Friday Reading #6 (New Year Edition)

Another year has arrived. 2013 will see me turn 37 years of age. This weeks links seemed to fall into categories that I want to concentrate on this year.  I am at a bit of a career crossroads and I feel like I need to pick a direction instead of ambling along blindly. We will see how that works out. Here are the links accompanied by some rambling about why and what etc. eBook bundle readlist link is here


I want to make more stuff in 2013. I spend a bit too much time writing and talking and not enough time making. Too many reckons and not enough prototypes & products. You can’t really learn if you don’t make.


Unbored: The Power of ‘Making’ in the Classroom

‘Making mistakes and trying again and again (and often again) until you succeed also encourages what’s now being called a “prototyper’s mind,” an asset that many experts believe will be key to the 21st century job market, where the majority of careers today’s kids will pursue have yet to be invented.’


And in related news this great piece by Matt Edgar looks at how marketing agencies are increasingly trying their hands at making products with mixed results.


Ad agencies are discovering products like Columbus discovered America

‘Making things is hard, especially things to last, things that people will find useful in their everyday lives. And often people used to marketing things underestimate this.’


I am intrigued by products launched in alpha/beta publicly and how they progress. Banks are not great at this. Things hae to be perfect first time, or at least perceived that way internally. Why not launch things earlier  See what they might become?  This interview with  Babak Parvis of the Google Glass project is an interesting read on where they are with Glass and how fluid it all is.


Google Glass Features and Apps Still in Flux

‘We constantly try out new ideas of how this platform can be used. There’s a lot of experimentation going on at all times in Google. We’re also trying to make the platform more robust. This includes making the hardware more robust and the software more robust, so we can ship it to developers early this year.’


One of the thing I really need to improve on is not letting power mad little Hitlers frustrate me so much with their ‘computer/rules/I say no’ attitude. They have a job to do and I need to respect that. I also need to stop calling people power mad little Hitlers. Anyway it seems like Jeff Bezos has similar(ish) problems. I also love the focus on platforms and self service. Allowing/empowering people to build what they want is real innovation.


‘Even Well-Meaning Gatekeepers Slow Innovation’

‘I am emphasizing the self-service nature of these platforms because it’s important for a reason I think is somewhat non-obvious: even well-meaning gatekeepers slow innovation,” writes Bezos. “When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried, because there’s no expert gatekeeper ready to say ‘that will never work!’ And guess what – many of those improbable ideas do work, and society is the beneficiary of that diversity.’


Data, data, data will be a big focus next year. I am intrigued to see the progress of MiData in the UK as control of data is handed back to the people who create it. The companies that embrace this will show themselves to be in tune with the evolution of the web/world. The quantified self movement (is it a movement…well the fitness stuff kind of is in more ways than one) is a rich source of data and a rich source of frustration….a bit like banking. It is not that easy to get data out of some of these tracking devices. I also need to get fitter as I begin 2013 at I think my heaviest ever weight. The original article by Dan Hon on using data to get healthier earlier this year was one of the best things I read. A new version of the article was in Domus at the end of the year as well so allows me to add it in this bumper roundup.


Fitness By Design

‘The last six months have given me a deep, visceral insight into what it means to experiment with personal informatics. In a word, the best way to describe how this explosion of health data works is “messily”.’


As well as exercising my body I need to exercise my mind more thoroughly, less constant consumption of tweets and blogs and more well chosen long form reading. Bruce Sterling’s back catalogue would be included in this. His recent ‘State Of The World’ conversation with Jon Lebkowsky is fascinating stuff.


Topic 459: State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky

‘I like the “Quantified Self” trend — I’d certainly like to know moreabout what’s going on in my own body. It doesn’t seem fair that it’s such an unknown world in there, wilder and lesser-known than the Amazon. But I wonder what will happen when this practice mainstreams, and becomes less of a fringe hobby for numerate Yankee geeks.’


Another area I feel I should research more is the classic innovation case studies, revisit Clayton Christensen’s work for example. I think we have a major innovation failure case study playing out right now with Nokia and this recent article gives a good overview of what on earth has gone so wrong.


Innovate Or Die: Nokia’s Long-Drawn-Out Decline

‘So where did it all go wrong for Nokia? The cause of the company’s decline looks very simple with hindsight: Nokia should have moved off its smartphone platform Symbian and onto its next-generation platform, MeeGo, much sooner than it did. Years sooner.’


I also have an interest in marketing. I wonder why most of it is so shit. Why is it so focused on making us buy more things? It is ruining a whole host of major web services as they have to live up to those wild valuations and the new share holders demand dollars and cents. This sums it up perfectly.


Unnatural Acts And The Rise Of Mobile

‘A major symptom of the frenzy to monetize is that previously platform-centric products are reverting to destination-site thinking. Twitter’s adoption of media embedding, Instagram’s decision to pull its content from Twitter, Facebook’s launch of Poke and Google’s failure to add a write API to its G+ platform all display an “own the user” mentality.’ 


Going back to the making things theme, I wish I was a designer. I failed the subject horribly at school. (I vaguely remember a horrific football stadium I ‘designed’) I would like to try again. It is such an over looked/misunderstood thing in the world of banking. This piece by Aral Balkan is focused on a particular type of design i.e. web, as it is in response to an article that seems to have tickled his ire but I think it covers my feelings on the approach to design by most banks.


‘Design is not veneer’

‘None of us are born designers. It is not a talent. It has very little to do with being able to draw well or make things look pretty (we are talking about design here, not illustration). The way something looks is not veneer layered on top of its functionality. The two are inextricably linked. The way a thing looks creates inherent expectations about how it is meant to be used. This is called an affordance.’


And finally, thankfully, I would like to do less this year. I would like to have a more singular focus instead of getting distracted like a fat child in a sweet shop. This…


I want less for Christmas

‘Less judgments. I mentioned this before. But everytime I find myself thinking: “Jojo is an idiot!” I’m going to replace the exclamation point with a question mark. “Jojo is an idiot?” I want to walk around the world in a constant state of bewilderment.’


and this…


The magic of doing one thing at a time

‘Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.’


And that is that. I have been finding myself drawn to the famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ let’s see if I get beyond these being just wishes. Happy 2013.

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