Sad Cushion

Great little essay on the value of Design by Mike Monteiro:

This is the value of good design. We understand it in common objects like chairs, clothes, shoes, watches. But when it comes to web sites, we tend to think of it as a surface layer that can be applied at the end. But in truth, design is happening from day one.
Related to the problem of people treating design as a veneer is mobile ‘app’ design. Those who don’t understand application and UI design think it’s just glossy buttons and drop shadows (or now, frosted glass and buttonless Helvetica Light buttons).
It’s just a 99ยข app, it doesn’t require a lot of thought, right?

Open Always Wins, Except When It Doesn’t

Looks like Samsung is drinking Google’s milkshake:

To give an idea of what Samsung is doing, just look at the new Mobile SDK: It supports Samsung’s pen, gestures, multiwindow and motion features with 800 APIs available to developers. If that number doesn’t grab you consider what Samsung said about opportunities for developers. Simply by adding the digital pen to a phone in the first and subsequent Galaxy Note handsets, more 1,800 pen-enabled apps were created. And the company sells two televisions every second. Clearly, Samsung is trying to entice developer attention for its platform.

Wait, isn’t Samsung’s platform Android? Absolutely! Samsung has effectively built an individual, closed environment of apps and features on top of the open Android. Amazon has done much the same with its Fire OS on Kindle Fire tablets but the approach was a little different.
Wait, open always wins, right?

Working For Free

Tim Kreider on being asked to work for free:

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
Reminds me of Harlan Ellison’s strong opinions on this topic.

The Same Typeface Bolded

An Amazon employee from 1997-2004, Eugene Wei spells things out for people who still parrot out the lazy argument around Amazon’s profitless business model:

Amazon has seen that lowering its shipping costs and increasing the speed of shipping items to customers is like a shot of adrenaline to customer’s propensity to buy from them, and so it has doubled down on building more and more fulfillment centers around the world. When I joined Amazon it had one fulfillment center. Today it has dozens just in the US alone, and I would not be surprised if it has more than 100 fulfillment centers worldwide now.

That is a gargantuan investment, billions of dollars worth, and it takes a significant bite out of Amazon’s free cash flow. Add in its investments in infrastructure to support a growing AWS client base, and Amazon has again hiked its fixed cost base to a higher plateau. But for Amazon this is nothing new, it’s just the same typeface bolded.
But Jeff [Bezos] is not wired that way. There are very few people in technology and business who are what I’d call apex predators. Jeff is one of them, the most patient and intelligent one I’ve met in my life. An apex predator doesn’t wake up one day and decide it is done hunting. Right now I envision only one throttle to Jeff’s ambitions and it is human mortality, but I would not be surprised if one day he announced he’d started another side project with Peter Thiel to work on a method of achieving immortality.
As Eugene points out, the people who bitch and moan about the profitlessness of Amazon sound a lot like the people who bitch and moan about the slow, deliberate iterations Apple has with its products.

Don’t Wait For Perfect

The Most Fascinating Humans In New York, Collected In One Place:

At 21 years old, Brandon Stanton—the creative force behind the immensely popular photo blog Humans of New York—had flunked out of college (earning a combined score of zero on his five courses). Kicked out of his parent’s home, he was doing drugs, working at a dead end job at Applebee’s and living in his grandparent’s basement in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also convinced that he was going to write a bestseller.
I love stories like this—taking a hobby, a passion, a side project and turning it into much more than than what it might seem like at first glance.

I Can Do It Myself

MIT Technology Review: Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I

Data gathered from Google’s self-driving Prius and Lexus cars shows that they are safer and smoother when steering themselves than when a human takes the wheel, according to the leader of Google’s autonomous-car project.

A robot can probably wipe my ass better than I can, but that doesn’t mean I want it to. I’m a human being, I can do it my damn self, thank you. Perfection is overrated.

Update: Actually, a robot can totally wipe my ass, just stay away from my car keys.

iPads Aren’t *That* Magical

PandoDaily: Los Angeles School District’s $30 million iPad program falls flat

Last week, I wrote about how one-to-one tablet programs in Missouri and Texas K-12 schools had hit some road bumps. In North Carolina when 73,000 Amplify tablets arrived — from Robert Murdoch’s edtech company — a good chunk of them were shattered and labeled “dangerous.” The program got discontinued. In Texas, a consultant review of the science program iAchieve, that 70,000 students were doing on iPads, found it didn’t meet curriculum standards, and students weren’t learning what they were supposed to. The program was discontinued.

At the time I said, “Uh oh, this doesn’t bode well for the Los Angeles School District, which just ordered $30 million worth of $700 retina display iPads for its students.” School districts and tablet providers are screwing up the execution of what otherwise sounded pretty cool.
The key to improving student performance isn’t in iPads, or any other tablets. They’re not magical pills you give kids and they’ll suddenly all be A students.
It’s about great teachers using great technology.
Technology alone won’t do it.