Tag Archives: Apple

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Apple product launch punditry bingo

Everyone loves predicting the death of Apple. Especially when they launch a new product. They’re no longer the underdog, they’re top dog – and the clattering chattering android masses and tech journalism establishment are longing for a fall.

Apple products may have lost their luster – being ahead of the pack and revolutionary has a law of diminishing returns if you’re just updating your current pack of products. But they still sell truckloads. And controlling both the ecosystem and the distribution of media to your millions of products is a nice long term move. Anyway. Here’s a bingo card that you can keep with you as you read stories about the iPad mini – or whatever Apple product has been launched the day you arrive here… the commentary will no doubt be the same. It pretty much always is.

Apple Bingo

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Two fallacies I really like: judging by company and tone

The more conversations I take part in with strangers on the Internet, the more sure I am of two things – I’d rather agree with the people who are nice and balanced, humble and winsome in their responses to criticism than with those who fire up, and I’m more convinced by a gentle and loving word than a robust and spiteful word – even if I naturally sit with the positions advocated by the angry mob.

It’s a bit of a fallacy to judge the strength of an argument on the basis of its supporters – it’s a modified argument from popularity, or authority – so I could say I prefer the people who are relaxed about owning a “too cool for school” iPhone than the people who have chips on their shoulders about their Android phones that don’t quite work. The gloating of an Android user whenever Apple stuffs something up is enough to reinforce my views about both Apple and Android.

There are other more serious issues where this is true – I tend to find most liberal (not Liberal) politics pretty despair inducing, but I’d rather talk to people who hold such positions than to people who angrily argue against them. Much of the backlash against the “new atheists,” who are pushing a pretty serious philosophical position in an important debate – perhaps the most important debate – has been on these issues – the tone of debate, and who the New Atheists look to to champion their cause. This is why Peter Jensen won Q&A – according to both impartial judges, and even according to many atheists who were disappointed with the tone Catherine Deveny employed. There’s also a push-back, somewhat rightly, on this sort of decision making because caring about a speaker or their tone is essentially a fallacy. The problem is – people aren’t running around looking for fallacies, or judging every argument on merit – these things create biases, or colour people’s judgment.

It’s particularly true when it comes to theological issues – the first group to make a non-crucial issue into a salvation issue in a debate almost immediately loses my vocal support. I’d rather hang out with the group who are being charitable to the people who disagree, than the people who think that disagreement is apostasy. But that would put me in cahoots with a lot of heretics – because judging sides based on the niceness of the people who take them is logically, and theologically, flawed. It’s also why most forms of fanboyism, when they come at the expense of some other category of product, person, or group, is pretty dumb. Unless, like in the case of Apple, the product is clearly superior.

The cringeworthy response Guy Sebastian and his fans have displayed in the hubbub about the coverage of his move away from Christianity, and the gracious response (see Guy’s interactions with another open letter writer here), are enough to bias me towards those who are asking Guy to reconsider his words and position (admittedly a position I already hold).

It’s a fallacy though – that people you like hold a position doesn’t make it true, it’s possible to be lovely and well-intentioned, and gentle, and wrong.

This means I have to read carefully when people who don’t seem all that nice criticise something I agree with, or worse, have written myself. Because I’m automatically biased against them (plus, I’m not great at taking criticism, so I’m already on the defensive).

It has implications for how one writes, and who one promotes or supports, because making yourself, or the people you agree with, an obstacle is doing your argument a disservice. We need to be careful about the company we keep, or are seen to keep. I don’t think it’s enough to say that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Christians are far too guilty of this. We hear someone trumpeting a position we like – and jump on board with them, or worse, give them a platform, straight away. And that’s dangerous. Bad company corrupts (1 Cor 15:33), especially when it’s within the church (1 Cor 6)…

The company you keep is important. It’s why it’s important to speak against extremists from your own camp, rather than letting them create collateral damage by lobbing rhetorical grenades at your opponents (see the Alan Jones fiasco).

The second, and related, fallacy, is a matter of tone. I find it hard to read arguments that are nasty, personal, and malicious. I want to dismiss them straight away. I find it easier to stomach something that is written with grace, charity, and a bit of epistemic humility. But this is equally fallacious.

Sometimes this nastiness itself can be fallacious – it can caricature your opponent’s views, or their motivations, or it can raise questions about the nature of their argument on the basis of who they are, or who you paint them to be. But again – these arguments can be true.

The same principles that applied to the company we keep also apply with tone.

Interestingly – both these factors come together when it comes to arguments or conversations on Facebook – a statement with a disagreeable tone gives a pretty quick opportunity for assessing the company one keeps – based on the number of likes it gets. Have a look, for example, at the vitriol that gets launched at anybody who dares to disagree with Guy Sebastian’s approach to Christianity on his wall post, by his fans, and the likes the harshest criticisms of minority voices accumulate. The company side of things kicks in when you start censoring out those minority voices, or calling for them to be silenced simply because they disagree with you. Interestingly, a couple of posts I made on that thread, one containing a link to my open letter, and another explaining that I believed it was important to contact people I write about, because that has integrity, have been deleted. The first sat between the first two comments in this picture.

Screen Shot 2012 10 23 at 9.57.01 PM

I’m not necessarily suggesting Guy was censoring disagreement – he probably has someone else moderate this page, and my post did contain a link – so there are good reasons it may have happened, but not deleting the comments about that comment seems an odd decision. Especially when I would like to think that comments with the more gracious tone have been replaced with comments that label people (in this case, me) as “rude””so-called Christians” writing “judgmental garbage.”

Anyway. This didn’t actually start out as a continuation of the Guy Sebastian conversation, it was an observation of disagreements I’ve been part of, or read, online – and that was one. And all this seems rather obvious – but it helps me if I can articulate why I’m struggling to agree with people I agree with, and disagree with people I don’t, and it makes me want to work harder at being agreeable in my tone, and clear when the people who agree with me are agreeing with me in a harmful way.

How Apple’s Geniuses work, and how it might help with welcoming people at church

This piece from Gizmodo is fascinating. Gizmodo got hold of one of Apple’s training manuals. It’s the kind of thing that church welcoming programs should be built on – if not a little bit artificial… I’d say add some humanity to this stuff and you go a long way towards making the people who come through your doors feel at home.

” Page 39 gives a rundown of Selling Gadget Joy, by way of the “Genius Skills, Behaviors, and Values Checklist.” Selling is a science, summed up with five cute letters: (A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd. In other words: Go up to someone and get them to open up to you about their computing desires, insecurities, and needs; offer them choices (of things to buy); hear them out; then seal the day in a way that makes it feel like the customer has come to this decision on their own. The manual condemns pushiness—that’s a good thing—but it also preaches a form of salesmanship that’s slightly creepy: every Apple customer should feel empowered, when it’s really the Genius pulling strings.”

Part of the problem with applying this stuff to real relationships is that real relationships don’t come with a manual… and if you think the relationship you’re entering is coming by the manual, it’s really off putting…

It’s interesting that the Genius training relies on role playing, and constant feedback from fellow team members (though such feedback probably suffers from the same authenticity issue as knowing that a conversation is happening by the book).

From Gizmodo…

On page 58, it’s described as an “open dialogue every day,” with “positive intent.” It’s most certainly not “telling someone they are wrong.” Except that it is—just prevented in a quintessentially Genius mode of masterful empathy and supercharged positivity aura.

On page 60, the following dialogue is presented as a realistic sample conversation between two Apple employees:

“Hi, fellow Genius. I overheard your conversation with your customer during the last interaction and I have some feedback if you have a moment. Is this a good time?”
“Yes, this is a good time.”
“You did a great job resolving the customer’s iPhone issue. I was concerned with how quickly you spoke to the customer. It seemed like you were rushing through the interaction, and the customer had additional questions.”

A few minutes later:

“Thanks for listening to the feedback. In the future, please make sure to signal me if you need help rather than work too quickly with a customer.
“Thanks for giving it!”

The bit that definitely doesn’t translate to the welcoming lounge, or cup of coffee after the service, is the “never apologise for a problem” rule that staff have to obey…

“The term “empathy” is repeated ad nauseum in the Genius manual. It is the salesman sine qua non at the Apple Store, encouraging Geniuses to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” assuming that mile ends at a credit card swipe machine. It is not, the book insists in bold type, “Sympathy, which is the ability to feel sorry for someone.” Geniuses are directly told not to apologize in a manner anyone would call direct. If someone walks in sobbing because their hard drive is fried, you’ll receive no immediate consolation. “Do not apologize for the business [or] the technology,” the manual commands. Instead, express regret that the person is expressing emotions. A little mind roundabout: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated,” or “too bad about your soda-spill accident,” the book suggests.”

The blacklist of no go words or topics is potentially worth thinking about – nothing kills the buzz of a good experience of a service like a negative conversation, or a jargony conversation, or a conversation where a person plays down the impact of the gospel or what being part of a church community means to them, straight after the service. While we love a bit of self-deprecation I’m not sure a conversation with a new person, where you roll out dirty laundry and skeletons, is a winning move (a bit like featuring your proud “brony” status on an online dating profile)

“Negativity is the mortal sin of the Genius. Disagreement is prohibited, as are a litany of normal human tendencies outlined on page 80, which contradict the virtue of empathy: consoling, commiserating, sympathizing, and taking blame are all verboten. Correcting a mistaken or confused customer should be accomplished using the phrase “turns out,” which Apple says “takes you out of the middle of an issue,” and also makes the truth seem like something that just arrived serendipitously. For example, on page 82:

Customer: The OS isn’t supported.
Genius: You’d think not, wouldn’t you. Turns out it is supported in this version.”

I’d love to read the whole thing, and I guess these are my take homes as I think about welcoming people at our church…

1. It’s important to be clear about what we’re aiming to do with welcoming. The list of “we do x” lines above essentially function like plumb lines and are a really helpful set of commitments. We want people to meet Jesus when they come to our church, and ultimately to connect with him, and us.

2. It’s important to understand people, where they’re coming from, what they’re thinking and feeling. Without thinking that you know what they need before hand. This seems kind of obvious – but Apple spends a fair bit of time talking about physical cues, and the “Approach, Probe, Present, Listen” thing is a nice proactive way of engaging with a new person.

3. We want to free people to be real people – but this means choosing the right people to be welcomers. I am repulsed by doing interpersonal relating “by the book.” It seems fake because it is. If you need a book to stop people being off-putting, or negative, or wrecking your product – then you’re putting the wrong people in the front line.

4. Constant, robust (not passive aggressive) feedback in a team is really helpful for getting better. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Connect Team at Creek Road is a weekly get together I have with leaders of our connect teams at other services. We come up with ideas, share stories about people who have come to our Connect Lounge. And think about how we can be more helpful to new people and people who aren’t feeling connected to our church. We’re certainly better at connecting with people as a result of these sessions.

What do you reckon? Can we plunder gold from the Egypt of Apple? Or is their approach to customer service too corporate and too focused on the “end” point of the cash register?
 

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Get that new Apple smell

I was once really fascinated by scent branding/marketing. I think it’s a relatively untapped goldmine. I say relatively untapped because things are starting to happen – like this. An art exhibition from an Australian group called Greatest Hits is pumping out a specially designed “New Mac” fragrance.

“A distinctive scent can be observed when unwrapping a newly purchased Apple product from its packaging. Apple fans will certainly recognize this smell. The scent created for Greatest Hits encompasses the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminum laptop which has come straight from the factory where it was assembled in China…

Air Aroma fragrance designers then used these samples as ingredients to create a range of signature blend fragrances. The blends, each with unique recipes were then tested in the Air Aroma laboratory until a final fragrance was ultimately selected.

To replicate the smell a brand new unopened Apple was sent to our fragrance lab in France. From there, professional perfume makers used the scents they observed unboxing the new Apple computer to source fragrance samples. On completion the laptop was sent back to Australia, travelling nearly 50,000kms and returned to our clients together with scent of an Apple Macbook Pro.”

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Reviewing Steve Jobs: Not the Messiah, just a naughty boy

I did a little bit of flying during the last weekend – and I’m rubbish at writing at airports and on planes, so I chose to do some reading. My book of choice was Walter Isaacson’s fascinating biography of Steve Jobs.

It was an interesting read, the carefully cultivated messianic myth came up against an access all areas account of Steve’s life. He was, as it turns out, a nasty and deliberate man. He had an incredible knack for understanding people and culture and using that to his advantage. This worked in his favour in business, he was constantly ahead of the curve – able to anticipate desires before we knew we had them. That was one of his significant mantras – people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. But this same ability meant that he was able to crush people, and did, just for kicks. He had poisonous relationships with lots of people who used to be his friends, and with members of his family, because he believed the myth. Essentially. He believed he was different, that he was special, and that his vision would change the world. And while he fostered a culture of robust discussion, and could have his mind changed, he’d immediately take the ideas of others and claim them as his own.

This is a fascinating exercise in anti-hagiography. It’s not a victor’s history. It’s a picture of a deeply flawed man who embraced his flaws to change the world. Like him, or hate him, and it’s hard to love him after reading this book… Jobs changed many industries, designed products that are being copied by all sorts of other people, and brought a new approach to business, especially the computer business, where everything was managed by one company (ie hardware design, manufacture (to an extent), software, retail, post retail (by providing a closed system). The open systems v closed systems thread that ran through the book, and Jobs’ interactions with Bill Gates provided an interesting picture into Silicon Valley and the technology we use. I enjoyed that. I learned lots. There are things Jobs did that are definitely not things I’d want to implement in my home life, or in my church life, but his pursuit of excellence, and his unrelenting confidence in the “truth” even in the face of opposition and rejection were in a sense, inspiring.

The great thing about the book was that it totally humanised Jobs. He was flawed. He wasn’t Nietzsche’s Übermensch, even if that was his self perception for a while. He wasn’t particularly smart – outside of his industry (and even within it) he did some really dumb stuff, that wasn’t skirted around in the book, it was a no-holds-barred treatment of his life. An example of his less than optimal decisions included not treating his cancer because he believed he could get rid of it just by drinking juice and applying some internet remedies. While he wasn’t particularly likeable, he had some redeeming features, and he was passionate. He was human. He was vulnerable. He wasn’t the messiah, just a naughty boy.

It was kind of sad that the tone of the book, and the editorialising at the end, seemed to excuse some of Steve’s behaviour on the basis of his achievements, as though the ends justified the means. It’d be interesting to hear from Steve’s neglected children, and from the friends and colleagues he left scattered in his wake, in twenty years – to see if they agree. There was a very real human cost to his decision to build a life around himself and his vision.

He told his biographer, in the months before he died, that he was “50-50” on the question of God. He wanted there to be something else. He seemed to think his achievements would be works that God might judge him on. Apparently his last words were “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow” at least according to his sister’s more hagiographic eulogy (but who doesn’t say nice things at that point).

Here are some of the snippets from the book that I thought were particularly interesting insights from a man gifted with the ability to make particularly interesting insights…

On God…

“Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.””

And later…

“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.” He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.””

On designing with the end user(s) in mind…

““If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year. “Larry was suitably impressed, and a few weeks later he came back and it booted up twenty-eight seconds faster,” Atkinson recalled. “Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.””

On Apple’s Design philosophy…

“Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. Those goals do not always go together. Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate. “The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,” Jobs told the crowd of design mavens. For example, he extolled the desktop metaphor he was creating for the Macintosh. “People know how to deal with a desktop intuitively. If you walk into an office, there are papers on the desk. The one on the top is the most important. People know how to switch priority. Part of the reason we model our computers on metaphors like the desktop is that we can leverage this experience people already have.””

On Marketing…

““The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.”

On applying this philosophy even to the smallest of things…

“People do judge a book by its cover, so for the box of the Macintosh, Jobs chose a full-color design and kept trying to make it look better. “He got the guys to redo it fifty times,” recalled Alain Rossmann, a member of the Mac team who married Joanna Hoffman. “It was going to be thrown in the trash as soon as the consumer opened it, but he was obsessed by how it looked.” To Rossmann, this showed a lack of balance; money was being spent on expensive packaging while they were trying to save money on the memory chips. But for Jobs, each detail was essential to making the Macintosh amazing.”

A Twitter tribute to Steve Jobs

People are saying that Steve Jobs is our John Lennon. Or something. I can sort of see it. But cancer isn’t a gunpoint assassination. And technology isn’t music. Anyway. Watching the outpouring of grief on social networks surrounding the death of this admittedly pretty amazing guy has been pretty culturally revealing. Christians fall into a few camps – some have expressed hope that Jobs found Jesus, some have pointed out that a life lived for success on this earth is hollow, I did both. Some have thanked Jobs for the impact his products had on their ability to do ministry. I don’t think the Westboro Baptists are Christians. But they announced via iPhone on Twitter, that they’d be protesting Jobs’ funeral because he had a man made platform and didn’t acknowledge God, and he promoted immorality. Or some rubbish like that, pretty much ignoring any positive moral contribution Jobs may have been responsible for with his long term opposition to pornography.

Anyway. Those reactions are neither here nor there, so far as this post is concerned. Apparently more people tweeted about Jobs than about any other celebrity who has died in the Internet age. The tweets came faster, and lasted longer… Twitter made this graphic, posted on Flickr, using tweets about Jobs from yesterday, as their tribute. And I think it’s an interesting use of data.

#thankyousteve

If you check it out in its original size you can read the tweets.

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To 4S or not to 4S…

I’m an Apple fanboy. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I like iThings. But I’m a little underwhelmed about the new iPhone. Both Robyn and I are off contract, and lugging around a semi-bricked iPhone 3G, and a semi-bricked iPhone 3GS. We’ve been holding off on upgrading to the iPhone 4 believing the hype about an iPhone 5. But where is it?

So now the question – given that our phones barely receive or make calls anymore, and given that we actually do need phones (we don’t have a landline, and the phone provides internet when we’re on the road) – should we stump up the extra for a 4GS? And what provider should we use – we’ve been with Vodathree for ages, and while their customer service is adequate their network is not very good…

I’m not going to go to android – so shut your yaps you insidious open source google nerds… I like iTunes. I like my phone, iPad, and MacBook being essentially tied to the same mothership. But a flashy camera and a slightly faster processor? Seriously Apple. No wonder your share price dipped this morning… What do you reckon?

Reflections on John Piper and Steve Jobs

So yesterday was a big day for two American guys I admire. They even kind of look the same, but they’ve got some antithetical stuff going on – Jobs is all hip with his black turtlenecks and sneakers, while Piper, well, he wore a black shirt last night – but it appeared his top button was done up. He’s a little daggy. But otherwise they’re more or less exactly the same.

Their binary opposition goes a little further. They essentially have the same outlook on life, but for Jobs this outlook meant making fun toys for people to play with, and computers that make people more efficient at making money. It also meant making a lot of money.

For Piper, his outlook on life is well summed up by my liveblog of his Don’t Waste Your Life session in Brisbane last night.

Anyway. With Jobs resigning the internet is full of buzz about his life and times. Lifehacker featured this quote that reminded me a lot of Piper last night:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Here’s the video of the speech that quote came from…

Lifehacker, in a post featuring that quote, summed up his message as:

“There are many diverse opinions about Steve Jobs, and that’s the kind of result that generally follows a person who goes after what he or she wants and finds success. Regardless of how you feel about what he’s created, he had a vision, set out to achieve it, and did. As he notes in this quote and many others, this is your one chance at life. Don’t waste it.”

Here’s a few snippets from Piper last night:

Our lives go fast. The older you get the faster it rushes by. Our lives don’t consist in the abundance of our possessions. No one gets comfort from their bank balance as they lie dying. It’s really not about what we own and what we strive to own.

The pursuit of possessions ends in frustration because of the impending reality of death. Laying up treasure for ourselves, without being rich towards God, is foolishness. You’re a fool if you treasure up the world and don’t count God as your riches, as your treasures. A life devoted to amassing stuff is a life wasted.

Bizarrely similar. I guess the question for me is do I want to spend my life excited by the products of Steve Job’s approach to the dilemma of death, or standing beside Piper and magnifying Jesus. Hopefully it’s the latter.

Apple stock v Apple Stock

Where would you be at financially if you’d stocked up on Apple shares rather than Apple products over the last 15 years? Rich. That’s where.

This is quite an amazing little comparitive study that almost has me convinced to fork out as much for my iPad 2 in Apple stock as it costs to buy it (this, people, is why I got my summer job).

“Now imagine that instead of buying the Apple PowerBook in 1997, you decided to spend $5,700 on Apple stock. You would have done a little better. Indeed, today your Apple stock would be worth $330,563. Probably makes you think twice buying about that laptop.

Kyle Conroy, a computer science student at University of California, Berkeley, has hundreds of other examples on his personal Web site that show what would have happened if you had decided to purchase Apple stock, which is at around $350 a share Thursday, instead of buying the company’s products when they were announced.”

Via the NY Times.