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Powerful story telling, or cynical marketing?

Take a few minutes to watch this video (7:18) shown at Apple’s recent World Wide Developer Conference.

Though it may cause the more cynical amongst us to wince, it can’t be denied that this video demonstrates some pretty powerful story telling. Here are some questions to ponder; I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections.

  1. How well do you think this video is pitched at the primary audience, and also to any secondary audiences?
  2. What creative devices are used to take the viewer on a journey?
  3. Is there one individual story you connect most with? Why?
  4. Overall how effective would you say this video is?

Out of the box.

A great idea, if a little impractical, this is a beautifully designed concept for a technical manual.

Most phones come with flimsy manuals with complicated language and jargon. These books, which can live on a bookshelf actually contain the phone.

Each page reveals the elements of the phone in the right order, helping the user to set up the sim card, the battery and even slide the case onto the phone.

The second book is the main manual – the phone actually slots into this and becomes the center of attention.

Arrows point to the exact locations the user should press, avoiding confusion and eliminating the feeling of being lost in a menu.

Why I support the protest against SOPA/PIPA.

If you’re not sure what this SOPA/PIPA business is all about, this video is a great introduction.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.


Whilst my own thinking on this issue is still developing, there are some specific issues I have with SOPA/PIPA.

  • The legislation is driven by old-media content-companies who have struggled to monetise new media to extract the level of profits they are used to. We are living in a new environment with new opportunities and challenges. Legislation will stifle creativity, not protect it. The only aim of this legislation is to protect the profits of large corporates.
  • If this legislation is passed, it highlights the hypocrisy of the West in pointing the finger at regimes that control access to the internet in other parts of the world, whilst doing the exact same thing within their own borders. We need to get a grip.

However, it does also raise the question of what freedom actually is. We don’t always have the same perspective on this.

I’ve been reading the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, and this morning read of an email exchange between Jobs and Ryan Tate of Gawker media (where, apparently, today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news, hmmm). By evoking Jobs’ love of Bob Dylan, and asking what Dylan might feel about Apple – “Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with ‘revolution’?” – he suggests that revolutions are about freedom.

Interestingly, this was Jobs’ response: “Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’…”

Whilst I’m not a 100% advocate of the Apple procedure for approving apps etc, I’m struck that where many were advocating the choice for porn, Steve Jobs was advocating freedom from porn. The freedom to choose (even when this might cost others) versus the freedom from bad choices. Again, I’m not sure I trust Apple enough to always be making good choices on my behalf, but I do find it refreshing how another side is brought to light in this exchange.

Tellingly, Jobs even suggests that Tate “might care more about porn when you have kids…”. Porn enslaves millions, if you count both those forced into the industry through economic desparation, and those for whom the internet enables the secret continuation of bad choices.

Freedom and choice is a complex issue, and I recognise that many of the ‘freedoms’ I enjoy today have come – and still do – at the cost of others.

As you wrestle with these difficult choices, what advice might you give to help others make good, well informed decisions?

Truth and beauty.

UPDATE: Since I posted this blog yesterday, there appears to have been some genuinely helpful dialogue between Kevin DeYoung and Jeff Bethke, resulting in this great post. Given my own rant-in-response I felt compelled to leave the following comment on that blog post:

“Thank you so much, to both of you, for taking the sting out of this ‘difference of perspective’ and demonstrating true grace and gospel unity, allowing others to observe you working this out with humility. May we all learn from this and God be praised.”

Some days I can see why people dislike Christians.

Often these (bad) days are prompted for me when truth-loving Christians misunderstand art.

I believe the truth of the gospel is beautiful, and worth defending. I also love art and want to see the gospel presented creatively, in ways that engage people who would never dream of stepping through the doors of a church.

You may have seen this video doing the rounds on facebook and twitter. I wasn’t going to join the band wagon until I came across this post, which sets about critiquing the words of the poem, painfully, verse by verse. It seems the crux of the argument is the definition of ‘religion’, but I do wonder if Kevin DeYoung could have better spent his time looking to learn something from the poem’s presentation than writing a blog post that will do nothing but please people who already agree with him. Would he critique a testimony given at his church on a Sunday morning in quite the same way?

On a more positive note, I think you’ll enjoy this beautiful presentation of some truth.

Every Breath from tj pieszka on Vimeo.

Where do you do your best work?

Jason Fried, at a recent TED conference, presented his thoughts on why work doesn’t happen at work.

There’s a lot of what he said that I can really resonate with; I work in an open-plan office, and for the most part find that quite difficult. My best work (and probably my best thinking) happens in a quiet atmosphere, or somewhere I can tune out the background noise. One of the pitfalls of an open-plan office is that noise-levels are, in large part, dictated by others: some people like to think aloud or in conversation with others, and their ideas thrive in connection with other people. Some people just enjoy an almost constant background banter. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy that too, and find external processing of ideas and creativity with others incredibly stimulating. But when I need to get something done, I prefer a quiet calm, or at least somewhere I can tune out the background noise.

There are certain tasks that need me to be able to think clearly and coherently. For example, coding often needs you to be able to plan how one piece of functionality could be coded in a number of different ways, and determining the best route requires being able to consider not just the next line of code, but the implications of that on the next 50 lines.

Unfortunately, it’s often when doing those tasks that need my highest concentration that I find it all the harder to tune out what’s going on around me. And I’m not a nice person when faced with those conditions.

Jason compares work-patterns to sleep-patterns. When we sleep, it’s not a simple binary. You are not just asleep or awake, but your sleep is characterised by cycles and patterns. Medics and psychologists alike recognise how disruptive it can be to have your sleep disturbed, and Jason suggests it can be equally disruptive to have a work cycle interrupted; something that might happen many times every day in most offices. “The best gift you can give to a colleague is four hours of uninterrupted time.” He even goes as far as suggesting ‘silent Thursdays’, or even one silent Thursday afternoon each month, to see what difference this makes. It doesn’t sound terribly realistic, and I know many people in my office would (rightly?) balk at the idea; but as I think about it, I wonder if it might redress the balance of ideal working conditions for different types of people. If we work in an open-plan and ‘disruptive’ office for 160 hours a month, suddenly 4-16 hours a month given to conditions that might be more favourable to other people doesn’t sound a lot. Although that does assume that you can do your best work, under those conditions, in a specifically allotted time.

I think one of my major problems with Jason’s presentation, though, is that it feeds my selfishness. The working conditions he describes are my ideal, and I would love to be able to regularly have quiet space to get things done. But deep-down I know that’s not realistic. Part of my value to the organisation isn’t just my individual productivity, but the shared value of connections; being disrupted to help another, and having the freedom to interrupt someone else to get the help I need.

And people work differently. My ideal would be, I suspect, far from ideal for a good number of my colleagues; people whose creativity and productivity is catalysed by constant connection with others. One colleague (not based in our office) explained to me recently that when he needs to get something done, he turns his wifi off; but he also admitted that, as an extrovert, he thrives on ‘distraction’.

People are different, and that is good. People work differently, and how we accommodate those differences is important.

As we consider an office move this year, with potential to change and shape the way we organise that office, this certainly does give food for thought.