Steve

I’m surprised at the depth of my grief.

I came late to the Apple party – my first Apple product was the 1st gen Windows iPod, a gift from my sister. Years later I started making websites and needed a Mac “for testing.” My black MacBook sits next to me right now. I finally replaced my PC last spring with an iMac, after years of wondering could it really be that different?

Different, yes. It took me a while to get it, skeptic that I am. But like many converts, I am now a true believer. (Two more iPods and an iPad have filled out my Apple family.) But what is that I believe in? Is it just a cult of personality, and now that Steve is gone my belief will fade? I don’t think that’s it.

What Steve Jobs did for the planet will be sorted out over the next few centuries. Last night over dinner, as I broke down and wept for the eleventh time, my husband Steve said that to him Steve Jobs was our generation’s Benjamin Franklin. (My) Steve described Franklin’s curiosity.

Curiosity. The word fit, and perhaps that’s what I admire most about Jobs, and what he has wrought. Steve was insatiably curious. Don’t settle for repeating what everyone else has done. Think different.

Some days I think that all the words have been written, all the paintings painted, all the notes played. No more. If Steve Jobs has taught me anything, and I think he has, is that there is always a way forward.

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
—Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement speech, June 2005.

Liberty

Liberty is freedom from control. Liberty Plaza in NYC is one of the platforms for the expression of liberty. There are many more. As of today, the Occupation is morphing into a greater gathering of citizens. Something is not right in America, and people are taking to the streets to talk about it.

Once upon a time some people explored a tool called the World Wide Web and saw that it had great potential to liberate humankind. Other people saw the Web and saw they could use it to make money. They realized that people hunger for connections, and would willingly expose big chunks of their private lives. Now a few people are making billions by selling the private lives and thoughts and creative output of others. The distinction between public and private liberty has been erased – our private lives are made available to government and private enterprise at a level never before imagined.

I use Facebook, I use Google. I use the internet and know that I have ceded some part of my liberty to Google and Facebook; I have ceded part of my liberty to my ISP, and to my local law enforcement agencies – if they so choose to exercise their rights.

Is it time to push back? I think it is. Like the protesters occupying Wall Street, we who use the internet can start to expose what’s wrong. We can declare that our private lives are ours alone, and refuse to let others profit from them. We can declare the right to own our “content.” The internet is the most powerful tool ever invented for the furtherance of liberty. It does not belong to the corporations that own the pipes; it does not belong to the advertisers; it does not belong to the social media moguls; it does not belong to any government; it belongs to us.

Photo cc by david shankbone

Distracted

OK, let’s set a few baselines here:

  1. Nobody can focus anymore
  2. Because of the internet

Agreed?

Now, as someone who wants more than anything to make things that others will like, I find my lack of focus deeply upsetting. Making things — for me this means writing, usually, and sometimes website making, and more recently audio; but for you it could be whatever, felting, song writing, whatever — usually requires a phase of thrashing boredom before it gets any good for me. In that period of time, the thrashing bit, I am like a junkie trying to get through withdrawal. I will tell you anything if you let me out of this room. I am all better now. There are demons in here. You are torturing me and must not love me. Please let me out…

…The issue, of course, is that I am both the junkie trying to kick down the door and the person standing outside the door holding it closed. (I told you: I AM KEEPING THE METAPHOR.) This is good old will power. If I want to get through this blog post, for instance, the part of me holding the door shut needs to be stronger than the person trying to get out.

The internet, and my computer more generally, is like kryptonite to the guy holding the door shut. Rather than holding the door shut, I check Facebook, Twitter, my email, Daring Fireball, Pitchfork, rdio, my own blog stats, ET CETERA.

An hour will go by before I realize the door has been opened and I haven’t written or edited a thing.

—Matthew Latkiewicz, Your Contexts Are Broken; or How to Make Your Computer Dumber and Yourself Smarter

I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both “keep up” with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests. I blog about real life; I talk about the internet. It’s so exhausting to exist on both registers, especially while holding down a job. It feels like tedious work to be merely conversationally competent. I make myself schedules, breaking down my commute to its most elemental parts and assigning each leg of my journey something different to absorb: podcast, Instapaper article, real novel of real worth, real magazine of dubious worth. I’m pretty tired by the time I get to work at 9 AM.

—Alice Gregory, Sad as Hell

How do I decide what is important to me at any given moment? How do I filter my information stream? How do I balance my desire to explore ideas and events with my desire to stay sane? How does an ADHD OCPD knowledge worker cope?

I have no answers for these questions just yet, but finding some is essential in order for me to continue to do the work I’ve chosen to do. Next stop: Rescue Time.*

* Well, that was a waste of time.

Adopt vs. adapt

An early adopter seeks out new ideas and makes them work.

An adapter, on the other hand, puts up with what he has to, begrudgingly.

One is offense, the other is defense. One requires the spark of curiosity, the other is associated with fear, or at least hassle.

Hint: it’s not so easy to sell to the adapt community.

—Seth Godin, Adopt vs. adapt