from my personal blog — from 2011 — with a few small edits because it’s a view remembered and maybe worth exploring anew
For a number of weeks, on an on and off basis, I’ve been following John Prolly’s documenting of a project he and Parlee Cycles is doing with Toyota. Essentially, what they are doing is taking the ethos of the Prius and distilling that into a bicycle. What they came up with is amazing, ingenious, and to me, points at a possible detour towards the discussion towards doping in professional cycling.
First, the Amazing Notes
When I first read about this project (have been following this site for some time), I raised my eye, but no more so than when a car company usually gets a bicycle designed and made for them – then slaps their labels on them. An exercise, and probably a few components that make the hardcore folks go “ooh,” but at the end of the day its a ride that’s much more the showpiece than it is something to live with. I was surprised.
It wasn’t so much that it was a bike, but that it was to point towards incorporating technologies inspired by Prius design philosophies. In effect, ending not so much with a hybrid bicycle, but one that takes the basic idea of transportation, and pushes it to an attainable and innovative plateau.
Then, the Ingenious Additions
Of course, you’ll have a bicycle made by a (very good) and small frame builder that’s basically funded by one of the largest automotive outfits in the world. So that means that you’ll actually get to pass around ideas that would ordinarily be thrown out because of timelines and the lack of a budget. One of the posts talked about the design of the rear that was to look like the drawing, but was essentially a few pieces of the frame joints welded together.
At this point I should bow out of the really techincally bicycle engineering talk because I go “ooh” and “ok” way too much.
But it was really interesting when they talked about changing the way a bike shifts gears. Instead of simply being able to use your fingers, or doing one of those heavy automatic shifting jobs (I had the Auto-Bike, it was heavy and the chain broke less than a week into owning it), they built a means for the rider to shift the bike by thinking. They developed a system that worked inside of a modified helmet which sent wireless signals to the bike to cause it to shift. All the wearer needed to do was to “train” for about 10 minutes and then they were able to shift. That’s Prius-like innovation in my book.
A Possible Future of Professional Cycling
When they got to the end of the project, my thoughts were going in one direction – and you can blame the Tour de France for it totally: what if professional bicycling added that component where all of the shifting happened from a helmet and their brain waves? What if, instead of simply relying on skill, instinct, and muscle memory, that their brains had to be reengaged to racing because the bike was literally an extension of their brain (not just their bodies)?
I went out on a ride a few days after that post and just kind of let my imagination take over on that thought. Here I am, purely a consumer just riding. Something like using my mind to shift would be too much like a workout. At least at this point. But, I do like the idea of the bicycle (probably assisted by linking it to my mobile) learning how I shift, logging how I ride, and adjusting on the fly faster than I can shift. Like I said earlier, I had that Auto-Bike, it made a lot of sense and added to the fun of riding in a way that shifting yourself just doesn’t do.
But, when I framed it against professional cycling – a sport being marred by doping and banging hard against the physical limitations of the body and machine – it makes all kinds of sense to go that route. Thinking even for something that’s as grueling as the Tour de France, to not only have to keep your body in check, but your mind has to be even more ready to adapt to the course since they would be “one with the bike.” Would there be issues such as small computers making up for mental disabilities in some competitors? Sure. Could that be seen on a brain scan, and probably easier diagnosed than doping? Probably so. Would sure make for a crazy race when the more emotional cyclists throw their shifting out of wack because of how they respond to something surprising.
Where Do We Bike from Here
When I look at The Toyota Prius Bicycle Project, that’s where my mind goes. Not so much that sustainability and efficiency need to be thrown out. At the time of this writing, I’m wondering how that aspect of building and maintaining a bicycle was addressed. But, to integrate those kinds of technologies that could effectively get a person even closer to the road. To take away that last bit of friction and disconnect between thinking about moving and being at a place powered by your body – that excites me about that project to no end. And the best place to see that, with the athletes who seem as if they are admitting that there’s no other place for them to go but towards assisted substances.
Which lands at the rest of us. Can we see something changing about bicycling that should make more sense. Biking because its fun, exercise, or a form of transportation is one layer. But beyond that, is there something that could better improve our relationship to the land under our wheels? Have we truly exhausted the bicycle and how it extends our abilities to travel? Or, as this project seems to indicate, have we not even begun to let loose our minds to the possibilities?
Is it really a relationship, or something different
Ruminating on the recently announced update for iPad devices (iPadOS 13.4), the conversation about “is this a computer“ is sparked again because of the addition of external pointer/mouse support. And really, this is something that only seems to happen in a very small, yet loud contingent of media and fans of Apple devices devices. But, it was notable enough to cause some reflection to a past writing, and later a statement which lingered a little bit longer than the 280 characters it was given:
Realized as I put on my computers this morning… iOS invites you to ask for richer controls (for your computers). It’s not tap and drag remixes; it’s slides, pulls, 3-finger, 2-hand, etc… iOS requires a different (lost) dexterity. Perhaps that’s why it’s felt like a toy for so many reviewers/press… forgotten muscles
What about computing, or more specifically, our relationship to computing, is based on it being some kind of “point of reference,” versus it being an augmentation? When looking at the contrasts between MacOS and iPadOS, one gets the sense that this argument is being played out in a very acute manner from Apple. The argument, computing is more than something that you go to, more than something that you tap indirectly… and it can and should be more. The other side of the argument, computing is about exploring the outer limits of one’s relationship to ideas in space. That the tool should only foster exploration, not limit it to the language of a few. It’s looking through this lens, you can almost hear Apple saying, “there’s more to interacting with the ideas that you have, help us help you explore.“
And therefore, when we are now considering this idea of remote work as a “near normal.“ When people who are used to go into an office, now have dedicated spaces in their home where their productivity happens. In the spaces, they “go to” the computer. And then once they have gone into that space, they then become “able to input value into the world.” However, when I look at iPadOS, tvOS, HomePod, and even the AirPods in other accessories, I’m starting to feel like Apple is saying less “go to the computer,” and more “ how do you want to extend the moment.”
Admittedly, this is a very tender and new idea. However, it does have some legs. At least from the personal experience of the person writing this; computing is more like manipulating a canvas with several fingers, voice, ears, and silicon in some kind of concert. It’s less “go to” and more “putting it on.” And as such, notifications aren’t the pirate of attention. They are managed like any other stimuli. Reading takes a backseat to sketching. There’s a different pull-push to computing from this perspective… and I’m not sure it’s about sitting under the gaze of what the shadow of “personal computer’ offers.
Is the better reality for personal computers that they amplify us more like clothing, rather than shape us like broadcasting? And if so, then perhaps the tablet was the more personal computer all along.
For the past week, have been comparing the use of smart ring (Ōura) and a mood ring. In many respects, both of these devices do the same thing. However they get there by different means. The smart ring is a series of circuits and electricity, analyzed on device, and then passed to another device to be combined with a series of algorithms to give one a trend map of a particular set of wellness parameters. The mood ring, on the other hand, uses a less technological bed. This material, thermochromatic crystals, interacts with the human body‘s temperature and changes color based on it. It is calibrated, like the smart ring, outside of the wearer’s view. But, the meaning it gives the wearer is personalized all the same. Fewer wellness parameters, but also much more real-time.
What’s most interesting so far is the reduced cognitive load of what a measurement might mean between them. If you will, the mood ring more or less expresses your body temperature (and that can, for some people, indicate a state or being). Ōura, on the other hand, is a bit more of a coach for specific wellness events. There’s the sleep report, the weekly report, the poke to either get moving or get ready for bed, the activity goal, and more. None of these are noticed from the ring itself. This information passed from the ring to one’s mobile, and the notification from there. For both, the metrics aren’t what you think about. You stay “in the moment” and the ring’s state is passed to you when you need to notice it.
Which sparked thinking: why wouldn’t a connected ring, like the Ōura, also use the same thermochromatic crystals as a mood ring? The thinking here is that even though thermochromatic crystals are not an accurate indicator of emotional status, the correlation to body temperature could be combined with the active coaching have a connected ring in order to be more present wellness advocate for the wearer. Over time, the wearer wouldn’t just look at the prompts and stats from the networked intelligence of the connected ring to understand their present psychological condition, but also use the transformative appearance of the ring to “adjust their frequency” to stimuli in real time.
For now, am just wearing both on the same hand. And when the mobile is near, am able to make some inferences between the data provided by Ōura and the “in the moment” state of the mood ring. Perhaps, there’s already been an exploration of this kind of dual-signaling and am just on the latter side of what works alongside the other physics caused by batteries, processors, etc. Or, maybe the connection we have to various elements is a route to explore with wearables. A route knitting us closer to not just understanding our own state of being, but how that state is probably much more aligned to unique elements in the organic world around us.
Came across this via a friend:
The short-term goal, Mason said, is for UCSF and San Francisco General emergency room doctors and nurses to get a heads-up of a fever or impending illness, not just COVID-19, so they stay home or get treated. Already taxed front-line medical workers can little afford to spread illness among themselves, she said.
The long-term goal is to collect as much data of healthy and COVID-positive patients who wore the ring and determine common bio-marker activity that precipitated symptoms, such as heightened temperature or breathing patterns. Whether they will be able to differentiate the common flu from COVID-19 is unclear.
If you are interested in assiting this work and have an Oura ring, read more and signup here.
Not reading into this too much, but it seems like am already on the right path. And maybe, just a little bit ahead of where some aspects of self diagnosis may be able to help an even larger problem.
Haven’t published the “Notable Reads” series at all this year. Part of that being a bit less disciplined in the end of week contemplation. Part of that wondering if that’s the right format for sharing longer bits of content here. Not sure. But, today was full. So how about a share from what’s just been read today?
This was compiled and formatted using the previously shared Avanceé Reads Apple Shortcut.
Posting a bit different than the usual, a video of one of my latest bike rides. Some call it “gravel,” and some prefer the term “all-road.” Both work, because both happened during this roll.
Per the usual, Snap’s Spectacles are the tool of choice for recording. There are a few reasons for this. But, the best reason is simply the versatility of memory-eyes which are in the same position as organic ones. Might be worth shifting to this type of experiential content from time to time. The other types still happen, but it’s in moments like these where the observations shared here are more lived.
As appropriate a day as any other to speak on how to move forward.
Leap days could probably be better termed corrective days if one looks not just at the reason for their being, but also the analogy to an application. One doesn’t just leap into the next thing. But, over time, debt and deposit create conditions for a transformation. Once that transformation happens, there’s a new normal. Maybe similar set of conditions or context, but the normal is actually different.
Granted, most of these leap moments we want to believe are able to be calculated. And if the analogy to this day would hold, it isn’t just calculated, but planned for. However such moments are less obvious, less subject to direction than we would want. Leaps happen when a specific set of conditions not only present themselves, but entropy itself seems to want to join the narrative. And once these conditions show, bang!
There might be ways to identify when that leap might be primed to happen. Looking at a series of powerful questions, one can’t help but find a pattern in the shape. And when you find the pattern within the shape, the ability to move he boulder into position so that the avalanche of change can begin is merely up to you. Once moved, that boulder doesn’t necessarily mean change will happen, only that the conditions are more favorable.
And when “favorable” is met, the cliff is all that remains. Leap, or stop. There’s no longer “continue as one had before.” There is only a decision point. Every four years he Gregorian calendar makes its decision and we abide by its choice. At moments in our lives or companies, the same point is come to. Will you leap? Will you simply stop and rebel against the change you’ve been setting the stage for? After today, that answer might become clearer.
Breaking down how an ant eats an elephant
On a current project, a comment was made, “you are playing chess while others are playing checkers.” It continues to stick, in part because there was some truth to it. But, also because in the design space, having an accessible long term goal seems to be the “highly wanted” grail of many once they get to a certain point. Before then, it’s a lot more about being reactive, majoring in the minors, “swimming in the weeds,” and many other apt analogies. Long-term goals, where very small, seemingly insignificant moments accumulate to the eventual reality, is a difficult strategy to grasp. And, perhaps deservedly so, continues to remain the province of “those who figure it out” rather than those who learn.
When it comes to long-term goals, it’s not too difficult to create them. It is harder to achieve them. From our own inclination to finding the paths of lowest energy, to the utter reality that entropy is more normal than order/discipline, being set towards a goal further out is simply just harder. This is why those folks who seem to be persistent/stubborn enough to become successful we laud as heroic. They took some aspect of a reality that was a long way off, and pushed the present out of the way until it became their present.
But how? How does one create a strategy of long term goals, and even achieve them?
First, the goal has to be sharpened. Meaning, it cannot be so esoteric it rings only good in hearing. It has to be sharp enough to persist once the early energies, the honeymoon phase, has worn off.
Secondly, the goal has to have a specific, measurable outcome. Not output, outcome. Specific to the point of even needing to create the thing which measures it. Because that which can be measured, can be communicated. That which can be communicated can be achieved.
Another strategy, it has to be a step beyond realistic. If it’s realistic, then it’s not a long-term goal. It’s hope, and statistically possible. A long term goal needs a prospect of failure. A prospect of being unachievable. And then, it has to still be measurable.
Last how to for long term goal strategies: it should not be easily seen by others. Your steps to achieve need to be small and measured. But, not so large that others see the entire road. Yes, I’m advocating for a bit of secrecy and non-collaboration. You want the benefit of adjustment, readjustment, and discovery alongside this journey. It would be harder to do so when also yolking to others the voice of the vision and it’s outcomes.
It’s in these methods strategies for long-term goals gets its legs. And as the person or team setting forth on such a goal. It allows a full stomach for every bite of the elephant. Right even to the point when he elephant realizes it no longer can move because it too is under the spell of wanting to see you succeed.
Where a rogue comment about USA history invokes computational evolutions
A friend mentioned about the changing ideals the USA has been undergoing, and it was something like another ember to a festering thought about computing — specifically, the tablet-based productivity which has marked the past decade or so of my work. This wasn’t the only kindling for such a thought, there are (at present) a number of unfinished written pieces pointing to similar. On the balance, the way productivity happens from this perspective is guided by a different set of principles than others. It deserves a reflection, and maybe some more fanning.
As with many of my particular generation, personal computers came into the home at an early age. They evolved slowly, then splintered into gaming, educational, and “things your parents worked on” kinds of spaces. My specific experience had me not only learning DOS, but also getting both hands into Windows and macOS frames at nearly the same time. Frustrations landed early on the side of “why isn’t this easier,” not “what can it do.”
And now, not only personal computers, but speakers, watches, rings, glasses, and shoes have embedded within them a case of being “different than the generation that birthed them.” If the viewpoint is that countries evolve from a “land of immigrants to a nation of indigenous citizens; then can the same be said for aspects of built-culture which evolves as well? Productivity was once described by what archetypes such as Rockefeller, Ford, Crock, Anderson, and others gave shape to. What if those principles have served their course, and what this has evolved into is a new shape? What can productivity do with that?