A week ago, I came home after a long night of drinking and wanted to vomit. It wasn’t the whiskey. It was the email.
I had been gone approximately 6 hours at an event and subsequent after-party. I didn’t check my email the entire time. When I came home, I had over 50 new emails in my inbox (this doesn’t include the ones I automatically archive thanks to Gmail filters). 50-some emails all of which I needed to take action on in some form or another.
Undoubtedly aided by the aforementioned drinks, I hit “Select All” and debated hitting “Delete”. Not just for those 50-some emails. But for all 50,000+ that were sitting un-archived in my inbox. Then I thought better of it. Instead, I hit “Archive”.
Best thing I’ve ever done.
A week into my “Archive All” world, my inbox is pretty fantastic. Obviously, I’m not the first person to do this, but I was highly skeptical that it would work since I figured that after the initial purge, messages would just start piling up again.
But at least for me, it’s more of a mental thing. It’s essentially out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I should have known this would be the case since I’m also obsessed with clearing my RSS reader every night (even though I barely use it anymore) and am a slave to clearing red Push Notification dots on the iPhone/iPad. But I was still terrified to mess with the email flow I had built up over the years.
Previously, I had tried to quit email for an entire month. That was also great. But the problem was that when I got back on the wagon, nothing had actually changed. I had missed a month’s worth of email, and people got ahold of me other ways, but once I was back on email, I was right back into my old habits.
But archiving all my mail forced me to change habits. I was sure there would be something I would miss or forget. But the reality is that there was no way I was ever going to get to all 5,000 things I had starred anyway. I was kidding myself. And I was creating a sense of dread for myself on a daily basis when I looked at my inbox and saw all those goddamn stars.
By archiving all the old mail, I have essentially turned Gmail into a big, searchable repository for email. I upgraded my account to 80 GB of storage (I was at the 30 GB limit). If there’s something I need to reference or remember, I can pull it up easily with a search. But the flow is now to archive everything at least once a week (and ideally sooner). It’s all about admitting to myself that if I don’t get to it by then, I’m never going to get to it.
Again, I was highly skeptical, but at least for now, this works. Yes, this means I’m not responding to a lot of emails that come my way. But I wasn’t anyway. Information still has a funny way of finding a way to command your attention if you need to take action.
For many, email is now the master communication channel. But it’s actually a pretty poor one in this age of mobile computing. Email needs to beaten down into just another channel of flowing information.
Read most of it. Respond to some of it. Keep all of it. But hide it. Then forget about it. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
When I posted my Instagram comparison shots earlier, people bitched that it wasn’t the same scene, so it wasn’t a fair comparison.
John Gruber took the *exact* same shot with an iPhone 4S and a Galaxy Nexus — using the same filter. The results once again speak for themselves.
While it looks like the Galaxy Nexus has shit on the lens. The reality is that it’s just a shittier lens.
Yes, I was being a bit of a dick earlier about Android users “polluting” the Instagram feed, but the reality is that the shots do look worse. No point sugar coating it. That’s not the users’ fault. It’s not Instagram’s fault. It’s the quality of the cameras. It’s the OEMs’ fault, and at least partially also Google’s fault (developers constantly bitch about the camera software/APIs baked into Android).
I’m happy that my friends with Android phones now get to experience the joy that is Instagram. I can think of at least a dozen people that I personally know well who wanted this app above all others. Now they have it. And they should.
The beauty of it being cross platform to me is situations like this. Because Instagram is becoming the ubiquitous camera app, it’s a great point of comparison. (It’s something we would have used Flickr for in the past, but no one seems to use Flickr anymore — at least not in the same way.) As a result, we can see how much better an iPhone camera is than a top Android camera. A lot.
This exposes something that is otherwise hard to expose: it’s either a lack of attention to detail amongst Android OEMs or a lack of caring. “Good enough” will never be the best.
That’s what I love about Apple and the iPhone. It’s a fucking beautiful camera. And it keeps getting better. They work really hard to make it so. The Android OEMs do not. Instagram exposes this. That is all.
Just in case my love letter last November didn’t make it abundantly clear, I’ll reiterate: I love Square. We’re not investors, but I wish we were. I love both the business and the product. And if that level of admiration makes this post biased, then color me conflicted.
Apparently well aware of my tweets and posts, the company brought me in to show me the latest thing they’ve been working on. It’s the evolution of their Card Case product to morph it into a more central part of their overall strategy. It’s technically called “Pay with Square”, but when installed, the new app simply reads “Square”.
That’s telling. Square, the card reader (now appropriately called “Square Card Reader”), has been the way most people think of the product and company. But that’s limiting because it’s so focused on merchants. It’s a great business, and an important one — but if Square is truly going to revolutionize payments, they need to get the consumers fully on board.
Enter Pay with Square. Using Card Case has been nothing short of magical. It’s one of those experiences that when it happens, you wonder how the hell they did it — and also why the hell it hasn’t been done like that before?
But there’s a flipside. Because the experience is so magical — so natural — it almost seems as if something is wrong when it happens. It simply can’t be that easy. You can’t possibly pay for something simply by saying your name and doing nothing else, right? The most common reactions I’ve seen to Card Case in public are “now what?” and “that’s it?”
That’s Square’s biggest barrier to entry with Pay with Square: they need to convince people that they don’t need to put up with the nonsense they’ve been doing for decades. You don’t have to swipe a card. You don’t have to sign anything. You pay by having your smartphone on you. And your payment is verified by your name (and face).
With Pay with Square, Square is ditching the wallet metaphor (of Card Case) and simplifying things to just be a list of venues of interest that are close by. At first, I was a bit surprised by this change because I liked the design and the card metaphor (which is still sort of in place). But this actually makes a lot more sense. Don’t cater to the baggage of the past, replace the past.
I’ve been using Pay with Square this past weekend and it’s great. The transition from Card Case is seamless because it’s essentially the same thing, just reworked in an attempt to take it more mainstream.
To that end, Square also put in quite a bit of work to make Pay with Square work on Android as well. Because Android doesn’t have the same geofencing capabilities native to their SDK like iOS does, this was undoubtedly a huge pain in the ass. Square essentially had to build the technology from the ground up to make their Android app work in the same way that the iOS one does.
Thanks to this work, Square has managed to do the seemingly impossible: make Google Wallet look even worse. While Google is wasting time (and apparently employees) trying to move from a credit card swipe to a tap-to-pay by way of NFC, Square has been busy building the future. A tap is a bit more simple than a swipe, I suppose. But screw that. You should be able to pay by doing nothing at all.
As you may be able to tell from my posts on our portfolio company Highlight, I love the idea of mobile apps that work without the user have to do anything. Highlight alerts you as you move around. Pay with Square allows you to pay for things by walking into the place you wish to buy something.
The next trick is signing up more vendors to accept Pay with Square. Luckily, products like Square Register are complimentary. They just need iPad adoption to keep growing at the pace it has been. And it will.
And Square needs to convince people that the ability to pay without doing a thing isn’t actually magic, it’s just one of those things that should have always been done this way that technology now allows for. It’s a more natural way of doing payments that just happens to seem like magic because of the baggage we all carry.
It’s technology at its best.
More about Pay with Square on Techmeme.
In response to my PandoDaily post about Game of Thrones earlier, Trevor Gilbert tries his hand at parody. Not all bad, but a few quick problems:
1) You can buy an unlocked iPhone.
2) Even if you stole the iPhone, you wouldn’t actually be able to use it on a carrier’s network without paying them.
3) Pretty much everything else.
But Gilbert knows this, I have to assume. From the comments, it seems he takes issue with my “sense of entitlement”. Clearly lost on him (and plenty others!) is the point.
The point is the very essence of piracy.
Piracy does not exist because there are evil people out there who are thieves and/or hate capitalism and/or feel entitled. Sure, there are some bad eggs, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Piracy exists because it’s often an easier way of obtaining content than the legal means. And sometimes, it’s the only way.
HBO doesn’t care right now because they’re raking in the money. Good for them. But they’re fools if they think the status quo will be maintained indefinitely. We’re seeing the beginning stages of where this is going right now. The pirating of Game of Thrones is all about ease of access to content.
Right now, you could wait a year to pay to get the content legally, or you could get it today for free. Remove the money element. It matters, but it’s not the key. The key is that it’s today versus a year from today. That’s the problem here.
Much of the arguments in defense of HBO today have been that it’s their content and they can do what they want. True! But they’re doing so blindly as gatekeepers who have total faith in their wall. The problem is that the wall is already full of holes.
Currently, they’re pretending the wall is perfectly intact. In a year, they’ll admit it’s been breached, and they’ll try to rebuild it. But they won’t be able to. 5 years from now, hardly anyone will be using the gate.
So why not just let everyone in now and charge them all a fee? Because admitting the wall is crumbling will mean accepting less money. Supply/demand. No one ever wants to take less money. But what they’ll have to come to terms with in the future is that less money is better than no money at all.
And yes, perhaps that means the end of high-end content like Game of Thrones which features massive, movie-like budgets. That sucks. But it is what it is.
My post was merely meant as a wake-up call for HBO and other content providers. Winter is indeed coming. A lot of people pirate today because it’s easier than getting the content legally. In a couple years, as younger people not accustomed to paying for cable grow up, so will the number of pirates for artificially restrained content like Game of Thrones. In five years, it’s not going to be pretty at all.
Unless HBO and the others get out ahead of this, that is.
The cable empires are going to die. It’s just the way it is. Nothing lasts forever. The backup plan of the premium content players should be what Netflix is doing. Content everywhere at a fair price. And they should start right now. But they’re all scared shitless to even think of walking away from that cable money.
So it will have to start walking away from them.
And make no mistake, it will. It’s just a question of when.
One year? Two years? Five years? HBO and the rest just better hope that they don’t mistime the retreat because they’re drunk on the wine from a dying resource. If piracy becomes the norm rather than the fringe, they’re going to get royally screwed on the deals for someone else to bring their house back in order. See also: the music industry.
My single biggest takeaway from SXSW was all the talk about battery life. Every single person. All the time. People changing plans because they needed to recharge their phones. People walking around with chargers. People who were chargers. Mophies galore. People uninstalling apps that would drain power. People putting phones into airplane mode in areas of weak signal. People borrowing other phones so they didn’t have to waste the power on their phone.
Power. Power. Power.
This talk is nothing new of course, but it’s ramping up. As we transition into an LTE world, it’s going to be more and more of an issue, as Farhad Manjoo points out today. One of the most impressive things about the new iPad is the fact that it maintains the 9 to 10 hour battery life even with the addition of LTE. The next question is if they can do that with the iPhone as well. We’ll see. It’s gonna need a bigger battery.
To me, the most impressive thing about my MacBook Air isn’t its size, it’s the battery life. I routinely get 6 to 7 hours on one charge. Just a few years ago, this was unthinkable for a laptop (especially one this size). Part of that is better technology, but a large part is also simply a larger battery.
Manjoo is right that unlike the rest of the technology we use everyday, battery technology hasn’t evolved all that much over the past few decades. It’s constantly being refined and perfected, but it’s still largely the same. Want more battery life? Get a bigger battery.
If someone can truly disrupt this space, it will act as a lubricant that accelerates our already amazing pace of technological transformation.
I want a laptop that lasts for a week on one charge. I want a cellphone that lasts a month. I want to be able to go to SXSW without a Mophie in each pocket. I don’t want to have to be constantly worrying about battery life every single time I leave my house.
Today’s battery technology is holding back several other advances in technology in major ways. And we are about to see just how bad the situation is in the coming months. Maybe wireless power sources that constantly charge and re-charge devices is the ultimate answer. But it just seems like battery technology is really ripe for disruption.
I understood the value of Highlight immediately. Within hours of downloading the app, I walked into a cafe and ran into someone I had met before, but only in passing. Who was he, I wondered while talking to him in vague generalities so as not to give away my poor recognition skills. It was a pretty pointless conversation that perhaps could have been a great one if I could have just remembered who the hell he was.
I sat down and pulled out my phone which had been buzzing since I entered the cafe. There, right in front of me in the form of a push notification was the name of the guy I was just talking to. I swiped it and got taken into Highlight where I could see his picture, where he worked, and our common friends. Brilliant.
“2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space.”
That was Andy Rubin talking about Android’s tablet strategy at Mobile World Congress, as relayed by The Verge.
Across all the various OEMs that make Android tablets, 12 million have been sold in total. Ever. For context, Apple sold 15 million iPads last quarter.
Obviously, Google needs to do better in the space. And they should be able to. Quite honestly, it would be hard to do much worse given the interest in the space (thanks mainly to the aforementioned iPad) on both a consumer and OEM level. But Rubin’s excuse as to why the Android tablets are selling so poorly is suspect at best.
A couple weeks ago, a rant of mine on technology journalism kicked off a firestorm that has yet to fully subside. The talking points have evolved beyond my initial ones and yes, I too have re-fueled the flames a few times.
I knew the reaction would be strong (for obvious reasons), but I didn’t expect the tech press to get as riled up as they have for this extended period of time. In my 5+ years covering a whole range of topics in technology professionally, I have never gotten as many requests for comments, interviews, etc, as I have about all of this. Which is pretty silly when you think about it.
The tech press, like most everyone else, clearly loves to talk about itself. The difference is that we have a bigger soapbox from which to do so. And the past few weeks have resulted in more mastubatory self-reflection than usual.
The other day, I got an email from a gentleman named Seth. As a regular reader, he wanted to give me some honest feedback on my writing as of late. I wanted to share a portion of what he wrote:
Earlier today, I broke some news.
I don’t typically do this anymore given my new job. But from time to time this will happen. But if you read The Wall Street Journal, you’d never know. Why’s that? Because they’re fuckheads who don’t credit actual sources of information.
I know, I know. I’m ranting again. But indulge me for a few minutes.
I broke the news that Apple acquired the app search/discovery platform Chomp at 4:01 PM today. At 6:06 PM — over two hours later — WSJ reported the story as well. But oddly, with no mention of my original story.
This was odd both because, again, I reported the same information two hours earlier. And because it was at the top of Techmeme, which everyone in the industry reads. And every single other publication linked to my story.
Yesterday, Christopher Mims of MIT’s Technology Review took on the challenge of taking a step back from the screaming to look into what’s really going on behind the latest Bitchmeme. Reading his take, it occurs to me that Mims, and probably many others, are completely missing something very fundamental going on here.
Mims argues that investments make us unreasonably biased and conflicted, yadda yadda. Same argument, different day. He even cites this tweet:
…which is funny because from 1997 until 2005, Disney owned a Major League Baseball team, the Anaheim Angels. Guess who else Disney owned during that time? Yep. ESPN.
From 1993 until 2005, Disney also owned the National Hockey League team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Again, they owned ESPN at the time as well.
If you want one other example (there are many), how about the fact that The New York Times owns a stake in the Boston Red Sox.
Weird, huh? This all must be very hilarious to Downtown Josh Brown.
Anyway. The very obvious point that Mims and others fail to mention is that no one is forcing anyone to do anything. If you don’t want to read what Michael and I write, don’t.
If you think we’re unreasonably biased and conflicted, do not visit our sites, cite our work, etc. Why would you?
The real problem our critics have is that an ever-increasing number of people do read what we write. The old guard doesn’t like that one bit because we’re not doing it their way. But they can’t do a damn thing about it besides bitch and moan. Too bad. The readers ultimately decide, not you.
Meanwhile, our conflicted coverage of the Path situation this week included information such as the fact that while there was no question that Path needed to (and did) fix the issue, many others were guilty as well. As was Apple. And we noted that Apple was on the verge of fixing this whole situation.
Sure enough, scanning the news today: Yep. Yep. And yep.
You could have gotten early insight into all of today’s news by reading our posts over the past week. Instead, the cycle turned into a shitstorm of nonsense that ultimately doesn’t matter in the slightest.
The fact remains: if you want to read, great! If you don’t, great! It’s completely up to you.
Looks like someone woke up from his nap of the last three years and is hungry. Sadly, I don’t have much food for him. I’ll keep this as brief as possible — and I promise this will be the last thing I ever say about Dan Lyons, as he’s clearly done.
Feel free not to read. Or read Michael Arrington’s post on the matter. He takes a higher road than I’m about to. I’m just sick of Lyons’ bullshit.
The truth is that I pre-responded to Lyons earlier today before he even wrote his post. You could see it coming. What I wrote yesterday directly attacks the way he makes a living. When you do that, people get irrationally upset and write posts like the one Lyons just wrote. Just to reiterate, the line that applies here from the film Moneyball:
The reactions to my rant yesterday have been fascinating. The vast majority have been overwhelmingly positive — except from one sector where it’s more like 50/50. No surprise which sector that is: technology writers/bloggers/journalists. About half thought the post was great/honest/inspiring. The other half think I’m the devil.
I’m reminded of one of the best parts of last year’s film Moneyball. Red Sox owner John Henry (Arliss Howard) says the following to Billy Beane (Brad Pitt):
It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy.
If everything I said yesterday is true, technology writers, be it short-term or long-term, are fucked. Either they’ve already sold their souls for the pageviews and the subsequent paychecks or they’ll eventually have to make that choice. The best know this and I suspect many of them won’t be in the game in 5 years. But the ones who have been in the game too long to change… the ones holding the reins… well, they’re going bat shit crazy.
This morning, I woke up and read Nick Bilton’s weekly New York Times’ column. Nick is a friend and one of the best bloggers/writers/journalists out there. But with today’s column, he was way off base.
Having already said what I wanted to say about the Path situation, I debated if I should weigh in again. Then I read Nick’s column again. There’s a way to say what he wants to say, but he goes about it the complete wrong way. I felt like I had to respond.
But before I could, my CrunchFund partner Michael Arrington wrote almost exactly what I would have written — but in a more effective way. As a dog owner/lover, Michael thought up a great analogy: “So the belly is shown.”