Boots choose to be less useful in the cold.
Has the ground always been this interesting? I wondered.
It passes underfoot and tire at rapid pace through Summer months.
The cold brings change. Rain becomes snow, time slows down, and the ground that gets us around, takes centre stage.
Our attention held for half the year.
Every thoughtful step.
Every thing dies eventually.
That is not a sad fact. Just a reality. We all, at some point, have pictured our optimal demise. From saving a kitten in a burning building to being shot in the back by a jealous lover. We have an idea of how we would prefer to “go”.
I wonder if the makers of things in this world picture how they want their creations to “go”? Unless you are making serious bank, or have a spending problem, you probably also have technology in your care that is past the point of still totally doing the thing it was set out to do.
When I was 17 I bought my grandmother’s 1985 Aries K (grey Coupe model for the enthusiasts). It had 70k on it from 11 years of driving from Chatham to Grimsby. For $200 I got a set of wheels and I couldn’t have been happier. The thing to bear in mind is that it was 11 years old, and a Dodge, so it wasn’t the same reliant automobile that came off the lot to replace my grandmother’s Dodge Duster back in 85′, but it was what I could afford.
You learn to live with the undead because you still need them.
The interior dashboard light died immediately and I never got around to fixing it. Instead I got used to driving in a completely dark vehicle at night heading up to North Bay when I was in college. It could only really go 108 on the highway anyway so I was never worried about speeding. The car I ended up replacing it with also had it’s own death rattle when it stopped having a reverse gear. Two weeks of circling for parking spots before making the call to let the dear thing get towed away for $25.
Over the years all of the appliances and technology that I have encountered eventually stops working as intended and then the relationship changes. It becomes humanistic.
When your refrigerator works perfectly, you don’t tend to think much of it other than “look at my nice working technology”. And then over time, like all things, it stops doing all of the things it was made to do. It starts doing new things, making new noises, new smells, adding exciting new features like leaking all of the condensation water out if you close the door too hard. Or humming until you smack the side of it. Who decided to make these new features? I can’t imagine it was the team over at Kenmore, and it certainly wasn’t me.
This leads me to the only logical conclusion. My fridge is now sentient. In death it became alive.
In my personal life I don’t get hung up on needing the newest gadgets or versions of tech. I only replace things when the actually stop working.
This means that most of my worldly belongings are part of the growing undead. What this leaves me with is an interesting relationship with made things. I have grown to like the fact that my phone will stop working and freeze up if I switch between applications too quickly. It has made me slow down. My kitchen faucet becomes loose now every couple months. I feel that it is telling me to clean under the sink every so often while I am down there tightening the thing. I have a 13 year old desk fan that will start making this nauseating squeak and sway weirdly if it needs a bit of attention. I think it learned that from the sink.
It’s the sad breakdown of technology that is the humanistic part which is interesting. Those are the qualities we tend to remember about the made things we own or interact with in our lives.
I wonder if there is a place for more humanity in properly functioning technology, and not just in the fans and fridges are that trying to quietly shove off.
Mixed Media Illustration by Chris Gostling
I lost interest in Facebook a year ago when it no longer held a compelling conversation.
If LinkedIn was a real thing, it would be akin to being at a dinner party held in the same room as a networking event, and a trade show. I am ready to grab my coat and find a pub most of the time, if you are still following the analogy.
I have signed up for Ello just to understand how people are using it. I am as curious as everyone else is.
I feel Ello was probably made by a bunch of people who said, “let’s throw a NEW dinner party, and NOT do that thing we did last time”. Right now it looks like Tumblr and Myspace might have bumped uglies a while back and have been hiding the kid from us.
We are going to probably keep doing that thing though. We left friendster, and myspace, and foursquare. We are leaving Facebook. We have a communications history littered with lost civilizations. Profiles left unattended for years. Passwords have been forgotten from our “something funny” number sign @ hotmail or AOL accounts.
We like to talk about our migration and it being because the various platforms were antiquated, people were frustrated, and young, seasoned developers created new things for us.
So we left, in droves, and abandoned half finished experiments along the way, in search of social media nirvana. I don’t know what people are actually wanting more; digital connection with society, or a zoo to witness and interact with on a whim.
Leaving is only part of the phenomenon though.
It’s the garbage that we create and live with until we no longer enjoy it that I am most amazed by. In every case we have lowered the bar for quality, well before people actual started looking for something “better”. We do and allow things in our “social media” spaces that we would never do or allow in real life. We see other people doing it, and we do it some more. I found that we no longer set a bar for quality, and I didn’t matter what was being posted.
I believe in freedom of speech. I also believe in quality of speech. These are our communities and we are fine with posting crap and being subjected to it with no push back, we just bail instead.
I don’t feel bad for Facebook or miss myspace, and while I am excited for Ello, it’s a slightly morbid curiosity driving that.
Community Curation and Support
You may read this and think I am a naysayer for social media. This is simply not true. Video didn’t kill the radio star, her fans did though. In contrast, I witness people on Instagram doing something unique. People are putting up interesting content, and taking better photos, which drive others to also take better photos and share interesting content. The quality of the images that are on Instagram are pretty impressive and it’s primarily non-professionals. It could be due to the simple nature of the application. It appears to be of limited function. Take a picture or video, throw a filter on it, add a comment, a few hashtags that allow others to find your post, and you’re done!
I am not convinced we will ever use hashtags properly. I witnessed someone on LinkedIn using one in a post which was strange as that is not a feature (currently). What makes the community using Instagram special is that people are genuinely putting more effort and originality in their posts. The content is better which translates to an actual conversation, and a good one some of the time. For now, and for the most part, we are treating this space thoughtfully and making compelling content.
I am interested to see how Ello will be treated by us.
On the launch week of Apple’s newest creations, I couldn’t help but reminisce on my personal relationship with Apple over the years. In writing this I realized that breaking things down by year makes little sense. I used whatever computer I could afford or was given to use. They are what my memories are tied to. Here we go.
I have no idea what my high school had but the Geography and Science teacher had one apparently. I remember a few chosen kids that had access to “it”. They sounded like hippies or bleeding edge Jazz music fans. This was my first exposure to MacIntosh as a thing.
I was too focused on my family PC at that point. My parent’s had the foresight to get me into computers when I was six and ten years had gone by at that point. Lots had changed in a decade.
This was my college experience. Learning how to both live on my own and how to use the bezier pen tool at the same time. I wanted to be a professional Graphic Designer and it seemed that this was what the pros used. We had a computer lab full of them at Canadore College in North Bay, ON. It was great and I drank the Kool-Aid. Apple could do no wrong. Quark Express came with a hardware dongle and Adobe Illustrator 6 was fantastic, predictable and still relatively easy to use. Mac became Jazz to me in 1997.
A couple of years into working for a small graphic design company we got a few G3 towers. They had those huge plastic handles on all four corners and had a CD burner built-in. Up to that point we were still backing up our work archive to DAT tapes and 44mb Syquest discs to courier to prepress shops.
These Macs were pretty and powerful. OS9 was highly unstable though. We ran too many programs at once, our files were always too large for it and things like a bad font could corrupt the whole system and bring it down. It would shut off when it wanted to for some reason as well. If you were a professional designer in the early 2000’s, working on a Mac, you had a certain amount of shell shock at all times. You would save your work every two minutes and not doing that meant you would pay the price eventually.
I could finally afford to buy my own Mac, so I could do my freelance at home, and no longer on my work computer after hours. It cost me $4700 at the time, which was so much money. The screen was so very small but it was portable (sort of). Although you never wanted to carry it by the built-in handle for fear of it ripping off. It felt like they had made alot of them and quickly.
G5 Aluminum Tower
I had the opportunity in 2005 to start an art department for my second and final employer. I got to order what I wanted for the studio which was amazing. Tell them my wish list and it would be there when I started. It felt like I was a rockstar writing a rider for a gig at Madison Square Gardens.
It showed up and it was perfect. Packaged like nothing I had ever experienced. As far as I was concerned, Apple spent all of their time making that one computer just for me. It was beautiful and like all of the Macs I have worked on, it inspired me to create. Like some sort of sacrificial offering to it. Not to Steve though. He wasn’t so top of mind for me in 2005 for some reason.
It was huge. 17″ and always either freezing cold or untouchably hot. It was a slab of lifeless beauty until you pressed that power button and then you were back to the game of trying to impress it.
I left my last “job” in 07′ to start a marketing firm with a partner. This was the last time anyone handed me a pay check. Evenings spent sitting on my living room floor, Skyping with my business partner about a concept, on this polished and nearly always pristine device. I felt like I could rule the world with it.
I bought two of these last year for my agency. They are monolithic and comically large. When you sit in front of a 27″ iMac the horizon gets compromised. There becomes nothing but the computer in your perspective. I still occasionally will lose my mouse cursor on the screen, which is probably a sign of just getting old. And unlike the huge heavy CRT’s of the early 2000’s this computer is so thin that it might as well be magic.
I still own a first gen iPad that I keep beside my record player in my living room. It is full of all of the music I originally had on CD. That format was my jam for a long time and I recently donated 570 of these plastic gems to the Salvation Army. This was due to two factors; I no longer owned a working CD player, and the only shop in town that still took CD’s, didn’t want them. That iPad reminds me that change is inevitable and occasionally sad.
But the Air was my response to finding peace in the face of change. I employ great people who all happen to be in their mid 20s and they have a different relationship with the tangibility of things that have mattered alot to me. They don’t like to write by hand. And they don’t use file folders – paper ones I mean.
My company runs very smoothly using the latest cloud based project and file management tools. I like file folders. Going to Grand & Toy made me happy. I could touch file folders, and reorganize them, and still Post-It notes on them. I could spend an evening when I thought work was slow and lay all the active project folders out on my living room floor and find some solace.
I realized one day that I was the only person in the company that used these folders. I had built a paperless work culture for my staff and never joined it. I like my iPad. It doesn’t work perfectly, but I have never set my expectations that high with any technology. It lets me run my business and live my life, and still inspires me to create.
This was written on paper with a pen.
It is bloody hot out and our workload like many agencies is light in the summer. This gives us time to do a few things. As a business owner this means I can organize files, accounts, the office, and our working processes. As a leader building a culture, I took the time today to play a few games with my team.
Let me first say that I am nowhere in this post discounting the time it takes to get good at anything. That is assumed.
Here is what I learned from this afternoon:
- Competition can be born more than one way
- Positive play breeds competition
- Positive competition is formed from a game first being perfectly communicated to all participants. This levels the playing field.
- While positive competition is great, after a while if nothing changes, it can become stale. Remember being a kid and playing keep away with a younger sibling or smaller friend when they thought it was going to be a game of catch. It stays interesting longer. This is not a positive form of play. The information was not communicated to each participant so they had an equal opportunity for action.
- So we get to positive competition, and it’s something like playing catch. Both parties agree on a format of catch (throw to them, or through somewhere else agreed to, etc) If the game stays in that format for a while, it can really become repetitive, predictable, and uninteresting. What solves this is changing the game, making things more challenging and allowing all participants to understand the new rules before having to act.
- We do this by teaching first, so we catch the ball a different way, behind your back, your other hand, etc. Everyone sees this and can choose to adopt that new option in the game.
- This breeds a culture of positive competition. Learning and improving and challenging ourselves in collaboration.
- To counter this we take the other form of competition. This is negative competition. It is about giving the other participants little to no time to learn the new facets of the game. The game changes but it creates an environment that supports a negative form of growth and in a large amount of cases it just stunts it completely. Corporate cultures where people are afraid to lead a culture of growth. We have to teach to make this happen in a positive format. And teaching is really hard.
- So we choose to change the rules unbeknownst to our fellow participants. This is negative competition. This is where the term cutthroat was originally developed.
But in a business, and in our case an environment where creativity IS our product in everything we do, I don’t choose to let “cutthroat” negative competition thrive, or worse, no competitive spirit at all. I choose to build an environment where positive competition is what will actually keep us surviving. Sit with that for a moment. Positive competition as a survival strategy.
Let’s go back to the games.
We sat and first played a very structured game of RISK. The rules are very simple, we all understood them, and even though the learning curve can be steep and it take years to get great at the game, it is very predictable to a point and can get boring very quickly.
Once emails were checked and clients satiated, we moved outside to the park across from the office. Throw a football, catch a football. Easy peasy. This is where things became very cool to witness. As we played and things became consistent, we each would try to catch or throw the ball differently after a while, with everyone else watching and acknowledging these new opportunities to build upon.
There is the same opportunity to build this culture of positive competition within a work environment. But you have to set the tone:
- Everyone (EVERYONE) understands the rules, dynamics, goal, limitations, and opportunities
- Everyone engaged pays attention to everyone else that is engaged
- New rules, technique, challenges, and goals are introduced in the form of teaching. The instigator shows the rest of the group what they are trying, and everyone has the opportunity to build upon this.
Where this gets challenging is when a person who has created something is seeking a disproportionate amount of credit or praise for a contribution. It would be like naming a style of catch and then not wanting anyone else to modify it. This is how companies end up with powerpoint presentations from 2008 still in use.
Take what you want from this. There are very cool things that can come out of fostering a culture of positive competition and putting in measures to avoid the pitfalls from negative competition. I believe this happens when we put the time into effective communication to everyone engaged.
Our work as marketers is not very gratifying much of the time. We are not painters, or gardeners, or doctors, or any profession where there is a high daily possibility of seeing gratification at that absolute edge of our original goal, for us it’s the consumer.
Sure we have clients that are happy and pay us, and we give and get awards for being the cleverest kittens in the class, BUT not alot of our time is spent in witness of the actual end consumer, connecting with what we create.
Over a rocks glass of wine last night I replaced the battered covers of the custom designed and built menus for The Roxton, a restaurant client of Momentum’s. In looking at this pile of tattered covers, beaten up by excited patrons to the restaurant, looking to be fed. These menu covers embody the actual connection with the people we were hoping to connect with when we designed the menus.
It’s great to see, and I find that bringing pieces like that back to the team show that our work can be very gratifying and we can connect with actual people.
If you are reading this, I would love to know how you find proof of work effort. Where do you seek that moment of gratification that keeps you going?