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At 5.45am

I’d been awake for about 20 minutes before my iPhone blared into life; Wake Up Boo filled the bedroom, and I leapt off the bed to switch it off before my wife woke. As is my habit, I flicked the phone off airplane mode, and gave my e-mails a cursory look.

Oh, shit.

I remember my first encounter with a Mac vividly. I was still in my teens – just – and in my first year of an English Literature degree. I’d been persuaded by a friend – whose name I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve long forgotten – to see what I could do to get the college magazine back on its feet after a disastrous year. There, sat in the cubbyhole that masqueraded as the magazine office, was a Mac. No hard drive, tiny greyscale screen. That tiny little box changed my life. We wrote in Word and laid out in Aldus Pagemaker on that little box. It did what we had several expensive typesetting machines and a handfuls of PCs to do back at Felix, Imperial College’s student magazine. I had the power to publish on a desk, in one box. I was hooked.

RIP Steve JobsWhen the news came, years ago now, that Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer, I felt a chill. The last time I heard that diagnosis, it was applied to my Dad. The oncologist had looked each of us in the eye, and then handed me a piece of paper with the number 3 written on it. “Years?” I asked. “Months,” he replied. Dad beat the odds. He made it to 9 months.

Within weeks of that horrible day, I had bought myself my first Mac of Jobs’ second era at Apple: one of those much-mocked clamshell iBooks, in graphite. I bought it so I could work from Suffolk when I needed to, and my brother bought a digital video camera so we could capture some of those last, happy days. And so I discovered iMovie, and a new set of opportunities for creation, for recording and sharing opened up. Within a few months of my Dad’s death, I was blogging, and using that to post the first pictures from my very first digital camera. 2001 changed my life in many ways, but many of those changes were mediated through that toilet-seat iBook.

I’m sat on a train somewhere between West Sussex and London, typing these words on an iPad. (You know that whole “iPad is for consumption not creation meme”? I never got the memo.) It’s given to very few to change the lives of millions in a positive way. It’s given to even fewer to provide the world with beautiful, functional tools that change our relationship to both our own creativity and the creativity of others. Jobs looked at the digital revolution and dreamed of using it to do things better, to live better, to make things better. And he did that. What a life.

Thank you, Steve. I can honestly say that your work made my life a better place, and continues to do so every single day. 

Some other posts about Steve Jobs from friends or acquaintances:
Thank you, Steve – Jen Dixon
I met Steve Jobs once – Mike Butcher

#next11 – Driven to Distraction

Warning: Liveblogging. Here be inaccuracy, errors and typos

Here goes a session on attention, distraction and obsession:

Jeremy Tai Abbett has set himself a challenge: answering a question

What is continuous partial attention?

Jeremy Tai Abbett

Four steps to Zen:

1. Infinite Resources

Moores law – where once it was number of users per computer, but 100s of computers per user. Digital is making a lot of things obsolete. The music industry is “pretty fucked”. Music is no longer about distribution. Digital photography has made film obsolete. The Kindle is quickly replacing print books. Publishing companies – the iPad is meant to save them, but we’ll see…

The old model was about scarcity. The new model is all about abundance. What was scarce before – information – is now abundant. But our attention hasn’t gone up. attention is the new scarcity.

We have: infinite resources and limited attention

2. New Behaviours

Attention no longer focuses on the TV – it’s on the phone, the iPad, the iPad, the computer… And consumers are now producers. Messages from friends drown our commercial messages – we’re no longer as important as we were. Everybody wants to be at the middle of the social graph.

Old thing x new technology = FAIL

You NEED new thinking

3. Opt-out

Highly technical people are dictating how we communicate with each other. The least social people are dictating how we interact. They force us to opt-out not opt-in. There’s software that kills you internet connections for a set time to allow you to focus. Opt out is the new opt-in.

4. Question Everything

The rise of makers shows that people are happy to take things apart and make new things, and recognise that things aren’t the work of just one. The questions can be as important as the answers. question everything and answer only to yourself.

Dan Rollman

Dan Rollman is talking about the Universal Record Database – a crowd-sourced Guinness Book of World Records, based on the ideas that everyone can be the best at something, however bizarre. It was born from his adolescent desire to break records.

It’s a company employing eight people. People are often inventing records based on brands. For the last few years they’ve been working with brands for one off events, campaigns and now brand channels.

I want one of those yellow jackets…

Rollman has set us a record to break:

Rex Sorgatz worries that being over-connected is the new over-educated.


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Losing Battles and Other Journalists’ Clichés

Mum & DadPeople don’t lose battles with cancer. From the BBC’s Will & Testament blog:

It’s unfortunate, however, that The Daily Telegraph chose to run with the headline “Sudders the blogger loses cancer fight”. Anyone familiar with Sudders’s story must know that the word “lose” does not apply in his case. Nor does it apply, in fact, in the story of anyone who dies following a cancer diagnosis.

I’ve watched both my parents die of cancer (that’s them on the right, setting off on their honeymoon, back in the 60s). Dad lasted 9 months from diagnosis, Mum two and a half years. Dad made my brother’s wedding, and was healthy for it, when the initial diagnosis was that he wouldn’t. Mum lived an active and healthy life, even attending (and enjoying) a charity ball, weeks before she died. Neither of them lost their fights with cancer. In both cases, death was inevitable. But they both took what they needed from the life they had left. The stock phrase “lost their battle” puts the emphasis on the wrong place; the cancer, not the life.
The problem is lazy journalism – the rote use of familiar, stock phrases instead of crafting something accurate and individual to the case. I had an editor once who used to tell me that she’d made my stories more “punchy”. Inevitable, that meant she’d added the phrase “hit out at” to the copy, or some variation thereof. To read the average issue of that publication, you’d think that the industry was full of fisticuffs.
It’s part of that journalistic arrogance, in an unconscious way; the reduction of an individual story composed of people into a stock category box. And, as the web allows real, human stories to emerge the way Adrian Sudbury’s did, we can’t afford to do that any more.

My Brother is Fundraising

As some of you reading this might be aware, I lost my Dad to cancer five years ago. Now my Mum is fighting her own battle with it.

Both of them have been hugely aided by the local Halesworth Community Care Fund, a charitably-funded local body that provides care and support for terminally ill patients and their families, through both nursing care and equipment.

In many cases, their work allows people to live out their final weeks at home, amongst their families, rather than in a hospital bed.

My brother, Mark, is running the London Marathon partially in aid of this charity. If anyone reading this feels like sponsoring him, it would be very much appreciated.


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