Fung Shui Of The Fittest

This is just a short post about modular furniture. Just a tiny post about reusable space. A small piece on an over populated planet.

It’s gonna get crowded

Population overflows. There’s no surprise real-estate prices were on the rise. Land is getting expensive. It’s all urban and industrial and agricultural. There’s so little wild life left. In twenty years, will the average family live in a five room apartment with a garden or in a room and a half? We will be required to become more efficient.

One man has designed his one-room apartment to be so efficient, it can become any one of twenty different configurations: a living room, a kitchen, a bath tub and even a home cinema. Give it a peek:

Jumping the curve

One weirdo in Honk Kong designed a cool aparatment. Good for him. But really, most of us can’t do it. We don’t have the skill set to rebuild our entire house to be more efficient. I can hardly fix an electrical socket on my own. Unless I can find this sort of furniture in IKEA, I’m gonna do without.

Most furniture companies are making average products for average people. People that buy things they don’t need, and need more space to store things they bought. People seeking bigger houses, because bigger is better.

One company is jumping the curve. They are specializing in efficient furniture. In a sofa that folds. A table that extends. A chair that’s a shelf. A shelf that’s a bed. All the furniture is cleverly designed to support more than one function – without surrendering aesthetics, not even one bit.

Do Androids Dream Of Digital Memorabilia?

I walked by this bench on my way home, and I had to stop and take a picture. These pages were somebody’s things. She cared for them, otherwise she wouldn’t have kept them. They meant something to her. Now, they were tossed away. Garbage, yellow with years and useless. Maybe the owner of the pages passed away. Maybe they symbolized a time that was no more. It’s sad, how we can throw away memories.

These things, they aren’t just things. They are memories. They trigger memories in our brain, whenever we touch and smell them. They are a select few, because we don’t have room to carry with us everything we have ever touched. We only get to pick the strongest, most important memories to keep.

I have a habit: every time I move, I throw away half of my things when I pack. It means I have less to carry, and I have room to grow. When I unpack, I throw away half of what I carried over. These are the things I thought I may need, but in truth do not fit my new surrounding. The thing that takes the longest to sort is always the memorabilia drawer. It’s the drawer where I keep the trinkets I have nothing to do with. A medal I won in second grade, my high school diploma, a little wooden thing-a-ma-bob that I’ve got from a friend from halfway across the globe. This is the hardest drawer to sort. What stays? What still has meaning? I touch each item, and I wait. Does it bring back a memory or a feeling? I should keep it.

Our Digital Life

The drawer is full of old stuff. It hardly has anything new in it. It may be because I’m getting less sentimental about things, but I think it’s because I have less memory-inducing items. When have you last developed a photo? Looked through a physical album? We collect digital memories.

I have more photos than I can count. I hardly ever look at them. Mostly, because they don’t induce such a strong reaction as something physical. I guess it’s how our brains are wired. Nevertheless, my new memories are depicted by digital memorabilia. Digital photography, digital video, a Facebook status saying “zOMG! I had so much fun last night!”. How are you suppose to filter through your Facebook statuses? Is a starred tweet really as meaningful as a piece of paper that you have deliberately kept for years?

We just keep it all, hardly sorted. We don’t have the tools to filter, and we don’t have the need. Storage is cheap. Why would you ever delete anything? But you end up with too much, and thus, you end up with not enough. Not enough time to go through your old memories, and see how you have changed, grown, evolved.

Next time I’ll move, I don’t think I’ll have to throw away half of my memorabilia. What’s left of it, fits in a tiny little box, and everything in it is at least six years old. And I’ll be taking my portable hard-drive with me, of course. It still has space for another decade or so of digital memories. I have plenty of space to keep them all.

I just hope I can remember when they were all taken.

Teaching Your Customers

The way of the world is to throw coincidences at us. Random events happen all the time (how many new couples have met at airports because of the recent volcano eruption?). It takes a conscious mind to make a connection between these unrelated events.

My previous post discussed learning. Right after publishing it, I encountered a this talk about teaching your customers, which described the same steps I have, only better. This is the sort of coincidences I love so much. They make me feel as if the world is trying to help me.

That’s not true, though. Things just happen. Most of the time, we don’t notice. When we’re busy thinking about something, though, are brains get attuned to it. We start noticing it more often. We see more details. We start living in high-definition.

Proof By Example

What's in this photo? A smartphone? An iPhone? Can you tell which version of the iPhone this is?

What's in this photo? A bird? A swallow? Do you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

The more you are interested by a subject, the finer the details you notice. If you knew this is the iPhone 3GS, you may be  a gadget freak. If you knew this is an European Swallow, you are probably a bird-watcher. If you saw a phone or a bird, you are not. Standard definition sucks.

Living In HD

You should help your customers live in HD in regard to what you do. They will reward you by being passionate about you and your brand. They will tell their friends. They will buy more. They will upgrade to the more expensive model. How do you take a non-customer and turn them into a fanatic? You teach them how to become better. If they will feel empowered and awesome, they will be motivated to stay with you.

  1. The Suck Zone – Your user feels he is over his head. He is afraid to try, unmotivated to use the product. Last post I’ve talked about cooking and coding. These are great examples. If you haven’t cooked anything before, you will not feel empowered by a new frying pan. You will feel that you suck.
  2. Easy Breezy – If your user tries your product and starts using it regularly, he moves here. This is what I feel regarding my digital camera. It has twenty bazillion options, but I mostly use it as a point and click camera (which I love). I’m not that into photography.
  3. La Passion – The user is passionate about what your product enables them to do. They want to learn more. They will try to find ways to get better. Being there for them is a great opportunity to create brand loyalty, to sell them extra products, to help them become even better. Seth Godin talks a lot about the passion and building a tribe. You should be here.
  4. The Stuck Zone – Like in many marriages, left alone the passion fades. Be careful. Something else will fill the void. Once the user is lost, they will hardly ever come back.

Make Me Awesome

Let me go back to the example of photography.

Flickr is such a great site, because it is full of opportunities to learn more techniques about photography. You start with the free account, but once you start seeing great photos and try to create some yourself, soon you need the pro account.

Canon creates great cameras that professional photographers are passionate about. What about me? When should I manually control the shutter speed? Their documentation is boring and frightening.  It’s a missed opportunity. They could have explained what effect shutter speed has on the quality of the image. They could have turned me into an amateur photographer. Next thing you know, I’d be buying a new camera with replaceable lenses.

In short:

Send me this:

Not this:

Learn How To Cook Code

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise…

—George Gershwin

Jamie Oliver is the jazz players of cooks. If you have ever seen his show, you know he never measures anything. He throws in a bunch of ingredients very rapidly into a pot. He puts the pot in the oven, and he gets a great meal. Does he know exactly how much salt has he put in? Sure. Just enough. But how many grams? He doesn’t have the faintest idea. He shouldn’t. Cooking, for Jamie Oliver, is an art form, an act of improvisation on a familiar theme.

Jamie Oliver is passionate about food and health. He is appalled by the obesity epidemic, and he attributes it to the lost art of cooking. The relationship between what we eat and who we are is inseparable. In his passionate Ted Talk, Jamie presents us with a mother of two. She can’t cook. She isn’t able to find her way in the kitchen enough to make even the most basic meals. Her children are eating too much fat and too much sugar, the main ingredients in cheap, ready made fast food.

If we are what we eat, we should learn to cook. We need to take control over our lives.

How To Become A Jazz Artist In The Kitchen

Learning any new skill is basically the same. I’ve learned to cook only a couple of years ago. I’m still a lazy cook, but I can get by if I have to. It’s a simple, four step system:

  1. Lose The Fear:  The thing that prevents you from cooking is fear. You have never done this before, so you think you can’t. Before you start, you need to lose this fear. Remember, you don’t have to study twelve years at the Sorbonne to make an omelet. Imagine the worst that could happen:
    The food will not be tasty. You will burn it. You will throw it away and order take-away.
    Hey, you were planning to take-away anyway, so why not try to cook first? You’ve got nothing to lose.
  2. Start Simple: Buy some fresh vegetables. Cut them. Go online and find a salad dressing that requires only three ingredients. Mix the three ingredients and put them on the vegetables. Congratulations. You have just cooked your first healthy dinner.
  3. Add complexity: Tomorrow, a tasty toast with cheese, a tomato and some ketchup. The day after, an egg. After a week, try baking a cake. In three weeks you will have created a dozen different dishes. Some you will like. Others – not so much. It doesn’t matter. You are now able to follow instructions in the kitchen. You are a almost a cook, way better off than you have started.
  4. Improvise: This is where learning becomes mastering. After you feel more comfortable with recipes, you can start improvising on what you know. You’ve been eating your entire life. You know about tastes. Take one of the dishes you have created in the last month, and improvise on it to create something new. Remember step one: what’s the worst that could happen? Not much. Go on. Try it. If you fail, try something different next time. You are on the way to being a cook.

Why You Should Learn To Code

Most people today feel about technology the same way as the woman in Jamie’s talk felt about the kitchen. They don’t understand it, and they don’t trust it. They buy technology but feel helpless whenever anything goes wrong.

I see people feeling helpless about technology everyday. They don’t understand how the computer works, and they are afraid they’ll terribly mess something up, so whenever there’s a problem, they run for the hills (or the nearest geek).

We have computers everywhere. Our laptops and our cellphones are obvious, but there are computers in our TVs, refrigerators and cars as well. We will soon have computers in our shoes and clothes and in our blood. It is imperative to have at least basic understanding of computation and code.

Our relationship with technology is as necessary and complex as our relationship with food. Learning how to code, even some basic stuff, will help people feel in control over their environment. Technology is not magic.

Code Jazz

The steps in learning to code are the same as learning to cook, the same as learning how to play. Lost the fear, start simple, grow complexity and improvise. You may never be a jazz player, a chef or a chief programmer. That’s OK. It’s not about mastering the art. It’s about becoming self reliant. It’s about being able to do, on your own, things you have to get help for. It’s about control.

Start today. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Here’s something to get you started:

Hey, it's dad. How do I print the flowchart?

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Muscle Memory

There’s an old story about a boy who could fly. He just could, ever since he was little, and it was no big deal. One day, a scientist heard of the boy that flies. Quickly he packed his things and rushed over to the remote village to see the wonder with his own eyes. This is incredible, thought the scientist, if only I could understand how he does it!

So, the next day, the scientist approached the boy in the field. “Excuse me,” called the scientist to the boy, who was floating about 12 feet above ground. The boy floated down to earth and stood next to the scientist. “Can you tell me how you do this?” asked the scientist. The boy said he doesn’t know, he was always able to fly and it was no big deal. “But it is a big deal!” said the scientist, “you must think. When you lift off, what exactly do you do with your feet? Do you jump? Explain it to me, please.”

The boy thought about it. He tried lifting one leg, and then the other, but that didn’t feel quite right. He then tried to jump, but he couldn’t jump higher than a few inches. It wasn’t how he used to fly. Only now the boy couldn’t stop thinking about how he did it.

The boy was never able to fly again.

It’s Like Riding A Bike

After working in a place for a few years, it becomes part of who you are. Your body remembers the place. It remembers the shortest way to the cafeteria (and the longest way as well). It remembers how to get to the conference room or the bathroom or the cafeteria. It knows to avoid the loose tile in the lobby and the trashcan that keeps the emergency exit from closing. It does all this so that you don’t have to. Your muscles remember so your brain can think of something else.

Muscle memory is short termed and highly adaptable. Your muscles get tuned to any repeated activity, but they have limited capacity. If you change your habits, even for a few weeks, you lose it. What was second nature needs to be relearned.

Information Overwhelming

I went back to visit BigCo this week. It has almost been a year since I stopped working there. It doesn’t feel that long. A lot of the memories are still vivid in my mind. After all, I was there for five and a half years. This is the hallway I used every day to get to my office. Here are the people I’ve sat in boring meetings with. Oh, and there’s an old friend I used to go to lunch with. Nothing is new, but everything is different.

Something happened. I’m now an outsider. My brain is now busy dissecting the environment. Little things are different. A photo on the wall was replaced. The loose tile is no longer loose. Offices were shifted around.

People are still busy, still troubled by the same things. Project Titanic is too big and will miss the deadline once again. Project Awesome just shipped a second version. There’s still a lot of talk about how bad management is and how hard it is to retain employees without bonuses. There’s still a group of dedicated individuals who work 20 hours a day and another that drop the pen at five sharp and head home. I know all of this. I was here for so long. Yet it is alien to me.

“Living here day by day, you think it’s the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave: a year, two years. When you come back, everything’s changed. The thread’s broken. What you came to find isn’t there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time… many years… before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It’s not possible. Right now you’re blinder than I am.”

– Alfredo, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

You were my people for very long. I had to step back to notice how fast things change. I am delighted to see that projects we’ve dreamed together are now reality. Thank you.