You ain’t no Steve Jobs

One of the things I keep hearing from media and some of my friends is how Steve Jobs thought different, did things differently and failed a lot.

College dropout

Got fired

Unsuccessful businessman

LSD user

“Look, dad! Steve Jobs was a failure and look what he did. I’m dropping out of college and going to change the world.”

*deep sigh*

I’m going to be a contrarian here. It is a bit scary that we have created an entire generation that has been rewarded for every mistake, every failure, every effort as an accomplishment. We gave trophies for just showing up. And the only thing we have produced is a bunch of folks who feel lost without getting an affirmation that their pooping is good.

I am getting very tired of having to acknowledge effort with the same weight as accomplishment. I don’t want to clap at your guitar tuning; I want to save that for your performance. Of course every success is lined with failure, but quit redefining the failures as successes. Yes, I know that makes me an intolerant geezer, but it really is for your own good.

Suck it up, become an adult and move on. Adults know when a failure is a failure or the next step to becoming a success. That is what makes us adults. And adults do not need constant affirmations that they done good by going poop.

Steve Jobs knew the rules of his craft and knew what he needed to break. He took an insane amount of crap for his vision. He probably suffered a lot in silence whereas you blog every angst. He did not camp out in his parents’ basement. He got off his butt and persevered. And nobody — except maybe Woz — ever, ever told him he was on the right track.

You remind me of students who aspire to be writers, justifying their lack of discipline to the craft by saying “e.e. cummings didn’t capitalize things.”

Like I tell these students, “You ain’t no e.e. cummings.”

And you ain’t no Steve Jobs, but you can prove me wrong.

When you do, come by, kick me in the ribs and say “I told you so.”

The Mac OS goes to the dogs

Steve Jobs, we dogs think it was a mistake to start naming the MacOS X after cats. Really, not cool.

In the interest of Think Different, may I propose a name for your next version? Snow Shepherd

MacOS X 10.6 Snow Shepherd
MacOS X 10.6 Snow Shepherd. If you look carefully, it is already up and running 😉

Round up all the web geeks and pelt them with pebbles

I just spent the last hour of my life fighting with some CSS that works perfectly in Safari and MESI 7.0, but not in MSIE 6.0 or the “standards compliant” Firefox whatever version it is now. Since I am working pre-coffee, pre-office hours from a laptop on my kitchen table, I don’t have the luxury of checking out the site on a MSIE 6.0 browser. All I have is a really badly worded description of the problem, sent in an email by a very late Boomer who is using a language all her own to describe the issue.

Let me start by explaining I am very, very good at CSS, HTML, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a whole host of stuff that has long been discontinued. I have been in the Internet and Web game since 1995 so I think it is fair to say I know what I am doing and have employed a pretty sizable library of fixes, kludges, hacks and plain ol’ cheats to make stuff work on a Web site. I can read, write and design. Don’t even start assuming I’m an idiot or unknowledgeable. You would be very, very wrong.

In some circles, I would be considered a geek. But in mine, I am a User Interface Designer. My job — some would say my obsession — is to make the interaction between the human and the machine seamless and intuitive. If training is needed, the system is too complicated. At least that is the ideal.

I have lost more time, brain cells and sleep to the hubris of geeks than any other tech-related issue. I am convinced the only reason that we have browser discrepancies with CSS, HTML, etc is because the geeks were in charge and they did not have the skills to play nice with each other or anybody else. They looked down at the user because they weren’t as smart, because they didn’t get it. And, they looked down at each other because each one was more right than his peer.

What if each company making street lights decided on a different order of the red-yellow-green? Of, decided that the colors were way too boring and decided purple-pink-magenta would be better. Or, what if they decided that light were just not good and they used coo-coo clock birdies instead? And imagine if a different signal was installed on each street corner. But, the wrinkle is that each user was able to choose which signal he/she liked best for that day, for that corner? What a mess!

So, now we have this mess of browser technologies that don’t play well with each other. For every hour I have to spend on the phone or email, explaining why MSIE 6.0 is a piece of crap, I would like to invoice Microsoft. And, in all fairness, Microsoft should take that invoice payment out of the paychecks of any geek who decided that their way was better. Let them live with the consequences of the mess their hubris created. Apple and Mozilla, you’re not off the hook either.

I expect the geeks to either ignore this post or defend their position. I really don’t give a crap which they do because today, I woke up as a fully frustrated user who doesn’t care to hear another excuse about why your way is better. I am no longer a developer; I will be a user first. If I have to fight with it, I ain’t gonna use your technology.

Standards are good. Community-agreed conventions keep use from wasting time. Pay attention to the user, geeks and peek out from your self-induced world every once in a while.

And quit going to geek conventions where everyone validates your opinion about the user. They’re wrong; we’re not stupid. We just have lives where technology is a tool, not an ends.

Zune couldn’t play Auld Lang Syne at midnight

Zune
Zune
Apparently, a Microsoft Zune model couldn’t do the leap year calculation for 2008 and ending up freezing for it’s owners yesterday. In the WSJ, they reported that “… Zune owners flooded blogs and Internet chat sites to complain they couldn’t listen to music…”

What? How much of a flood could 12 people worldwide create?

All I know is that all three iPods and my iPhone were capable of playing Auld Lang Syne at exactly 12:00am on January 1, 2009. Even if I had to wait an extra second.

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio
I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

Warm humanity in technology

The Browns
The Browns
About a year ago, I found The Browns on Amazon.com in a random search prompted by the memory of “I heard the bluebird sing” from my puppyhood. I bought the album and couldn’t wait to play it.

Well, I should have because the sound that came out of my speaker was crystal clear and remastered from the original recording. What a disappointment.

My memory included not only the melody and words but also the pop and hiss of a diamond needle in a groove on a well-worn vinyl record. Yeah, I still like the album and I’m getting used to it, but it really isn’t the same. I’m thinking of “remastering” my own version of the songs and laying a track of pop and hiss over the track.

Then, today I downloaded “Big Rock Candy Mountain” from the O brother, Where art thou? soundtrack. There it was, in all it’s low-tech glory, popping and hissing all over the place. Wow! Heaven again.

So, Apple, if you are listening, why not provide an “LP” choice for us in your iTunes Store for music recorded pre-1986? Or, better yet, why doesn’t someone come up with a service that lays down a “pop and hiss” track on any music purchased digitally? not sure what the market is, but I’m pretty sure some GenY, living in his parent’s basement, blogging in his pajamas can easily write something like this and get into the biz.

Google phone with T-Mobile.. Seriously??

The first cellphone running Google's Android software was unveiled Tuesday. (Reuters, stolen from wsj.com)
The first cellphone running Google's Android software was unveiled Tuesday. (Reuters, stolen from wsj.com)
Google unveiled the G1 phone today. Ok, that is good, but what is with these top tier companies like Apple and Google partnering up with crappy service providers like AT&T and T-Mobile?

The devices may be cool, but if there is no network attached to them or it takes minutes to send and read simple emails or bring up a web site that users are accustomed to loading quickly via their broadband connections, who cares? More than once in the past week, I can picked up my low-tech Razr with Verizon phone just to make simple phone calls and send text messages because my iPhone had that No Service message at the top.

Guys, pay attention to the network as much as you pay attention to the touch screen and phone apps. No network means no phone.

Oh, yeah.. and since Time Warner RoadRunner has been down for OVER A WEEK NOW, my Verizon wireless card has been going strong.