At Long Last: Phone Calls from the Desktop

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Nerdery | No Comments

mac-os-x-yosemite-phone-call-desktop-facetime

I participated in the Apple Beta program for OS X Yosemite. Along with a developer preview of iOS 8, you can now make and recieve calls from your desktop. This has been possible for some time via Gmail’s Chat, but both the interface and masked number aren’t ideal.

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My Response to the Comment on My Post About News

Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Nerdery | One Comment

Below is a response to a comment on a post I wrote about not reading the news.

I think often about the debt technological advance creates for us and this exchange highlighted a few great points on that topic.

Jacob,

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. As you might have guessed, Postman’s work started my thinking on this subject years ago. I need to revisit his book—I agree that it is indeed prophetic.

“I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result… Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

Fascinating. I’m sure you’re familiar with Marshal McLuhan’s proposition that “the medium is the message.” One of the most interesting elements of this entire conversation is how Postman’s and Lewis’ and McLuhan’s theories apply to the tools we use for communication today. The velocity of news stories traveling across Twitter, along with the limitations of the medium for robust communication, seems to be a rocket booster for the tragic outcome that Postman fears in the quote you referenced.

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A Great Response to My Post About News

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Life, Nerdery | No Comments

Last week I shared a few quotes that explain why I don’t pay attention to the news. One of our former students commented on the post and his thoughts were great. I’ll post my response to his thoughts later this week.

This is spot on.

It’s funny you would write about this now, as I’ve recently been rereading two amazing media critiques – “How the News Makes Us Dumb” by C. John Sommerville and “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman.

While the former was published in 1999 and the latter in 1986 (!), their timeliness seems only to appreciate in value as the years roll by, revealing just how prophetic their messages truly are.

If you’ve never read “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s in my my top 5 for nonfiction. While I could quote an unraveled DNA strands’ worth of text from it, I’ll (nigh impossibly) choose just one passage from it:

“In America, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is certainly useful to have a few when a pollster shows up. But these are opinions of a quite different roder from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century opinions. It is probably more accurate to call them emotions rather than opinions, which would account for the fact that they change from week to week, as the pollsters tell us.

What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. I am using this world almost in the precise sense in which it is used by spies in the CIA or KGB. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information–misplace, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information–information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing.

In saying this, I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

And I love the C.S. Lewis quote. In my humble little opinion, mainstream knowledge of Lewis’ works is plummeting as his writings are relegated to merely a ‘Christian’ categorization. < sarcasm > Remarkable, then, that he had things of value to say that weren’t simply for those who still believe in bedtime stories. < /sarcasm >

< pessimism > Then again, who reads at all anymore?

Comfortable in Your Own Head

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Nerdery | No Comments

One of my business partners, Mason, studied philosophy in college. He explains that choice by saying, “I wanted to enjoy my thought life.” The first time I heard it I don’t think I grasped the gravity of what he was saying.

I was recently reminded of that story when I ran across an article about people involved in an experiment where subjects’ responsibility was to sit and think in a quiet room alone for 15 minutes. Amazingly, a large number of people, after trying their hand at silent thought, chose to to endure endure electric shock as opposed to more solitude. Fascinating. We’ve allowed ourselves to escape from our own heads.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
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Was My College Experience Valuable?

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Life | No Comments

Last week I wrote a post about significant shifts in people’s views on college in our country The article grew out of a conversation I had with a high school grad considering which path to take:

Yesterday I had the chance to talk to a recent high school graduate who was thinking about their future. Specifically, they had questions for me about education: Are you happy with your college degree? Was it worth it? Would you recommend getting a degree?

In the comments a reader asked how I responded to those questions, so I thought I’d tackle them in a new post. My original answers were in the form of a long conversation, so I’ll try to distill what I said into short summaries. (more…)

Quick Takes: Who Designed Theses Restroom Icons, Part 2

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Quick Takes | No Comments

Not too long ago I pointed out a few very strange icons representing male and female restrooms. I found another instance, also in the airline travel space. This time I was in Belgium.

Again, the female likeness represents strange decisions by the designer, namely the tennis-ball-shaped torso. (Last time she looked like a power socket.)

strange-restroom-icons-belgium

Unequivocal Agreement is Scary

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Life, Work | No Comments

Yesterday morning I had disagreement with one of my business partners. The details aren’t important, but we argued over how and where to offer certain subjects, marketing projections, and probably a few other things too. (Don’t worry, the discussion was civil and ended well.)

I don’t necessarily recommend starting your week off with a disagreement, but I noticed something funny about our conversation: I left excited, not annoyed or hurt or frustrated.

That outcome is partially due to how how much I’ve communicated with my partners and also partially due to caring for each other beyond opinions about a business. On some level, though, it’s because I’ve had to develop a stomach for conflict. By nature I’m a people pleaser and a peace keeper. I like everyone to be happy and everything to be harmonious. Unfortunately, or fortunately, actually, those things are impossible to maintain 100% of the time (both in business and life). Running a business—especially a startup—has forced me to tackle difficult conversations head-on and build muscle to deal with conflict well.

More than that, though, I’ve repeatedly seen strong, civil, informed disagreement forge ideas and plans that wouldn’t have happened without the clashing of different positions. I’m starting to be more unsettled by a lack of disagreement than its presence, because I know that looking at a problem different ways is one of the best ways to discover the best solution.

From Maker to Manager: It’s Crap Because I’m Doing It

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Work | No Comments

This is the third post in an ongoing series about the transition from maker to manager.

When The Iron Yard was born there were two people (me and Peter Barth) sitting in an empty room. Peter was still acting CTO of a software company at the time, meaning that I had my hands in every single part of the business. For the entrepreneurially-inclined, having every songle part of a business under your purview is enthralling because you finally have the chance to do things how you think they should be done.

Today, there are 35 employees across 7 locations at The Iron Yard—a long ways from two people in an empty room. For me, the process of going from maker to manager has been a significant learning experience. One crucial part of that journey has been learning to delegate responsibility. When your company is an infant taking its first steps, you have your hands on everything by necessity. As it grows, though, healthy progresas will be reflected in shifting responsibility of leaders from producing things to empowering others to produce things. Those can be hard steps to take.

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Front End Design Conference 2014

Posted by on Jul 12, 2014 in Work | No Comments

front-end-design-conference-mason-stewart-keynote-speaker

I’ve had the privilege of attending Front End Design Conference was the last speaker and his talk was really well recieved.

Dan Denny has been a more-than-gracious host. Having run several conferences myself, I can say with confidence that this gathering is incredibly well-run and a joy to participate in.

More than smooth operations, though, Dan has gathered together a world-class group of developers and designers from the Tampa Bay area. I couldn’t be more excited to run one of our code schools in the heart of the action.

Learning and the Comfort Zone

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Nerdery, Work | No Comments

In an effort to consistently apply critical thought to what we do at The Iron Yard, we often post food for thought around education and learning. Recently we discussed comfort zones and the place where the best learning happens.

The concept is incredibly valuable for our staff, but it challenged me personally to think about how often I settle for comfort and familiarity when discomfort and challenges are what I really need in order to grow.

Here are a great quote and chart from a book called How to Teach Adults by Dan Spalding that formed the basis of our internal discussion at The Iron Yard. The entire book is worth a read whether you work in education or not.

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