The iPhone X Notch Will Be Forgotten

Over at The Verge, Vlad Savov examines the ‘notch’ at the top of the new iPhone X:

Draw me an iPhone.

The lines may be squiggly, the rounded corners imperfect, but almost everyone you pose this challenge to will present you with the shape of a rectangle containing another rectangle sat atop a circle. The iPhone’s silhouette is the most iconic outline in all of modern technology, recognized by even diehard Android fanboys and featured on the side of “Made for iPhone” accessory boxes around the world. It’s a brand and a logo in its own right.

Now, after 10 years of the home button and big bezels, Apple is giving us something new. The notch. The monobrow. The annoying black protrusion getting in the way of your photos and videos. However you choose to see the black cutout housing sensors at the top of the new iPhone X, you will most definitely see it. And Apple wants it that way.

Like most humans on planet Earth, I had a knee-jerk, negative reaction to the notch/unibrow at the top of the iPhone X the other day.

But as I’ve sat with my thoughts and let them marinate, I’ve gathered a more holistic view on the unibrow. I agree with what former Windows Division President, Steven Sinofsky, said on Twitter:

We’re all going to be ok, people. The reason why I think we’ll be ok is because it dawned on me that the majority of apps I use daily on my iPhone, I use in portrait mode. I check email in portrait mode. I browse the web in portrait mode. I read books in portrait mode. I play music in portrait mode. I use Maps and Waze in my car with my iPhone mounted in portrait mode. Instagram is portrait-only.

Youtube is the only app I use in landscape mode.

I’m willing to bet this is the case for most iPhone users (I have no data on this, just a guess). Video is the most obvious and most nasty exception, but I noticed in a demo yesterday that as is the case now, you double-tap a video you’re watch to toggle between a letter-boxed, scaled down video, and one that fills the entire screen. When a video is viewed uncropped in letterbox mode, the notch goes away.

Games are the other case where the notch would be most annoying. I wonder if game creators will factor this into updates of their games and work around it.

I respect that Apple doesn’t shy away from the unibrow. They don’t try to downplay it. Even in the iconography for iPhone X they depict the unibrow. They could have easily advised designers and developers to hide it by blacking out the whole horizontal space at the top of the screen but they didn’t.

I Like Jews, Personally

Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’:

Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you.

Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”

To test if these ad categories were real, we paid $30 to target those groups with three “promoted posts” — in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.

As if I needed another reason to stay off Facebook.

Here at Daily Exhaust I can guarantee you’ll find no Jew-hating, or hating of people of any other religion or race.

You will, though, find Microsoft-bashing.

iPhone X Has a Unibrow

Yesterday was Apple’s Keynote where they unveiled the ‘all screen’ iPhone X.

They also posted an instructional video on how to design for the iPhone X, and it’s unibrow.

I would love to know what level of rage Jony Ive is feeling about this:

I understand the unibrow is there because it houses all the of the fancy facial recognition sensors and phone speaker. I also understand having an edge-to-edge screen has become table stakes, but that indent is like a huge itch I can’t scratch.

I’m sure there are dozens of physical prototypes Apple designers created where there isn’t a unibrow and I’m curious how and why this version of the iPhone X beat out the others.

If you can’t codify your thoughts, you can’t do anything.

Over at The New York Times, Dana Goldstein looks into the reasons why kids can’t write:

There is a notable shortage of high-quality research on the teaching of writing, but studies that do exist point toward a few concrete strategies that help students perform better on writing tests. First, children need to learn how to transcribe both by hand and through typing on a computer. Teachers report that many students who can produce reams of text on their cellphones are unable to work effectively at a laptop, desktop or even in a paper notebook because they’ve become so anchored to the small mobile screen. Quick communication on a smartphone almost requires writers to eschew rules of grammar and punctuation, exactly the opposite of what is wanted on the page.

Before writing paragraphs — which is often now part of the kindergarten curriculum — children do need to practice writing great sentences. At every level, students benefit from clear feedback on their writing, and from seeing and trying to imitate what successful writing looks like, the so-called text models. Some of the touchy-feel stuff matters, too. Students with higher confidence in their writing ability perform better.

I believe writing is one of the foundational tools for many fields, whether you’re building a car or designing a mobile application. As a graphic designer I’ve come to value writing skills more and more each year and it’s one of the goals I’ve had maintaining this blog for over 11 years. If you can’t codify your thoughts, you can’t do anything.

I’d like to think there’s multiple approaches to improving kids’ writing skills (I’ve taught students at the university level but I’m in no way trained in the methods to teach writing).

If I had teach kids how to write tomorrow (hypothetically), I’d probably start with a recontexualized version of Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers.

Haim in Oakland

Last night my wife and I saw the band Haim perform at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. The girls (all three are sisters) in the band put on a great a show.

They released a video a few months ago for ‘Want You Back’, the first track off their new album, Something to Tell You. I’ve watched it a dozen times. I find it mesmerizing.

They shut down Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles for a few hours (their home city). The final video is one, continuous shot, but it took a total of 15 takes to nail it.

Age and Creativity

Alison Gopnik and Tom Griffiths on age and creativity:

Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? One reason may be that as we grow older, we know more. That’s mostly an advantage, of course. But it also may lead us to ignore evidence that contradicts what we already think. We become too set in our ways to change.

Relatedly, the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far. We try to quickly find a pretty good solution that is close to the solutions we already have. On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.

Note to self: more exploring what I don’t know, less exploiting what I do know.

There’s the door, Texas.

In Texas, Distrust of Washington Collides With Need for Federal Aid:

Few places need the federal government right now more than Texas does, as it begins to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Yet there are few states where the federal government is viewed with more resentment, suspicion and scorn.

For Republicans, who dominate Texas government, anti-Washington sentiment is more than just a red-meat rhetorical flourish — it is a guiding principle.

Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican former state attorney general, once described a typical day in his old job as, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” His predecessor as governor, Rick Perry, wrote a book titled “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington.”

The sentiment is not limited to politicians. In June, the legislature of Texas Boys State — the mock-government exercise for high schoolers, run by the American Legion — voted overwhelmingly to secede from the union.

Texas has been a pain in the side of the United States since Day 1. I wasn’t aware of this until I started reading Battle Cry of Freedom and began reading more articles about Texas.

As much as I don’t like the idea of a flag with 49 stars in it, I’m willing to let that go so we can let Texas go.

Let’s see how long Texas can make it on it’s own.

The App Store

Back in June, Horace Dediu took a look at 9 years of numbers for the App Store:

The App Store is almost 9 years old. In that time it has generated about $100 billion in revenues, of which about $70 billion has been passed on to developers and $30 billion was kept by Apple. It’s very likely that running the App Store for 9 years did not cost $30 billion so, if it were an independent “business unit” it would probably have been and still be quite profitable.

But Apple does not run “business units” with separate Profit and Loss statements. The App Store is a part of Services which is an amalgamation of non-hardware sources of revenues but that does not mean it’s a business. The purpose of Services isn’t to turn a profit or define its value through some metric of financial performance.

The purpose of Services is to make the experience for the Apple user better. The combination of good experiences allows Apple to be perceived as a valuable brand and that allows it to obtain consistently above-average profitability through pricing power. I like to emphasize that the iPhone at over $600 in average price is more than twice the average price of all the other smartphones and captures over 90% of all available profits.

The fact that Apple doesn’t have business units is important and it’s what makes the company so hard for analysts to define and for competitors to compete with.

At the end of the day, yes, Apple is a company that manufactures physical gadgets but like Dediu points out, if you take away software or services from the equation, Apple falls apart.

It’s all connected.

This is your assignment.

The words from a collaborative poster project by illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and writer Courtney E. Martin:

This is your assignment.

Feel all the things. Feel the hard things. The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption. Feel all the maddening paradoxes. Feel overwhelmed, crazy. Feel uncertain. Feel angry. Feel afraid. Feel powerless. Feel frozen. And then FOCUS.

Pick up your pen. Pick up your paintbrush. Pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera. Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth (yes, it is a thing—it still exists.)

Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now. Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired. But don’t lament the break. Nothing new would be built if things were never broken. A wise man once said: there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Get after that light.

This is your assignment.

As much as I dig the words on this poster, I much prefer McNaughton’s illustrative work.

Learning to Learn

Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain:

Dr. Oakley is not the only person teaching students how to use tools drawn from neuroscience to enhance learning. But her popularity is a testament to her skill at presenting the material, and also to the course’s message of hope. Many of her online students are 25 to 44 years old, likely to be facing career changes in an unforgiving economy and seeking better ways to climb new learning curves.

Dr. Oakley’s lessons are rich in metaphor, which she knows helps get complex ideas across. The practice is rooted in the theory of neural reuse, which states that metaphors use the same neural circuits in the brain as the underlying concept does, so the metaphor brings difficult concepts “more rapidly on board,” as she puts it.

I live by metaphors. Metaphors are not only one of the best ways at conveying complex ideas, but sometimes they’re the only way.

Richard Feynman famously thought if you couldn’t explain it simply, then you didn’t understand it. Metaphors, analogies, and similies are the primary devices for this complex-to-simple idea conversion.

I love Mark Bao’s analogy for analogies:

Analogies are like lossy compression for complex ideas

I went down an even deeper rabbit hole a few years ago when I read ‘I is An Other’ and learned individual words themselves are metaphors for other things.

“He struggled with reading and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia”

The New York Times has an interesting profile on writer Gabriel Tallent and his debut novel, “My Absolute Darling”:

He was more comfortable in the woods than in school. He struggled with reading and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia. When he finally started reading fluidly, he began binging on pulp science fiction novels.

In high school, Mr. Tallent started taking weeklong trips in the wilderness with friends and sometimes alone. He brought philosophy books and plays by Sophocles and Aeschylus with him. In college, he studied 18th-century literature, and began working on a sprawling novel set around Mendocino, which featured Turtle and Martin as part of a much larger cast of characters.

After graduating, he cycled through odd jobs, before moving to Salt Lake City, where his wife, Harriet Tallent, now works as a nurse in a thoracic intensive care unit. He got a job as a waiter at a ski lodge. On days he wasn’t working, he’d write for 12 to 14 hours.

Three years later, he had 800 pages of a sprawling novel about the Pacific Northwest and the strange characters who live there — hippies, survivalists, pot growers, anarchists. He realized the seed of a more arresting story was there, scrapped the draft and wrote a much different novel, one that focused on Turtle’s experience and the physical, psychological and sexual abuse she endures, and her fight to overcome it.

As an artist and designer, this description of his formative years in school sounds very familiar to me.

Tallent didn’t have attention deficit disorder (ADD). He was suffering from what artists suffer from when they’re not working on what they’re passionate about: boredom. Notice how he had ADD in school but could write for 12 to 14 hours on his own book.

As a kid I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD but I did have trouble focusing and had trouble keeping my grades up (I graduated high school with a 2.8 GPA). What I was able to figure out was if I could apply my drawing skills to assignments in my various classes — English, physiology, history — I could maintain an intense focus, learn, and subsequently get good grades on my projects. The problem was not every assignment could be translated into a drawing or comic book so I was limited to where I could use my talents.

ADD is an artificial construct used to describe what is many times a nonexistent handicap in an individual. I’m not suggesting every kid who has trouble focusing has the luxury of being able to focus on and make money from their passion later on in life. What I am suggesting is not to approach a lack of focus as a something wrong or broken with a kid.