The random things we collect

We can all admit to collecting something weird. For me, it was Absolute Vodka ads in the 5th grade. They were currency and could often get you Cheeze-its instead of Cheetos, and sometimes could be swapped for hard cash.

I also went through a year of collecting hotel pens. My dad was always bringing them home from business trips, so when we went on vacation with the family, I always had the extra pleasure in snagging my own.

Inspired by New Museum’s exhibition called ‘The Keeper,’ The New York Times asked its readers to submit their hoarding obsessions. Below is my favorite.

what we collect
Constance Thalken

“For one year, at the end of every month, I collected and saved the contents of my vacuum cleaner.

Collecting physical things is just the start. One professor believes that collecting and cataloging our digital archives will be a common trait of the educated.


a blog is an animal that is always famished.

Ian Fisher

The homepage is dead, and the social web has won—even at the New York Times

Web traffic comes in sideways, not at the homepage.


Waiting in line

Photo by Ridham Nagralawala

We’ve all done it, skipped to the shorter line at the airport thinking the process will speed up only to see that the person who stepped in the longer line after us gets through security quicker. “Damn.”  The miscalculation only adds to the already incredible frustration of waiting in line.

Lines are aggravating not only because they impede progress but because they are a  waste of time. Fortunately, the mobile phone is an entertainment and social device, often saving us from boredom. However, the phone merely adds time to the queue.  With more people’s heads down it compounds the line problem further simply because no one is paying attention to what’s in front of them.

The feeling of being in line is what makes New York City incredibly frustrating. There’s never a shortcut through people traffic, only a way to slither in and out of head down mobile obsessed crowds like a snake. New York has a wild pace about it but this pace gets stunted by the millions of inhabitants walking the streets each day.  Lines also get worse in incompetent, careless places.

Standing at the DMV this weekend felt like entering the opening maw of hell. It’s already bad enough there’s an expected wait but the fact that DMV employees move like slow robots with little care for customer service makes it worse.  They know customers are stuck at their mercy. Might as well be a 4-hour prison.

We all know that lines suck and aren’t getting any faster any time soon. The world’s population is exploding, cities are already congested, and addicting Smartphone devices slow the pace down considerably. In fact, I just missed crossing the street because I was publishing this post.

(Post inspired by “Why Waiting in Line Is Torture” in the The New York Times)

They didn’t even have iPhones.


Newspapers: Slow Delivery, Deep Analysis, Paid

The major newspapers rip blogs, calling them unprofessional and free for a reason. But they should know that information is free, like water. People won’t pay for it if they don’t have to.

Blogs report the news faster. The daily newspaper production is a pre-Internet cadence. Even when the major newspapers post the AP link, somebody out there in the blogosphere has written an informed article backed with facts and valuable opinion.

Today, blogs go deep in analysis while Twitter keeps us on our toes for breaking news. The main reason I read The New York Times, Financial Times, and The Economist is to see how the big guys analyze the buzz. Since the major papers ship once day, it can be a blessing that their writers have more time to cull facts and over analyze. As mentioned above, their challenge is to convince freeloaders that they offer more than what can be understood in a headline or 140 Twitter characters.

I hope newspapers survive. The writing and reporting is excellent. And they ship every day. Newspapers are also a fantastic source for aggregation. Sometimes I’ll miss my RSS and Twitter feeds and just catch up with the Times.

But the newspaper faces many challenges, most importantly the quality, brevity, and speed of the web.


Facebook + Google Out of Touch?

Nick Bilton argues that Facebook and Google suck at mobile because the employees are stuck in the corporate engine all day. Free bus rides, free food, free gym, and just about everything is made free and accessible just to keep employees housed inside working.

As Nick writes, “Sadly, this isn’t how the rest of the world works.”

Real workers have to go outside to get lunch, coffee, take their kids to day care, and handle their own transportation to get to work.

Missed reality is missed opportunity.

If you want to see consumer technology adoption ride the Metro North to work every day. The majority of commuters have their noses in their phones and tablets. On the way to work it’s no different. The head is down on mobile and comes up only to snap a photo.

Sometimes Facebook and Google products feel so insular and anti-consumer. The new Gmail is horribly designed. The new Timeline is not scannable. The two companies are too big now and too distant from their consumers. Myopic. Fortunately for them, they can just buy talent.

Perks make employees happy with their work. But the personal life can be a grind. It’s ok to be on your own every once in a while.


Why App Store Lists Work

There’s over 500,000 apps in the Apple App Store.  No wonder users need lists to sort through it all.

If an app is not on any Top 10 or Top 25 lists it’ll most likely never will be found.

This was the case when I worked at a record label.  Getting on the front cover of iTunes sold more records, plain and simple.  And if the record made it into the top 10 overall or top 10 in its respective category, sales were self-perpetuating.

As Nick Bilton puts its, “Once at the very top of those iTunes charts, it takes a long time to fall off.”

The primary marketing of an app is therefore in its popularity rankings where people vote, as Clay Johnson writes, with “clicks” or downloads.

But unlike music where there’s a lot of good content that goes undiscovered on iTunes weekly, there’s a lot of bad apps that never get found for a reason.  This is why the lists system really work for the App Store.

Apple curates what its thinks will be the best apps for iPhone users, features them, and the blogosphere spreads the word.  And for the most part, they all get it right.


Minimal Furniture In The Smart Age

Technology’s convergence into iPhones and iPads is not only eliminating products like the camera and TV but is also affecting furniture design.

In short, the physical world is disappearing.

My home work desk is cleaner than ever. The same goes for the whole apartment. We don’t have clocks, a landline phone, nor CD shelves any more. All we have are our gadgets and a bunch of bad looking cords.

The next design challenge therefore is making the cords disappear and augmenting the gadgets next to our beds and in our living rooms and study desks.

Designing furniture for small tech devices and cordlessness creates an exciting opportunity in minimalism. We no longer need all this stuff to clutter our lives. As I look around my desk in 2012 all I see is a coffee cup, an iPad, and a wedding photograph. It’s relaxing, really.